Tag Archives: baptist inclusive church

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’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!

Weary of Punk Prosperity Preachers: a Lament

Weary of punk prosperity preachers selling Jesus like a bar of soap. Tired of White Nationalists in the White House protected and covered by White Republicans who control Congress. Weary of tweets like some kind of nuclear fallout, flakes of asbestos falling from the sky and ash covering everything. Tired of politicians who use the flag and patriotism to stoke xenophobia and racism.  Tired of priests and bishops and cardinals defending “The Church” like they have a monopoly on the eucharist so stop criticizing us for pedophilia and cover-ups.  Really?  This makes Luther and the indulgences scam look mild by comparison.  Weary of honkers honking at intersections like 7th & Maine—sit down, be humble.  Stop honking.  Try a little patience. Get through the crosswalk.  Pretty tired of pints for 7 and 8 dollars and less than stellar meals with prices out of this world. Just sayin’.  How do you have a conference with Chinese visiting scholars about urban identity and not ask them about churches their government knocks down, Muslims they imprison and Tibet they oppress? Hello, my identity is not the property of the State.  Way tired of 45 and the Fake calling everyone else fake.  45, the truth will set you free but you have to go further than Pilate, who asked “what is truth?” and then crucified it. Stone cold stupified how John McCain is considered a loser by much of the Republican Party and the President.  Heroism, like light, has a way of revealing cowardice and cowards.  Weary of how White Christians tolerate and defend the extrajudicial killings of Black Americans.  Its a stony road we trod. We are not the first to walk it.  Grab some courage and resist.

Ready for relief and renewal and reparation and repair of the world. Ready for hope because we see beauty all around us and in the faces of one another.  Ready for joy because the image of God radiated outward to me from the face of a child, the face of an elderly man I met walking on a bike path one morning this week, luminous in the million kindnesses extended to one another in our world though these acts of devotion will not be reported or televised.  Ready to hear the Word of God in cascading streams of mercy and justice after being pelted by the stream of words gushing out of the internet, the television, radio and by persons talking on mobile phones loudly as they shop or sit on a bus or in a train car.  Ready for the still, small voice of God.  Ready for prayers and songs of praise and a proclamation that calls us to something greater than ourselves.  I’m ready for that, aren’t you?  ~See you Sunday

Communion at the Wharf

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a concert over at The Anthem on The Wharf. These folks are technically our neighbors now and as you know, Riverside sits at the gateway into the Wharf. The Anthem is just an incredible venue, by the way.

Today (Sunday) I walked down to gaze at our building and then decided to visit the Blue Bottle Cafe. I used the app on my smart phone to unlock an electric scooter and scooted over there.  Had a delicious Macchiato.  Then I got back on the scooter and parked across the street from the church, ended my ride and walked to Westminster for our worship.  I had used a scooter on Saturday to travel from the Wharf Recreation Pier to visit a congregant over near 4th and G Streets.  Awesome way to move about.

The weave of opportunities and travel options, the remarkable array of entertainment options and restaurants and the interweave of individuals making their way to and fro create a synergy and vibrancy to our community.  I use that last word broadly because as a church, we know that the word “community” derives from the word “communion” and I’m not really sure how much communion there is in all of this. It is a powerful mix though.   Potent.  The Anthem provides an ecstatic experience to thousands nearly every night.  People are lined up to enter restaurants and bars.  And thousands more simply want to stroll through this cultural-entertainment-web.  But community? Communion? I’ll just say I’m an agnostic about that at this point.  I’m open though because the other thing I know is this:  when people encounter other people, whether or not they intend to commune or communicate, they inevitably exchange information about themselves to others and often without saying a word.  We are interesting and complex creatures and everything from our facial expressions to the clothes we wear tell the world around us something about us.  And each of us–get this–carries the Image of God.

I write all this to say that I’m processing this information in an effort to understand what the role of our church is and will be on that corner at 7th & Maine Ave.  Materially speaking, it is very clear to me that our architect and the builders have made a wonderful contribution to the aesthetic on that avenue.  That stone wall, the swerve and wave of the roofline, the bell tower/ship stack, the stained glass and pearl white prefab—it is a handsome building that anchors the corner and it is a contribution to the architectural vernacular of SW.  But we are not the Anthem. No way we can compete nor would we try.  We serve coffee but we’re not Blue Bottle.  We’ll have potlucks but we’re not Kith & Ken.  We’re a church. We are communion. And we engage holistically soulful human beings.  And that, beloved, is something not offered across the exchange at any counter at the Wharf or online.  I invite you to ponder with me about these things. In a few months, we will step into a holy space, open its doors to our community, and commune and worship.  And I will catch a scooter for that any day and every time!

