Category Archives: Featured

Preachers lined up for summer

As Pastor Bledsoe is on sabbatical, the following preachers have agreed to step into the pulpit at Riverside. Please honor them by your presence. These two months will be a time for growing and embracing the transition in store for us since we now have some time for a “dress rehearsal” before we say goodbye to Pastor Bledsoe. Let’s pull together, take a deep breath and enjoy hearing from these faithful servants. Let us be faithful and not grow weary from doing well.

JUNE

2 Rev. Countess Cooper  Countess has known Pastor Bledsoe since she had him for World Religions at Howard Divinity in 1999. She also served as music director for our early service in 1999.  She earned her MDIV from Howard Divinity and is ordained in the UCC.  She can preach and sing. You can get a glimpse of that double gift in this video.

9 Rev. Roland Weah Associate Minister for over 12 years, Roland was a student of Pastor Bledsoe’s at Howard Divinity.  No stranger to Riverside, Roland has a pastor’s heart as he ministers to our shut-ins and visits the hospital. Roland will be overseeing services even though he is not preaching every service.

16 Rev. Jill McCrory Pastor of Twinbrook Baptist Church and a long-time colleague Jill is a DC native and graduate of the Leland Center Baptist Seminary in northern Virginia. Jill has been intensely involved in AWAB.  You can find a wonderful interview with her at the Metro Weekly site

23 Rev. Brian Hamilton Co-Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church with his wife, Ruth, Brian is not stranger to us. He and Westminster welcomed us with open arms during our interim journey.  A long time resident of SW and deeply committed to safeguarding the musical culture of Jazz and the Blues, we are honored to have Brian preach to us.

30 Dr. Jay-Paul Hinds. Jay-Paul has been a wonderful colleague at Howard University School of Divinity where he has been Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care, Practical Theology and Psychology of Religion. A graduate of Princeton and Emory, Dr. Hinds brings urgent insights into our complicated world and culture.

JULY

7 & 14 Father Martin Smith. Father Martin has preached once for us at Riverside and we found him to be charmingly provocative or perhaps he was provocatively charming. Either way, he delivers insights with power.  Martin is well known throughout the Episcopal Church as writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and teacher exploring contemporary spirituality. A priest since 1971, he most recently served as the Senior Associate Rector at St Columba’s church in Washington, D.C., in the Diocese of Washington

21 Rev. Lawrence Rodgers A graduate of Howard University School of Divinity, Lawrence graduated at the top of his class, and with the following honors: The Biblical Scholarship Award in biblical and theological studies. The Donald Barton Prize for most likely to succeed in Pastoral Leadership, and the Delores Carpenter Award for “exemplifying the highest levels of academic achievement and embodying the commitment to do justice, love mercy, and walking humbly with God.” He is currently pastor of Westside Church of Christ in Baltimore.

28 Rev.  Phillip Huber Pastor Huber is the pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church here in SW.  He has just led his congregation through a development process that took a dozen years. He is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg.  He has served a number of parishes and was Visiting Professor of Missiology and Cultural Anthropology at Tumaini University, Iringa, Tanzania.  Phillip also serves as Disaster Response Coordinator for Maryland and Delaware, Lutheran Disaster Response.

For everything a season

In Ecclesiastes chapter 3:1 we read:  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”. With this beautiful strand of verse from Ecclesiastes, we are compelled to embrace the changing nature of the world and the unfolding of our lives. Consider the story of Riverside over the past two years.

We left a building, saw it razed and then worshipped in two interim spaces over the course of two years (Jefferson Middle School and Westminster Presbyterian); we built a new and beautiful church on a corner that is arguably the hottest corner in the District at the moment. We moved back in. We have adjusted and we have overcome. We have secured our church with an endowment and in the midst of all of that, we have continued to worship and care for one another. That’s a lot!

When we began that process, I promised the leadership and the church that I would remain until we had accomplished these two goals of an endowment and a new building. Now, five months after our move-in, I am convinced by way of lots of prayer and discernment that it is time for Riverside to also begin its transition to new pastoral leadership. Sunday, May 5th, I announced to the congregation that I am concluding my pastorate on December 22nd.

What happens next? A logical, purposeful process of consultation for the Deacons and Trustees with Rev. Paul A. Clark. Discussion about an interim pastorate and the hiring of an interim by January 2020; study of our context and hopes; and the eventual creation of a pastor search committee (that process is overseen by the Board of Deacons) which likely takes a year. Just as we intentionally addressed our hopes and fears in the transition from our previous building to the construction of our new church, we will construct a way forward. We hope and pray for a seamless handoff with a process that eventually brings new pastoral leadership for a new church in what is very much a new community. As I stated in today’s sermon about Joshua, we must now be of courage and dedicate ourselves to fearlessly moving forward. “We’ve come this far by faith,” as the song goes. We will carry on so this Baptist church of inclusion with its prophetic voice of justice and peace might continue to speak and remain a safe harbor for all people. ~PSTR

Palm Sunday – Holy Week

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.

on the front porch

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

New leadership, same mission

Deacon Laurel Eierman

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

Musings on 27 years

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.

Pastor Michael Bledsoe, 1976 graduate of Stetson University, old pastor of Riverside Baptist Church, 2018.

black history month

“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!

Covington Catholic Boys: lessons on justice and privilege

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.

Church to dedicate new building

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.

Sunday service cancelled

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.