The Pulpit Committee under the Deacons Board will resume its search for a full-time church pastor starting this Fall. The role of the Pulpit Committee is to search out and present prospective candidates for the office of full-time Pastor. Any church members who are interested in joining the Pulpit search committee are asked to to please contact Deacon Laurel Eierman no later than July 31, 2021.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.Psalm 139:14
Dear Riverside Family,
As we enter into the month of Pride I wish to extend to you and yours all the love and support your church can offer. We have events planned beginning with our guest preacher this Sunday, Rev. Hannah Bonner, with her sermon “The Family That Finds Us.”
Rev. Hannah will also lead a discussion on Wednesday June 9 at 7pm. Deacon Jonathan is planning an in- person celebration on June 19 with details to come. We look forward to worshiping, fellowshipping, and seeing you throughout the month.
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live… Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act.Ezekiel 37:5 & 14
God did what God promised to do in Ezekiel 37 with the valley of the dry bones vision. God is truly God. When we realize what took place in that the exiles did return, we should also realize in that action the Lord’s continuing work and present reality.
The Spirt of God that was present, is present, and will continue to be present with us.
In the Gospel of John, we see the word “paraclete” translated as “advocate,” the Holy Spirit is our advocate. Advocates are great, we have some within our congregation whose profession it is to be an advocate. But the role of the Holy Spirit is more than just an advocate, the Holy Spirit is our comforter, helper, guide, intercessor, companion. These are all embodiments of the Holy Spirit that is with us.
Jesus says in John 14 that He is sending another “paraclete” because Jesus sees His ministry as that of a “paraclete,” the Holy Spirit continues the ministry of Jesus.
Pentecost is not a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, we see the work of Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament, but Pentecost celebrates that the Holy Spirit is now universally available. This is in part why Pentecost is a celebration of the church’s birth. The Holy Spirit is poured onto all flesh. That is the newness of Pentecost, this universal outpouring.
To be a scattered people, whether it was the Jews in exile in the Old Testament or in our current day with the many churches who have been in exile during the pandemic, the Holy Spirit was and is and will continue to be with us, breathing life into us when needed.
When we regather in July it won’t be the beginning of church, it won’t be the Holy Spirit rejoining us, it will be the continuation of us being the church all along and having had the Holy Spirit with us all along.
When we regather, we are not recapturing part of what church was before. When we regather, it is the Spirit of God continuing to guide us, advocate for us, comfort us, teach us as we begin a new season led by the Spirit.
The people of Ezekiel’s restoration struggled to embody hope, as have all of us at times. But empowered by the Spirit, we are called to hope—truly, to faith, hope, and love.
We have begun preparations to regather on Sunday, July 18 and are excited to begin seeing one another in person. We will continue to livestream and record our Sunday morning service for those who are not yet ready to return.
We are happy to announce that the Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner will be our guest preacher on Sunday, June 6 and then lead us in a PRIDE discussion on June 9 at 7:00 pm.
The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner is Director of Frontera Wesley in Tucson, AZ. Rev. Hannah is ordained in the United Methodist Church, and previously served as the Curator of The Shout, a spoken-word poetry focused community based in Houston, Texas. She is also the author of a curriculum released in 2016 from Abingdon Press, “The Shout: Finding the Prophetic Voice in Unexpected Places.” Rev. Hannah studied at Furman University and Duke Divinity School before being ordained in the Philadelphia Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. In 2016, Hannah was recognized as one of the “16 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2016,” inducted as an honorary member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and given the Prathia Hall Social Justice Award by WomenPreach!, Inc. Dedicated to amplifying the voices of young women, she produced a documentary, “Awaken the Voice,” to ensure that the young women she worked with in pursuing justice for Sandra Bland would be remembered.
You are encouraged to read about part of Rev. Hannah’s journey here.
We look forward to learning, hearing, fellowshipping with Rev. Hannah.
What a Day of Rejoicing that Will Be!
For the past year, the staff, deacons, trustees, and lay leaders have been in conversation around when and how to regather for worship once more. Following the messages from the CDC, WHO, and Washington DC public health officials, every decision was made with our community’s health and safety in mind.
With the vaccine rollout, we feel that we are able to begin planning for regathering for worship with July 18 as our first Sunday together since the pandemic began. This is a preliminary announcement that is subject to change – pending any additional information from the latest public health guidelines in the next several weeks.
Please read the additional information under “Regathering,” noting that we are asking everyone, even those who have been vaccinated, to always wear a mask inside the church. We know that things will be different, and we trust that you will understand that this plan has all who will be in church from the youngest to the no longer-the-youngest in mind.
We thank you for your cooperation and we look forward seeing you in person and once again worshiping together in our sanctuary on July 18.
Please look for additional information as the date draws nearer.
~ Rev. Nick and the Riverside Leadership Team
“The deepest reality of life in the Spirit depicted in the book of Acts is that the disciples of Jesus rarely, if ever, go where they want to go or to whom they would want to go. Indeed, the Spirit seems to always be pressing the disciples to go to those to whom they would in fact strongly prefer never to share space, or a meal, and definitely not life together. Yet it is precisely this prodding to be boundary-crossing and border-transgressing that marks the presence of the Spirit of God.”Willie James Jennings
At times in our lives, we find ourselves being led to places and in directions we wouldn’t have selected. We encounter people and circumstances that bring us out of our comfort zones. This was the case in Acts with many of the disciples. Philip has a Spirit driven encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch. Peter is sent to “the house of uncircumcised” and ate with them, also learning from God it is not our job to “call anyone profane or unclean.” Peter ultimately learns that “God shows no partiality.”
