Category Archives: Featured

Lord of the (Butter) Flies

FYI:  Tuesday events are cancelled due to on-going construction and remedial work at the church.  We apologize for any inconvenience.

Can you imagine living in community only with young people? I ask this because Riverside wants to be a community that welcomes young people. But that does not mean we want to be solely a church of the young (any more than we want to be solely a church of the old).  I remember reading a novel in high school called Lord of the Flies.  That was about a group of young people on an island.  You might recall reading it or seeing a movie based on it.  That did not turn out happily.

So Riverside Church is better perceived as a  Lord of the Butterflies church.  I use that image because as you know, a butterfly goes through four developmental stages.  And of course, these are beautiful creatures compared to a horsefly.  To be a Lord of the Butterflies church means we are an intergenerational community of faith,  so that across the spectrum of human development, we are able to interact with both children, young adults,  and our elders. That is a beautiful community of faith indeed!  We invite you, no matter your age or developmental stage, to worship with us and walk with us a while on your sacred journey.  We worship the Lord of Butterflies, of renewal and resurrection.  Note the calendar of events this week and drop by.  And I certainly hope to see you on Sunday at 10 am for our choir’s presentation of Christmas music.

Advent and the task of preaching

Most people these days use the word ‘preach’ in a negative way.  Like “stop preaching at me.”  I’ll use the word ‘proclaim’ on occasion just so we can steer around the negative connotations.  But the reality is, the Gospels all agree when Jesus began his ministry and it wasn’t in the manger–it was after his baptism by John.  Immersed in the Jordan River, he came forth “preaching the good news.”  So a preacher is, or should be, trying to echo that good news of Christ. And you’ll note this by the way–there is Good News before the crucifixion. We have a lot of crucifixion-fixated Christians who fail to recognize that Jesus proclaimed Good News from the very beginning.

So I bring this up to say, I’m preaching on the second Sunday of Advent (Dec. 9)  from a song that Moses sang as one of the last things he ever did, reminding the people who were about to enter the Promised Land without him just how they had managed to journey to that moment in their lives.  Not only is it a challenge to proclaim any time but during Advent, it is a special challenge. I won’t bore you with all the reasons that is true but just one:  it’s a challenge because everyone has heard the story or they think they have heard it.  So why show up in church on a Sunday morning when you could be doing laundry or watching the news cycle which very much resembles the dry cycle as you do your laundry?  Right!  You can show up to get out of that rutted and mundane hamster cycle of existence, sit in a sanctuary of peace and light with others who simply want to daydream about peace and justice or rejoice for what Advent uncovers or are praying, like you and I, for some answers to the riddles we keep in our pockets like old parking meter stubs.

How about this?  You come to worship on Sunday and I’ll do my dead level best to sort through Advent and offer some good news.  Afterward, we’ll all go downstairs for our potluck Koinonia Lunch (a word that means ‘fellowship’). And then we’ll have a short concert on the carillon outside.  It beats the heck out of wet clothes and dried, recycled news.  ~See you Sunday

Where to Park Your Camel

So not only are we in our new church edifice but we now have access to the garage. Allow me to give some tips on navigating to the garage. Things to know:

‣ We have 40 spaces on the first level of the residential (The Banks) garage on Sunday from 7am-2pm. The signs say until 3:30 but our development agreement is that we are to be out by 2 o’clock. Please do your best to make that happen.

‣ The entrance is off of 7th St., between the new residences (The Banks) and the Waterside Towers.  Take your time as you enter because the residential side is still a construction zone and there are all kinds of things lining that drive. The garage is underground, hence, the entrance is down the hill (the steel door on the right is a loading dock–that is not the garage).

‣ Someone will be standing by to bring the door up so you can enter. You do not need assistance leaving the garage as your car will simply trigger it to open. You must stop, however, as you enter so an attendant can operate the door to open.

While we have a time limit, we have more spaces and we have, of course, protection from the elements. We encourage those who can to metro or walk to church but if you drive we have a garage. Do your best to carpool–it is the ecologically correct thing to do. Finally, do not park at Jefferson Middle School or Westminster as we do not have permission to park there. You can park at Westminster on Christmas Eve, however, since we are hosting that service at Riverside and being joined by our friends from Westminster. Park your camel then come to the church via the elevator or stairs, whichever you prefer. ~See You Sunday

Where’s the Outlet?

People as a rule want to know where to plug in these days since they carry with them any number of devices that need to be recharged.

