Checking In

Greetings Riverside Family,

I want to share with you all that though the church continues to hold virtual services, church leadership has recently met and will continue meeting regularly to reevaluate when we believe regathering can be done safely.

Until then please continue to worship with us Sunday mornings and join us for our 11:00 am fellowship hour. The first and second Sundays of the month we conclude our time together with communion. We are also offering Bible study on Wednesday nights where we are reading through and discussing the Gospel of Luke. This coming Wednesday we will be discussing Luke chapter 2. All the information for these services can be found in the newsletter and on the church’s website.

And as always, please to not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Rev. Nick

Darkness Reimagined

“In the beginning before God created light there was darkness.”

Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney

There has been some recent conversation revisiting the duality and comparison of light and darkness. While on the surface some take the comparison at face value, given the context and often the voice of those who tend to use this comparison (in such a way as to paint darkness as bad and light as good) I wished to touch on the subject for a moment and suggest a different of understanding to this juxtaposition thanks to the brilliant Dr. Wil Gafney.

Dr. Gafney reminds us, “The mystic Howard Thurman taught us that somewhere between the light and the darkness, between the shadow and glory, there is a space that he called the luminous darkness, others have called it radiant blackness. Think of the night sky spangled with stars or the sheen on black silk or satin, or the glow of beautiful ebony skin. In the age of Black Lives Matter I invite you to take another look at the light and the darkness and see them on their own terms.”

She continues by saying that God, unlike many of us, is not afraid of darkness but rather uses it as a creative space from which everything under the sun (and even the sun) was created. This is not to deny the existences of darkness, but to reimagine darkness as a partner with light as opposed to a polar opposite, to understand the value and benefits of darkness as opposed to only being a negative. Yes, sometimes light is needed within darkness, but also sometimes darkness is needed within light, just ask any parent of a young child trying to put them to sleep.

As we continue in this exilic year and the days grow shorter, I pray that we are able to reimagine and carefully consider imagery and concepts we are accustomed to and think of new ways to grow in our faith and in our commitment to one another.

~Rev. Nick

A Celebration of Life for Rev. Clark

Join the Clark family for a virtual memorial service for Rev. Paul Clark via Zoom at 2:00 pm, Saturday, August 29, 2020. When joining the virtual memorial use the meeting ID 959-5486-4346. The passcode can be obtained from the emailed newsletter or by contacting office@firstbaptistdc.org.

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Paul was a passionate theologian, gardener, scholar, poet. and lover of the ocean, mountains and sky. He drank in life and saw each day as a gift. His love for his family and friends was wide and deep.

For the last 50 years, Paul served as pastor, an international interim pastor, Christian educator, mentor and clergy coach. Paul’s thirst for knowledge and a deeper understanding of God’s love for the world was threaded throughout his relationships.

Paul is survived by his wife Brenda Rozier Clark; their two children David Paul (Bronwyn) Clark and Elizabeth Clark (Victor) Thasiah; and four granddaughters Eden, Athena, Marenna and Maeve.

Paul and Brenda’s church home, First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, DC, is hosting the service. Technical questions about the service can be sent to office@firstbaptistdc.org.

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Thank you for joining the Clark Family in celebrating Paul’ s life and ministry. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the ALS Association as they seek to find a cure: https://www.als.org.

What Originates in the Heart

“If we want a beloved community, we must stand for justice, have recognition for difference without attaching difference to privilege.”

bell hooks
"Love Heals" graffiti

In the first pericope we read this past Sunday (Matthew 15:10-20) Jesus taught the crowds — including Pharisees and his disciples, that a person is defiled not by what they puts in their mouth and stomach, but by that which originates in their heart and is manifested in their life. Jesus says in Matthew 12:34 that “from out of the mouth comes the overflow of the heart.”

Jesus’s words in chapters 12 and 15 causes us to reflect on what it is we are putting into our heart and who we are as followers of Jesus. We live in a precarious time to say the least. Matters of justice have been at the heart of Riverside and many of her congregants for decades. The coming weeks will be tiresome for many, and I’m not even speaking of matters related to Covid-19. I hope and pray for our communities. I look forward to those who are able join in the march on August 28 along with the evening’s edifying and educational RiSET session. Please join us as you are able.

