Tag Archives: The Wharf

Prayer candles, Basilica of Notre Dame, Montreal, Advent 2017

Practice & The Spirit

This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives.  As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply.  As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute?   and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.

The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola.  They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.”  If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site.  You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that).  I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.

Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai.  And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church:  W O R S H I P.  Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope.  Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God.  Practice makes perfect.  ~See you Sunday

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Budget Time: Fix Your Mind on These Things

Most of us are forced to work out a financial budget. We have only so many dollars and so, we sort out the obligations we have from food to rent to travel and medical and subtract that from what we have coming in.  My uncle used to say “so and so has a champagne taste but lives on a beer salary.”  This was his way of pointing out what is obvious: too many of us live beyond our means.

I’m writing this not in order to have a financial discussion with you but in order to have you take the discipline of your financial planning and apply it to your attention span this week and month.  And I’m doing so because what I see around me—not just in our church but in our community and country—are persons who spend nearly every dime of their time on the news, commentary and assorted media outlets.  When a person lives beyond their means long enough, they are at risk of losing everything.  When a person spends all of their time devoted to news and political information across a hundred platforms, it is little wonder that one day they wake up depressed, cynical, exhausted or all three.

Starting now, count out the time you have as change to be spent.  If you have ten hours of time away from your obligations, how will you “spend” the change?  Try not to spend all of it on the news or entertainment.  Where can you spend the hours of your life?  Here is how the Apostle Paul instructed the Philippians:  “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” [Philippians 4:8]

When you do that then the anger begins to dissipate and lessen, the bitterness is removed and in their place we receive joy and peace, wisdom and grace.  Meditate, contemplate, fix your mind on truth, honor, justice, integrity—all manner of things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

~I hope to see you Sunday clothed in our right minds.

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Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington

This coming Sunday, January 14th, is Martin Luther King Sunday. Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on:  ”Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington.”  This Sunday has always been about more than remembering events in the past–we at Riverside take the opportunity to speak to issues of concern for our nation and world as we live up and through Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community.  Join us for an effervescent Sunday of music and proclamation.

If you’re going to give into something this year, give into hope.  If you’re going to throw up your hands and resign yourself to something, let it be love.  If you are indignant and angry (and if you’re not then you are not, as the saying goes, paying attention), then wage peace.  There is a world to heal, be a healer.  Enough with self-hate. Enough with ruining or being complicit in the ruin of the world. Let’s come together. Right now.  ~See you Sunday

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Crossing the Street For Sunday

Everyone has reasons for not going to Sunday service.  You could list five in the time it takes me to finish this sentence.  But allow me a moment to ponder why crossing the street for Sunday is worth your while. And I’ll do this list like Letterman used to read his list, from the tenth to the first.

10.  You won’t have to run through one more spin cycle of news and social media.  This reason alone will warm the cold blood in anyone’s veins.

9.  You have a reason for putting off the laundry.  Don’t worry about what you’ll wear.

8.  You get out of the house and step into another realm entirely.  I’d call it the realm of peace and resistance.

7.  You become part of a worldwide resistance movement to reductionist formulas that oppressively consign you to a label.

6.  You join the ranks of the poets and the prophets.  Who can’t benefit by recitation of such?  Shakespeare himself was weaned on the scriptures with their cadence and vision of common folk confronting the powerful for righteous cause.

5.  Music.   You may not be able to sing but you’ll hear someone sing. And music and singing is a shot of love, infused into your weekly life that too often depletes you.

4.  Friends.  Loneliness has always been and is an epidemic. Getting out of your residence and into the sacred space of Sunday means connecting with others. And these are not bar flies or fly-by-nights. These are people who are looking for that little light in themselves and others.

3.  Rest.  One hour of rest from all the voices in your head and all the tasks on your to-do list. Sabbath rest is deep and rhythmically aligns us with the rhythm of the cosmos and the Holy.

2.  Service.  In a community of faith, opportunities arise to help heal the world.  So not only are you part of a great resistance movement, you are part of healing instead of harming the world.

1.  G-O-D.  I hyphenate here to simply say the word is nearly too holy to be pronounced, not in an effort to spell it. Because it is so overused in our O-M-G culture, it is nearly impossible to understand.  But the word love is also overused.  No reason to give up using it or G-O-D.  Crossing the street for Sunday means risking that you will be found, embraced by the Loving Good Shepherd.

Take that risk. Cross the street.  Drive in, metro in, walk, ride a shuttle.  We’re across the street from The Wharf. We’ve been in DC since 1857. Right now, we are one year out from completing our new church on the corner of 7th and Maine.  You can find us at Jefferson Middle School at 10 a.m.  ~See you Sunday

An Archetype of Architecture: Building a church at the Threshold of the DC Wharf

Riverside_render_2018

July 8.2017

At this point in time along Maine Avenue, the large blocks of the rebuilding of The Wharf are in place and each building is a self-contained block of stone, brick, masonry and glazing that ripples the landscape along the avenue.  And each block is interwoven with the other, not only in physical ways so that views and rooftop outlooks and lanes of sight are created; so that sidewalks and waterways guide people to places like restaurants and auditoriums; but a synergy has been intentionally designed for the commerce of products and ideas and relationships.  Where does our “little” church on the corner come into play with what appears mammoth in contrast to the structure we are building?  In a sentence: our church is a linchpin at the gateway located at the center of the entire DC Wharf.