Such a simple lesson.  But I’m going to offer it anyway:  your new church on the corner of 7th & Maine Ave. offers a number of outlets for you to plug your life and soul into for recharge.  From Vesper/Prayer services on the week-end to a midweek service; from worship on Sunday morning to dropping in for a chat with your pastor–these opportunities are your outlets.  Get familiar with them.  Plug in.

December 2nd will be our first Holy Communion in the new building.  If you have not stepped into the sanctuary then make every effort to be there this coming Sunday.  Parking is going to get sorted out eventually when our spaces open up in the residential garage. Until then, the lot across the street from the church provides us 35 spaces.  Metro makes it very easy with a free shuttle from L’Enfant at Maryland Ave. (it drops off at the CVS), the 74 and Circulator buses both drop off in front of the church.  Drive, walk, metro but let’s be the People of God this week.  ~PSTR

First Worship Service Is A Go!

Dear family and friends:  Our interim journey is completed.  We have many to thank who supported us in that time, like Jefferson Academy Middle School and our dear friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church.  We will worship at 10 a.m. this Sunday, November 18th.  The church is easily accessed via Metro with a free Wharf shuttle that picks up at the Maryland Ave St. entrance to L’Enfant Station, the 74 and Circulator buses that drop off in front of the church and limited parking.  We do not have access to our 40 spaces in the underground garage because the residential portion of the project is lagging behind us.  For now, we’ll have 35 spaces across from the church on Maine Ave.  Go east past the church and turn right into the entrance for parking for the Odyssey and Wharf and then turn right. The lot is on the right. We will have someone with passes to put on your dashboard.  That said, you may end up having to find street parking or park in the garage near the Safeway on 4th St and walk over. There is parking across the street in the Wharf garage but that is pricey.

What a remarkable moment!  In this journey we have accomplished our two great goals:  1.  create an endowment that will safeguard our church financially for decades to come and 2. build an iconic structure that brings us into the 21st century (our sanctuary and restrooms are very accessible and we have an elevator).

I look forward to worshipping with you on this Sunday.  Let’s come full of joy and thanksgiving.  Grace & Peace, ~Pastor Bledsoe

A Historic Church in a New Building on a New Corner

Hard to miss on the corner of 7th and Maine Ave., Riverside Baptist Church is an eclectic and electric blend of old and new.  That stone wall from reclaimed stones of the previous building juxtaposed to a modernist expression of glass and gentle wave of a roof is something to behold.  I love standing across the street and looking at it.  This last week saw the large gable stained glass windows we reclaimed lit up inside the atrium entrance and its colors shatter the windows outside, reflecting yellows and blues and reds into the night.  Backlit by LED lights, old craft meets new technology for an art piece that rivals the fire pit at the end of the Recreation Pier for its warmth and appeal.

We’ll have our first service on Nov. 18th at 10 a.m.  But we have also been working diligently to create opportunities for our community to cross the threshold into the life of our church.  A new worship service on Saturdays at 5:30 will be launched in December January–informal, downstairs in the multi-purpose room and made to order for those who are visiting and living around us.  We will have a Vespers evening prayer service on Saturday nights and Sunday nights at 7pm–a brief but beautiful service of chanting scripture and praying in candlelight to end the evening.  Mid-day Mondays we will offer a brown bag Contemplation for workers (and others) to help start their week and step out of the office for quiet meditation in our beautiful sanctuary.   We will offer free once-a-month concerts on third Friday evenings at 7pm because we know that while the Wharf attracts thousands of visitors, not everyone can afford a ticket to the Anthem–December will feature Christmas music and January we hope to hear the Glee Club of Jefferson Academy Middle School perform.  Mid-week on Wednesdays, we’ll offer a time of prayer and praise–“Get Lifted” will invite folks to get over the “hump” by offering a time of song, prayer and devotion at 7pm.  Tuesdays and Saturdays will offer opportunities to tour the church.  And we are going to host Deacon Roy Pott’s program, D.C. Mentoring and Achievement Program (DC MAAP)–a workforce readiness and mentoring program, committed to helping young, low income, and low skilled DC residents find jobs, particularly those between the ages of 18-29.

We have built a beautiful sanctuary that vibrantly connects with the community around it and is an architectural gift to our city (Phillip Renfrow of GBR is our architect). But we also are committed to ministering to this community, engaging it and living fully as Christ’s disciples.  I hope you’ll join us in this endeavor.  If you’re new to SW, we welcome you and hope you’ll step into a church that is as open-minded and spirited as you are.  If you have dropped away during our development phase, come home.  We look forward to worshipping with you on Nov. 18th!

