The Preservationists


Beneath  an underpass, 22nd and 3rd, Brooklyn, september 1, 2014. Picture by Pastor Michael Bledsoe.

Beneath an underpass, 22nd and 3rd, Brooklyn, september 1, 2014. Picture by Pastor Michael Bledsoe.

I am a preservationist. Of sorts. This is true of clergy as a rule since the pastoral care of persons is fundamentally a preservation of souls. That is a very difficult conversation to have in a hedonistic culture that predicates everything it does by a materialist view of the individual and of communities. If one ascribes to such a thorough-going materialism, it is no wonder that one ends up with brutalist notions of preservation of buildings disconnected from living organisms wholly interactive with their environment and one another. Juxtapose a soulful view of human beings and communities with the materialist reductionist vision of some and I believe you can begin to see a thicker interpretation [nod to Clifford Geertz] and an organic, existential recovery of the human. Southwest and indeed any community needs a fully thought-out philosophical discussion about such things as community and the ludic evolution and development of cities. To be propelled along by the unelected and self-anointed arbiters of style serves only the narrowest of visions.

From Jacob’s pillow of stone, that he anointed as Bethel, House of God, to the Hagia Sophia or St. Paul’s London, human beings have marked holy spaces where “heaven and earth” seemed to meet. Preserving a building may indeed be the most prudent action a community may take for its history and life. I do not doubt that for some instances. What I do dismiss is the silliness that every building or every style is somehow equivalent to the Hagia Sophia. And far more critical to a soulful view of community is the preservation of living congregations that continue to dedicate themselves to the humanist and humane preservation of individuals, protecting their dignity and providing a refuge from the storms of life. Riverside has been doing that for over 150 years. In one form or another, we want to continue doing that for decades to come right here in Southwest, in the District of Columbia, in the United States. Our incarnated presence is local, our voice and our vision are global, and we adhere to a robust, soulful view of life. See you Sunday~