That sounds like exaggeration, mere hyperbole, but listen to the Swiss architect, Mario Botta, in an interview where he said, “Yes, the church is the archetype of architecture.”  That is quite a statement!  He amplifies by saying, “When you go into a church, you have to look around. It’s not a theater where you wait for something to happen. When you enter a church, you are already part of what has transpired and will transpire there.  This is extraordinary.”

Botta struggles here to define what it is that is archetypal about church architecture and strips away function in order to get to the ground of sacred space.  He explained, “Where the church is located, the place of the faithful, is much more important than its function… The church preserved sacredness in its very location. This sense of the sacred cannot be found in a bank, a library, or a theater.”  I would quibble with the Swiss architect about function and what happens in a church and even he cannot avoid this by his use of the word, transpire (I think, in other words, that we share more with theater than he might admit).  But I very much believe that what he is getting at is a primal threshold or what historians of religion would call a “liminal” space that bridges the commercial to the communal.  Where is Riverside located within the matrix of The Wharf?

Riverside Baptist Church will stand (as it stood previously) at the corner of the confluence of three roads:  I Street, 7th Street and Maine Avenue.  We anchor an intersection of commerce and community.  We are the sacred threshold at multiple thresholds of a significant development directly across from us, the DC Wharf, where thousands will live, shop, commune and otherwise navigate their lives.

When our carillon rings out on Reformation Sunday 2018 for our first worship service in our new sanctuary, it will ring a sacred presence into the fray and fog of events and time, alerting passersby that a threshold to sacred space lies within walking and hearing distance.  Their gaze will be met by an archetypal architectural expression, carefully undertaken by our architect, Phillip Renfrow, and his team.  There on that corner, a church will be nestled among larger and even grandiose buildings and far from being overshadowed, those buildings—if you have an eye like Mario Botta’s—become a kind of bezel setting for this jewel of a church. Its curved roofline, a wave that gestures toward not just the nearby Tidal Basin but it gestures biblical themes of Flood, Exodus and Baptism.  The perforated metal, waved screen that ebbs across the large curtain glass,  glints light and courses energy both in and through the sanctuary but also outwardly as it joins with stained glass and stone from the previous church structure. Its religious symbology subtle and nuanced, nonetheless it hoists upon that corner a flag of faith, a church devoted to peace and justice, fond of its past but fonder still of its future.
C lick here for a brief video of architectural renderings.

 

Riverside Baptist Church, DC

The Wharf, A Church, Art and Religion

In a 1950 interview, Henri Matisse claimed that “all art worthy of the name is religious.”  [Judith Dupre, Churches]   I like that statement for its truth and its provocation, since it provokes both artist and religious practitioner.

As I ponder the architectural renderings of our church by our architect, Philip Renfrow, I wonder, can we flip the quote by Matisse and gain any further insights?  Like this, “all religion worthy of the name is artistic.”

What would we be saying by such a statement?  At its most basic and simplest, we would be saying that both art and religion reach for the same invisible horizon and render that invisible horizon by symbolic forms and expression.  It is interesting to hear what Matisse wrote to his friend, a nurse and then nun with whom he stayed in contact, “‘I live with my forces directed towards that same spiritual horizon,’ he wrote. ‘My effort differs from yours only in appearance.’”  [“Station to Station,” The Architectural Review, 2 Nov 2013]

There are remarkable resonances between art and religion, artists and faith practitioners.  Of course, there are great tensions that dwell within the nexus of these two arenas of human expression and interaction, not the least of which is a history of how religion has used art and manipulated artists along with aniconic proscriptions within the great monotheistic traditions to avoid making images of the Holy One.  We can’t explore these resonances and tensions in a blog post but we can tip our hat to them and recognize there are many dynamics involved in something as seemingly straightforward as “building a church.”  By the way, I have had the pleasure of exploring some of these ideas with Ian at Blind Whino where artists and their works inhabit the historic building of what was Friendship Baptist Church.  If there is a place in Southwest that takes us immediately to this epicenter of art and religion, then it is here. That building is literally a canvas for mural artists but one might ponder how that religious canvas and the thresholds that lead upstairs to what was a sanctuary provide a dialogical moment for the artist and faith practitioner as they pursue the invisible horizon of existence and cosmos.

As I survey Maine Avenue at this moment, with the large apartment buildings and hotels being erected just across the street from our corner, I wonder about the relationship artistically to those buildings and our church, soon to be built (God willing) sometime in late 2018.  What will the scale and size of our church say in response to these large structures?  How does the interplay of business, commerce, and spiritual quest play out? Fundamentally, it will be expressed architecturally.  Our church—quite small by comparison to everything around it—will be gesturing in symbols some enduring values of the human spirit.  As Judith Dupre writes in her book, Churches, “A church embodies, in its purest form, the fundamental elements of architecture: light, threshold, and the concept of passage both physical and metaphysical.”

Riverside Baptist Church will be a twinkling word in what is being spoken along Maine Avenue, 7th and I Streets.  We’ll chime our presence into the Wharf and the warp and woof of that interplay between the various aspects of human expression. And if we are at all fortunate, we will discover the deeper bonds of our shared humanity. At the corner gateway of The Wharf along 7th and Maine Ave., there will be a threshold  that crosses into the Sacred and that liminal passage will be artistically rendered by stone, light and artistic renderings carefully expressed.  I can’t wait!  Until then,

~See you on Sunday at the Jefferson Middle School auditorium