Worship, Love, Live

We continue to worship at 11am at Westminster Presbyterian Church SW.  Pastor Brian is preaching this Sunday.  I will be a greeter!  And Pastor Ruth is working with Godly Play and the children.

You know, of course, that ours is caffeinated  culture.  Got to get going in the morning.  Need that afternoon break. And of course, our soda pop and products are laced with caffein. I mention this to say, we are ever finding ways to keep us awake and moving; we are trying to charge our lives.  Nothing quite compares to worship.  It is a shot of love as Bob Dylan sang.  We worship. We love. We live.  Join us.

We Have A Date: Thanksgiving Sunday 2018

For two years our congregation has been “wandering”—a theme in the biblical material of course and while we haven’t exactly been walking through the wilderness nor eating manna and complaining about Moses and where the heck he is leading us, we have been dislodged.  First we had the good fortune of worshipping for a little over one year at Jefferson Middle School. Then they began renovations this past June so we had to find a place and were blessed to be received by Westminster Presbyterian Church, just down the road from us. We have been blessed in this interim journey and are grateful for these friends who have offered us refuge.

Our building is nearing completion on the corner of 7th & Maine Ave.  As anyone can see who stands on that corner, our church occupies a gateway into the Wharf.  A modest sized church, it is nonetheless a beautifully designed sacred space. We are excited to open it to our community and cannot wait to worship inside of it.  Mark your calendars because we now have a date:  November 18th at 10 a.m.  Thanksgiving Sunday.  How appropriate.  How fitting that we enter  on Thanksgiving into this new church that has been in our community with uninterrupted ministry since 1857.  161 years.  Thanks be to God and to all who have loved us and supported us.  Meanwhile, we’ll see you Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian, a wonderful church with whom we have so much in common.

Maniacal Social Media

One day last week I was backing out of a parking space in a small parking lot, having visited a hardware store for a couple of screws. I was mumbling to myself about something but I cannot recall what I was telling myself. Once backed out, I turned to look out the windshield and saw a guy my age, hobbling out of the pharmacy next to the hardware store. He was holding two bags, one in each hand. And I thought, he’s talking to himself!  Yeah, it was an odd moment but it reminded me of how I experience social media.   I have only been on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for about a month.  These are very chatty places. Alienated places as much or more than “community.”

And profane places and I don’t mean just the absolute disregard for language and using any and every profanity under the sun but I mean how people profane their own lives, the lives of their perceived enemies and their habituated following of celebrities who are profaning each other. No regard at all for their or other’s children stumbling upon their poisoned discourses. No boundaries.  The social platforms designed to communicate are often maniacal arenas.

I invite you to take a break from the shoving matches and the violent language by stepping into worship. A sacred place where we are encouraged to speak in peace, live in peace and honor the Image of God in one another; we pray, sing and are called to higher ground. I am preaching this Sunday on A Meditation On All That Is Good.   No hashtag needed. Just you with others who make a “We,“ called The Beloved Community.  11am at Westminster .  ~See you Sunday

9/11 ::: We Remember

Black-ribbonBelow is an excerpt from my collection, Sermons In War,  wherein I reflected on that day we call 9/11.  Today, let us remember the perished and their families and their friends and the country left behind. We are not united seventeen years after that catastrophic day.  We have given into the rhetoric of fear and hatred.  As the bells ring out this morning, may they alert us to the power resident within us to make this a land of hope and promise, justice and peace.

“Remembrance is a remarkable gift.  Without it, we are imprisoned in a terrifying island of the present, unmoored, bobbing adrift in the sea of time and the chaos of events.  When we remember, we sink an anchor into the depths and stabilize our lives for a moment.  If we are fortunate, we are permitted to remember within a harbor of peace such as a sanctuary.  Taking deep breaths, pondering the heart beat beneath the breastbone of our collective life, we just might stop long enough to remember an event that begs to be remembered if for no other reason than people lost their lives in the conflagration.  We want to remember them.  We will not forget them or where we were.
“I was standing in the driveway of our home, speaking with a neighbor, puzzled about why the twin towers in New York had had jetliners crashed into them. How could this be? And then suddenly, someone –his wife? another neighbor?—told us that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane.  This was the moment of recognition for me.  I knew then we were under attack and that these tragic events were not an accident.  I wrestled with whether or not to pick my children up from school.  I decided to do so, believing that if anything worse were to take place then I wanted to be with them…  We walked home along the bike path in Bluemont Park.  I walked just a step or two ahead of them. The sky was still blue.  I told them I was bringing them home.  I told them our nation had been attacked.  I could say no more at that moment.  I walked with my children and cried.”   [Afterword, Sermons in War]