There are many lessons for us in the book of Acts. In this season of transition may we be open to where the Spirit of God leads us, has us share space with, and when needed even prods us. For as Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I pray that the Spirit will guide us, and the Lord’s purpose prevails in all our lives.
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’John 10:11-18
The above pericope from the Gospel of John leaves the door open and warns against any kind of exclusive claim on our Good Shepherd Jesus.
Deciding who is in and who is out is really, as Jesus suggests, not the business of the sheep, but solely up to God, solely up to the Good Shepherd. We sheep-folk are instructed to adhere to Jesus, to love, and to testify, as Jesus makes explicit in the Red Letters; we are to testify to the love, mercy, and grace the Good Shepherd provides in abundance.
As for myself and others in ministry, despite holding the position of the hired hand, we are called to be audacious, and to not run away from the challenge of calling God’s people to a clear understanding of the call to oneness in the name of Christ. We are called to address and welcome diversity in whatever form it is represented in the wider community in which our churches are located. We are called to be Christ-centered, inclusive, and ecumenical.
And he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”Luke 24:46-48
The way we, as the body of Christ, can be witnesses to the resurrection is to offer radical hospitality and embrace the traumatized bodies of our neighbors, of those who are strangers, and as Jesus instructed even those we may view as enemies. The verdict rendered yesterday is but a short sigh, recognizing accountability has been adjudicated; but justice is long from being served or realized. As Amanda Gorman puts it, “a reminder that victory would be George Floyd being alive. Every day Black Americans worry if they will be next is another day without justice.”
“All nations” is not a restrictive call to individuals of different ethnicities, but a collective group who have been at the forefront of persecution and injustice, causing suffering and pain. Most of American Christianity preaches and teaches a hyper individualistic salvation, one focused on the sole individual sinner so it doesn’t have to repent from its systemic sin. For those who are ignorant to the evils systemic sin and the need for such repentance, I suggest you spend some time in the Old Testament, particularly the Prophets.
As the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed.” There is still much to be learned as the church grapples with systems of oppression. It is our charge as followers of Christ to continue seeking justice and our mission to rescue the oppressed. We must work toward justice and embrace resurrection as insurrection, as we live into the reality of the risen Jesus whom we worship.
If I were to riotThe Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney
I would riot against those institutions that actively harm Black people
I would riot against those businesses built on the stolen labor of Black people
I would riot against those churches built with bloodied Black hands
I would riot against book clubs and listening circles
I would riot against performative allyship and corporate co-option
I would riot against blue lives flags and stickers
I would riot against legislative bodies that encode and enact white supremacy
I would riot against white supremacists statues in public places
I would riot against museums and art institutions that promote anti-Black standards of beauty
I would riot against universities promulgating notions of classical that are white supremacist by design and intent
I would riot against financial institutions that flipped there slave-produced wealth into astronomical sums buy redlining and exploiting Black and brown and poor people
I would riot against representatives who gerrymander themselves into a white supremacist hegemony
I would riot against courts that render unjust justice and call it justice
I am not rioting
At least, not in the streets
My words are a riot
A riot of fire
Leaping from page and screen
Feeding the flames of the riots to come
The Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to Women of the Torah and of the Throne, a commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel; and co-editor of The Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible. The first two volumes of her Women’s Lectionary are due this spring. She is an Episcopal priest canonically resident in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and licensed in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and a former Army chaplain and congregational pastor in the AME Zion Church.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
There are three takeaways from John 20:19-31 that I wish to offer concerning the resurrection.
First, the resurrection is personal and relational. When Jesus met Mary, he approached her and offered himself to Mary to which she replied “teacher”, she recognizes Jesus as her teacher and thus she is a disciple. When Jesus first appears to the disciples in their locked home her offers peace and breathes the Spirit of God upon them. Jesus gets extremely personal with Thomas. There is something almost voyeuristic with the encounter of Jesus and Thomas. This is an intimate moment to which Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God.”
Then there is Peter who Jesus walks with. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him, once for each time Peter denied Jesus. Jesus reconciles with Peter, instructs Peter to follow him and gives Peter the keys to the church. The resurrected Jesus is personal and relational. As a professor once said, “it’s not pie in the sky, but ham where I am, chicken in the kitchen.”
The second take away is the resurrection is physical and bodily. The fact the Jesus showed the disciples his wounds shows that Jesus didn’t come back as an apparition or ghost, but he, his body, rose again. As Jesus is the first fruits of resurrection, we know that our resurrection will be bodily, our loved ones lost will be raised from the dead, not in spirit, but in reality, just as real as Jesus was when he sat, ate, and drank with the disciples.
Finally, the third takeaway of the resurrection is the effects are communal, not individualistic. The effect of the risen Jesus shapes our communities just as much as it shapes us personally. When we look to the community in Acts, we find a community concerned for each other. There are no superstars or rock stars, but a community where each member is a different part of the same body.
You may have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is not complete without the body, without the community to which you belong. It’s the reason why so many of us are yearning to when we can regather, which God willing will be soon.
This is the Easter story, that the risen Jesus, still carrying His wound, meets us in our fears and doubts. Jesus is intimate and personal with us. Death is not the final answer, life through the risen Jesus is.