You Have a Holy Book? You Have Issues

pier-perspective_1Like a perfumed letter from your mother that you keep in your wallet to remind yourself of her and because reading her words renders a presence of her; or like an old phonograph album, with its scratches and pops, that you play because that recording of that particular song or symphony is your favorite and you can still hear it despite the scratches; so is the bible.  It is not an infallible book dropped from heaven. And those who assert such a thing, name their churches after it, place it as a talisman on their coffee table, come close to bible-olatry.

Many of us are recovering fundamentalists or bible-olaters.  Some are not recovering but repress those attempts made by parents or churches to conform them to cultural norms dipped in the ink of the bible in order to give sacred stamp to what is at best traditional viewpoints and at worse,  oppressive measures to manipulate a person.  Take for example the report in the Washington Blade, “D.C. Church backs ‘shaming’ of LGBT people” of August 10.  Capital View Baptist of Washington DC apparently “adopted a revised church constitution last year that says, ‘shaming and shunning are acceptable Christian responses'” to LGBT folk.

Well, if you have a holy book, you have issues.  And here is the overarching problem:  the Holy is communicated through the lens and pens of human beings and cultures so that the person who reads a holy book must be diligent about sorting through what is culturally and historically confined and whatever Truth is being communicated.  One example is the church who encourages its members in homophobia.  It cannot reject pre-scientific views of human sexuality because it embraces pre-scientific ideas embedded in the text of their holy bible.  Mind you, that church is using electricity, its members make dental appointments instead of calling an exorcist and so on and so forth.   They cherry-pick the scriptures while munching on bacon, a food (pork) described in the bible as an abomination.  Another example is slavery. Another is the role of women.  Another is …

I invite you to identify examples and issues and join with me on Saturday August 25th in a walk & chat along the Wharf at 10:30 a.m.    We’ll meet at the end of the Recreation Pier (I’m calling this event Pier Perspective).  That pier runs perpendicular to Maine Ave. at 7th, SW.  We’ll have a nice time ambling about and talking for about one hour.  And I’ll pass along any insights I might have but especially encourage us to work out a method of interpretation so we can receive the Truth of the bible while not being entangled in views that dehumanize us.  I hope to see you Saturday!  ~PSTR

 

Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists: Go Home

The neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville a year ago have secured a permit to parade their hatred this week-end in Washington, DC.  What a vivid illustration of the utter moral failure of the Trump White House and administration.  But that aside, what do people of good will do when the haters parade?

Should people counter-protest?  Obviously many will and the exercise of their free speech to denounce haters and hatred is probably a good thing.

Should people fight and attack the haters, neo-Nazis and white supremacists?  As tempting as that may sound to some it is not only self-defeating but actually empowers them.  Nazis and white supremacists were defeated in WWII and of course white supremacy was defeated in the Civil War.  These paraders are the defeated.  It is a sad and pathetic spectacle.

So I am going to do two things.  I’m going to  worship this week-end along with millions of other Americans who will be praying and thanking God for mercy and justice in mosques, synagogues and churches across the United States.  MILLIONS of us who believe in love and justice will worship. The neo-Nazis and white supremacists might have 500 people show up in their parade.  They could have 5,000 and it would come absolutely no where near the number of people who believe in the more noble calling of loving God and neighbor.  I know there are denominations and churches that plan to rally elsewhere in the city and that’s great. But I’m “rallying” by worshipping with the People of God.  That act of devotion dwarfs the pitiable band of haters who will be banging their trash-can-lid shields.

The second thing I’m doing is ignoring this parade of defeated, sad and pathetic haters.  I won’t go near them.  Won’t shout at them or try to have a rational discussion with them.  I certainly won’t be trying to violently attack them.  The ignore button will be on.

The most important thing we can do is vote in November.  Those who have abandoned civility, abandoned their oaths of office to protect and defend the constitution, and betrayed the the sick, the poor, the elderly and the workers of this country need to be voted out of office. So do that this Fall.  Because the ballot is still more powerful than a gun.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists!  Go home.  Go back to your homes and ponder how you chose to walk a path of hatred and by doing so, have diminished yourselves.

Social Media and who we are

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I am working very hard with our Outreach Coordinator, Jonathan, and our Social Media Coordinator, Anna, in an effort to promote our new church that opens in November.

You will be alerted eventually and likely soon about how to “like”us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We need a push from members and friends to get the word out about our church. So that is coming but I thought I would begin with a “slide” that is emblematic of our identity.  Of course, if you have read many of my blog posts or listened to sermons, you already grasp the message in the slide above.

Please, in these waning summer weeks, do not neglect your church. We need you in worship. We need your financial support.  And we need your passion for a new day on the corner of Maine Avenue & 7th Street, SW, DC.   We have been and remain Riverside Baptist Church but we have also become RIVERSIDE CHURCH @ THE WHARF.  I hope to see you in worship with our friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church this Sunday at 11.  It is a communion Sunday and I’ll be preaching. Terryn is singing and Jonathan is leading our Gates of Praise. Let’s worship! ~PSTR