We have nearly completed our Lenten Journey. Palm Sunday is this Sunday, a moment we recall as the final entry of Jesus into the holy city, Jerusalem just prior to his arrest and execution by the Roman governor, Pilate. It is a day mixed with joy and sorrow.
Wednesday is our Get Lifted! midweek service of praise and prayer at 7pm. Join us as Jonathan leads us in songs and Kevin Twine plays on the piano. Thursday evening at 7pm is our Stones Of Remembrance communion service–a solemn evening of song and prayer in which we remember those we love who have left this world. It is a moving service. Friday the church will be open from 11 a.m. until 1pm for prayer. While no formal service, Kevin will play softly in the sanctuary. You may drop in when you like to pray on Good Friday. And of course, Sunday the 21st is EASTER. Let us come into this holy week with meek hearts filled with gratitude.
Last week I spent two afternoons in a row sitting out front of our church with a sign that says, “The Pastor Is In.” A couple of guys (rightly) pointed out that I was outside. I was thinking more along the lines of Lucy in the cartoon strip Peanuts. “I’m in” as, “I’m available.” I will occasionally sit outside with my sign and an extra chair. Feel free to drop by for a chat, tea, coffee, a vent or a prayer.
We are right in the middle of Lent which for me has meant composing sermons around the temptation narratives in the Gospels. But I’m moving along a plot line that includes Christ’s baptism, temptation, withdrawal to Galilee, departure from Nazareth, setting up in Capernaum and then calling disciples. This coming Sunday we will find ourselves on a hill (or mount) listening to the teaching of the Christ. If someone asked you what Jesus taught, well, you could not do better than to point them to Matthew chapters 5-7. We’ll begin with the Beatitudes.
Worship is about one hour long. We praise, pray and hear a sermon. In one hour folks. One hour in a week, give yourself to worship. Some will say that is not much time and they are correct. But have you ever watched a large rock thrown into a lake? Worship ripples over our lives, pulsing across the web of our interrelationships with themes of peace, justice, healing and repair. We’re easy to access by metro and bus. The Circulator, #52 and #54 buses drop right at our corner and the free Wharf shuttle picks up at L’Enfant and delivers you at the Wharf a block and a half from our church.
See you Sunday or on the “porch” sometime this week (likely Tuesday and Wednesday). ~PSTR
As you may know, our beloved Chairperson of Deacons, Jacquelyn, is stepping down after more than twenty years of service. She has been the right hand of our pastor, a defender of our church’s mission in the world and a generous, kind servant. We are grateful for her leadership. She will remain on the board a while and continue to provide counsel to the pastor and the new Chair of Deacons.
The new Chairperson is Deacon Laurel. Laurel is well-known in our congregation. She is consistent, supportive, loving and kind. She possesses a deep spirituality and displays that spirituality through earnest service. She is devoted to the mission of our church and she has wonderful skills that will result in her being a superb chairperson. Please welcome Laurel, thank Jacquelyn and then offer to do what is needed to help our church continue being the Beloved Community on this corner.
If you haven’t signed up for our e-newsletter, please do so. You can email our Moderator, Karl, at Karl_Maxwell@yahoo.com and ask to be added to the list. This e-newsletter comes out weekly. We thank Karl for his service.
Coming up this week: our midweek prayer and praise service at 7pm on Weds. A free organ concert at 7pm on Friday. And please mark on your calendars the 7th of April when Rev. Dr. Al Staggs will preach in our morning service and then at 3pm, he will present his one-person play, “A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazis and paid for his resistance with his life. In this time of rising anti-semitism and racial hatred, this play is both timely and necessary. Rev Staggs will pull no punches in his sermon that will address this moment in our history. And his play is inspiring and will compel us to courage. Bill Moyers wrote about his play, “”When I watch Al Staggs as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I am confronted by the deepest moral questions of what it means to be a witness and how I am using my life.” You will want to attend this and invite a friend.
Be connected. Be committed. Be the Beloved Community. ~PSTR
For nearly half my life, I have pastored Riverside Baptist Church. For over half my life I have been a pastor. February 1992, I stepped into the pulpit of Riverside for the first time as your pastor. Needless to say, I have a whole lot of stories and have seen a lot. If these were collected–and I wouldn’t because of pastoral confidentiality–I would entitle that collection, “Stories of Faith and Betrayal, Hope and Loss.” That, as they say, is the human predicament. If you’re interested, I published a book about a long pastorate entitled, The Novel Pastorate. You can find it on Amazon.
In 2006, I asked the church to put together a development committee because I could see that our small, progressive Baptist church was threatened by an aging facility and no money in the bank to speak of. We were faced with potentially losing our history which stretched back to 1857. And just as importantly, we were at risk of losing our future. A dozen years later, we are sitting in a beautiful sanctuary full of light, fully accessible and paid for. We have an endowment. I am reminded of the story about Jesus healing the ten lepers and only one of them turning back to him to say thanks. I’ve said it before and I say it again: we should be praising God and thanking God for this remarkable moment in our history, not complaining about some aspect we might individually dislike. Thank you, God–every day, every Sunday and then Monday through Saturday, roll up your sleeves and work on connecting your church to this community.
I also muse about how old I’ve become in the process. This too is simply the human predicament. I’m putting a double exposure picture of me when I graduated from college and a current picture of me, below this blog post. I am an old man now. But as regards the pastorate, age can actually be a benefit since with age comes wisdom. At least we hope so! It is a sad truth that persons age physically but when they’re senior citizens some still operate with the theology of a child. As the Apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 13), when he grew up he put away childish things. So look, it is a wonderful gift to be able to age in place in a church we love. It is a hopeful thing to be allowed to partner with God for the future so others whom we will never know or meet, find their way into this sanctuary of peace.
