Tag Archives: SW DC

Stage Left, Our Town, Our Church

stage

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts, . . .
[As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII]

One can forgive a playwright for casting all of life as a stage.  Indeed, Shakespeare by so doing ended up revealing a psychology of human social interaction that is informative and helpful.  What role did you play today? What lines were you given? What improvisation did you make when interrupted by an audience member or by a misplaced prop? What kind of entrance did you make this morning, grand?  Quiet?

Every Sunday we of  Riverside Baptist Church worship in an auditorium at a local middle school.  It has a stage with a beautiful burgundy curtain. The chairs squeak.  The sound reverberates against hard walls, making the speaking and singing parts at times difficult to hear. But you recall middle school and plays don’t you?  How exciting it was to work for the first time on a theater crew, arranging the moving parts of scenery and stage; how tense for actors to remember their lines and for singers to sing in tune; and how delightful to play one’s role before parents and family and friends.  To say that each Sunday we “play” at church is not flippant, but is as profound as Shakespeare’s keen insight into our daily lives that unfold into Acts, scenes and exits.

Like the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town, we begin with the Stage Manager making announcements and orienting people to the surroundings, helping the audience to transition from “audience” to the role of “congregation” and this occurs just after the stage crew has covered a simple plastic table with a cloth, placed  flameless battery-operated candles on it, along with a chalice that was made by a local potter in our last service in the building that used to stand on the corner of 7th & Maine.   As Thorton Wilder has the Stage Manager say, this is Maine Street (our Maine is named after the state) and this is Our Town.  And our “sanctuary” now is a middle school auditorium and the props include school paraphernalia collected in corners, school signs and wide hallways with their shiny floors.  As with any play, whether or not you can see the world through the thinly constructed scenery depends on your own imagination and willingness to look into and through your own life.  Charles Isher, writing for the New York Times wrote about Thornton’s play, “Wilder sought to make sacraments of simple things. In Our Town he cautioned us to recognize that life is both precious and ordinary, and that these two fundamental truths are intimately connected. “

This he could have written about Our Church.  When you drive down Maine Avenue in SW these days, you’re likely to be distracted by cranes, large trucks, unfinished buildings being pieced together and flagmen.  But along that avenue is a rippled roofline of Arena Stage, a beautiful and provocative building that dominates the skyline and by its transparency invites any and everyone in to view a stage, a play, and their life.   But it’s not the only stage in town.  Just down the road in a brick middle school, an audience gathers weekly to learn lines, sing interludes, make gentle entrances  and courageous exits.  Indeed, we “make sacraments of simple things.”  Every week, each Sunday, 10 a.m. just off of Maine.   ~Ladies and Gentlemen, See you Sunday ~

Crossroads-of-Life

At The Crossroads: Let Us Be Found Ready

We are impoverished.  I mean by this what Johannes Baptist Metz means in his luminous book, Poverty of the Spirit, when he writes, “We are all beggars. We are all members of a species that is not sufficient unto itself. We are all creatures plagued by unending doubts and restless, unsatisfied hearts. Of all creatures, we are the poorest and the most incomplete. Our needs are always beyond our capacities, and we only find ourselves when we lose ourselves.”

We find ourselves as we resign ourselves to God and into the care of others. There are simply things we cannot do for ourselves.  It is a sign of our poverty that others must act for us and on behalf of us.  This poverty is not something of which to be ashamed but it is merely an acknowledgement of our interdependence.  When you are selfless, acting on behalf of others, you find yourself.  This is something of what Jesus must have meant when he taught, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.”  Yes, we are impoverished and need others—and others need us.  In selfless, devotional acts, we redeem our lives and the world.  Our interdependence is a remarkable spiritual truth… and a remarkable, redemptive opportunity.

Our church is at a crossroads as we submit who we are and ourselves and all that we do into the care of others who do not know us nor share our view of the world.  That is okay. That is, as noted above, the condition of humanity.  I pray that we will be given a fair hearing, a just consideration, and that people of humane spirit will link with us in a brilliant, humane and humanist effort to heal the world around us. Whatever decisions get made, however our journey is travelled, our destiny remains unchanged:  we live in this world by God’s grace and we are trekking always and ever toward the Kingdom of light and peace.  May God bless those leaders and decision-makers who have some sway over our immediate circumstances.  May the mission and mandate, as Metz describes being a human, be met in us so that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” would find us ready.  Amen. So be it.

Dancing Baptists, Worship July 12th

Parking_Lot_concert_2015

Parking Lot Concert A Success!

Saturday, July 11th, the Riverside Choir led by Lauren White and accompanied by Kevin Twine on piano, Anthony Maimer on bass and Dominic Taylor on drums, filled our parking lot with praise and music.  DJ Chris Barnett filled in the spaces and transitioned to upbeat and groovy tunes.  Darrell Burnette deserves a special shout out for his organization and logistical support of this wonderful afternoon. And to all our volunteers, thank you!  We enjoyed meeting neighbors and taking the joy from inside our church to the outside.  Keep your eyes open for another event sometime in the Fall…

Worship tomorrow, July 12th at 10 a.m. will feature our choir and Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching from the lectionary reading from Ephesians chapter one where we are told that we are chosen.  This idea of “election” or being chosen is a strong theme in the bible but also a difficult idea in 2015.  We hope you’ll join us for deeply gratifying worship–worship that connects emotionally and intellectually.  ~ See you Sunday.

Sometimes people can’t figure out Baptists (well, who can?) But one way to distinguish say, arch-conservative Southern Baptists from us progressive Baptists who believe in soul freedom, ordination of women and ecumenical relations is by dancing. We’re the dancing Baptists.  LOL  For an example, see the movie below of Riversiders groovin’ to the music.

parkinglotdance