It is my prayer that we will continue to encourage, challenge, edify, and uplift one another as we cause “good trouble,” stand for justice, truly recognize our sisters and brothers while not privileging any over the other, and set examples of Christ personified if our lives.

~Rev. Nick

Manifestation of Patience

There’s a kind of madness commensurate with being a disciple of Jesus. To see the world, to understand that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, requires a people who refuse to be hurried.

Stanley Hauerwas

The past three Sundays we’ve been examining the parables of Matthew 13. One of the themes that is present in these parables, especially the parable of the wheat and tares, is that of patience. Patience is a virtue they say, one that I’ll admit I often have very little. Yet we see in Jesus just what the manifestation of patience truly is. Jesus, after all, was patient with his disciples and in particular Judas, knowing full well what was to come.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares we see that evil is real and will exist among the good. Yet, just because evil is real it doesn’t mean that good ceases to exist nor should we stop striving to produce good. The parable teaches us that we must have patience until the time comes when the tares are removed. It feels we are in a time now where the roots of the tares seem to be suffocating the wheat. The pandemic has placed us in an exile of sorts, one much longer than we anticipated. At times I feel my patience is running out, my patience with the pandemic, my patience with leadership (or lack thereof), my patience with my neighbors, many of whom demonstrate their carelessness.

Yet, as Jesus teaches us to see significance in the insignificant (i.e. the mustard seed and yeast), we ought to try and see what the harvest can yield from this season in which we find ourselves. This requires patience, again, a virtue I’m doing my best to practice yet would sure like it to hurry up and get here. Whether it is patience for the pandemic to end, patience for justice on behalf of our brothers or sisters who have been greatly wronged, or just patience until November, I pray that God will grant us patience. And may what seems like the insignificant in our lives right now grow and flourish into the significance which shapes and changes lives.

Rev. Nick

Riverside Readers Discuss “Morning Poem”

At noon this Sunday, August 2, Riverside Readers will discuss and critique “Morning Poem” by Mary Oliver after the 11:00 am prayer meeting. Please read it, and if you have time, join us at the discussion. Details on how to join the discussion are on the Online Community Services page.

Morning Poem
by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

The Time for Unity is Now

Riverside Family,

Over the past several months, we have faced one of the most challenging periods in our church history. The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the congregation and I cannot thank you enough for the incredible faith and flexibility you have shown so far. This crisis is far from over, we know that, but it is your resilient spirit that will see us emerge as one unified Christian body once this pandemic is eventually behind us.

Over the coming weeks, the health and safety of our congregation must remain our number one priority. I would ask that you continue to take care of yourselves and of each other. We are all in this together.

Indeed, if recent weeks have taught us anything, it’s that the time for unity is now. The recent and tragic events in the US have highlighted the social injustice and racial inequalities that still exist in society, fueled by a divisive narrative of bias and discrimination. I want to be very clear that these beliefs hold no place at Riverside, and in no way reflect the values we live by as a church body. The inclusion of everyone, irrespective of skin color, gender, where you are from or who you love, is paramount.

Let’s never forget, the very things that make us different also make us better. We are an inclusive church, and our inclusiveness fosters a strong sense of belonging. It empowers us to be our best and to demonstrate God’s love in our actions. So, let’s all play our part. It is up to each of us to actively embrace inclusion in our daily lives, and in doing so, we drive positive change for all.

God bless you,

Deacon Laurel

Stay Safe, Stay Connected

Dear Church,

I hope and pray this message finds you and yours well, safe, and healthy. We are still continuing to discern what is best for our community at Riverside and will continue to gather and worship virtually for the foreseeable future. I encourage you join our RiSET Safe Space Chat this Friday that will be facilitated by Deacon Jonathan Holley. Details for the meeting can be found here. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me or any of our staff should you have any questions or concerns.

Prayerfully yours,

Rev. Nick