This Sunday, add your thank you in the midst of the people of God. Add your voice to the choir and sing in praise for how God has led us this far. Stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow congregants and this old pastor to say to the world, we will not be moved. We continue to proclaim the Gospel and work for justice and peace.
“The power of song in the struggle for black survival–that is what the spirituals and blues are about.” –James Cone. Join us in worship this month if for no other reason than the Church is the epicenter of struggle and response for Black survival in the apocalypse of America. Our celebration of Black History includes reading Cone’s book (it is a brief book and under $10); we will share in a soul food potluck on February 10th (bring a soul food dish to share with others); and we will hear a review of the book by Pastor Bledsoe. After lunch, we’ll head upstairs for a presentation of Spirituals directed by Lauren White. The next day, we’ll go to Blue Monday at Westminster Presbyterian (with parking available in their lot). The goal here is to engage both our minds and our spirit as we celebrate Black History–let us think deeply about the contributions of this history and then let us experience it musically and as a community through our shared food and fellowship. As well, Pastor Bledsoe will speak to this theme beginning the first Sunday of February. Join us!
By now most of us have seen the images of what appears to be a smirk and some male-pack bonding in service to mocking an Elder of an Native American nation. I won’t revisit all those details and if you follow me on twitter (@Riverside_Wharf) then you’ve read my take on this.
What troubles me most is the obvious ways in which the White community responds when its children are in danger of being maligned and how they are nearly tone deaf when it comes to the murders and ruination of Black children. I wrote a post in 2014 begging White Christians in Florida to speak up after the execution of Jordan Davis. I wrote, “Speak up, for Christ’s sake, for the sake of your conscience and because you know in your heart of hearts that had a black man killed your white son playing music in a car with friends, you probably would not have to be demanding he be tried because a mob of white folks would have administered mob justice.” In 2015, I wrote in regard to the “All Lives Matter” rally, “you really don’t believe all lives matter or you would have shown up and supported mothers in their grief when their children, husbands, fathers, daughters and mothers were killed by police.”
So now we see vividly, do we not? If White boys from a private school are seen and perceived as having mocked an elder and are called to count for it, the parents and community of those boys will rise in defiance and protest. Would you had exhibited a fraction of that passion in defense of Black citizens! Now we see vividly, do we not? You will stand up and demand “justice.” But just not for the Black victims of extrajudicial killings. That a Catholic school is part of this story is simply inconsequential. For had you really believed in the noble principles of your Tradition, instead of running to a PR firm to issue a doctored narrative, you would have instead urged your sons to enter the confessional and sort this out with a priest; urged some kind of discernment process; entered the dialectic of confession and forgiveness. Instead it was a press release, the Today Show and a wink from the President who only recently defiled the memory of Wounded Knee. No, what is clearly in play here is White Privilege. Perhaps we should thank you for making this so abundantly clear to us.
Sunday the 20th we dedicate our new church on MLK Sunday. Our previous building was built in 1967 and was to have its first service on April 7, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4 and the subsequent riots in DC postponed that first service. Now, 50 years later, on a national day of remembrance of his birth, we gather to dedicate our new church building. Terryn Nelson will be singing Patti Griffin’s MLK Song (Up to the Mountain). Dr. Michael Kinnamon will be preaching. And we will stand up! shoulder to shoulder to say The Beloved Community that gathers on the corner of 7th and Maine Ave in Washington DC is alive and vibrant and still speaking truth to power. Join us at 10 a.m. won’t you? Let us be the Beloved Community.
January 13th: Due to the timing of the snowstorm on Sunday morning, with heaviest accumulations expected between 9 am and noon, we are cancelling services on the 13th. Be sure to visit our church web site where you can listen to a sermon, catch up on other information and also, if you are so inclined, make a weekly donation. Be sure to join us next Sunday on the 20th for our Church Dedication. For those so inclined, I know Westminster Presbyterian will be open–they have a visiting choir and their service is at 11 a.m. Stay safe and warm.
Sunday the 23rd is the last Sunday of Advent, the Sunday before Christmas. Christmas Eve will be at 7:30pm with parking at Westminster Presbyterian who will be joining us for our communion and candlelight service.
I’m not sure how to encourage folks to show up for these worship opportunities. I assume worship is high on the list of things one must do for Christmas to be truly Christmas. O Come All Ye Faithful. In the midst of the chaotic world and the swirling hatreds and violence around us, how would we pass up a chance to enter a place of peace in order to worship and honor The Prince of Peace? I look forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 10, Monday evening at 7:30. Because a communion of believers gathered ’round the holy child IS Christmas. Grace & Peace ~PSTR
Please note: All events for Thursday and Friday Evening have been canceled due to expected severe storms.
Our choir blessed us immensely on Sunday with an eclectic, joyful celebration of the Christmas story. We had a wonderful time in worship! Thanks to all of our choir members, instrumentalists and our director, Lauren. There will be a reprise of the concert on Friday evening at 7pm in our sanctuary (we do not have parking on Friday so plan to metro or park elsewhere).
Besides the concert we have midweek opportunities for prayer and praise. At Noon, we’ll meditate (bring a brown bag lunch for afterwards). At 7pm, we’ll have a service of praise, prayer and devotion in the sanctuary. These spiritual practices will deepen your Christmas journey. It is one thing to complain about the consumer binge that has become the holidays but it is quite another thing to take intentional steps toward a spiritual appropriation of the truths of Christmas. Plug in and this year, make your Christmas a spiritual pilgrimage.
Christmas Eve service is a candlelight service and communion at 7:30 pm in our sanctuary. Our dear friends from Westminster Presbyterian will be joining us and Pastor Ruth and Pastor Brian will be sharing in our service. Plan to join us for a silent night of contemplation, music and devotion.