FYI: Wednesday 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.
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
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!
August 19th, time to worship! We’ll be at Westminster Presbyterian at 11 a.m. Riverside singers are singing and playing. Pastor Bledsoe is not preaching but will be there to greet you. This is an opportunity to worship as one. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. That is how the Apostle Paul put it. Christ prayed that we would be one. So let’s fulfill scripture this morning. Let’s be one. One human race. One big love (nod to Patty Griffith who is surely nodding to Holy Scripture). One People of God. A bunch of Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists and Pentecostals and others–singing and praying together. ~See you soon