Tag Archives: inclusive baptist church dc

New leadership, same mission

Deacon Laurel Eierman

As you may know, our beloved Chairperson of Deacons, Jacquelyn, is stepping down after more than twenty years of service. She has been the right hand of our pastor, a defender of our church’s mission in the world and a generous, kind servant. We are grateful for her leadership. She will remain on the board a while and continue to provide counsel to the pastor and the new Chair of Deacons.

The new Chairperson is Deacon Laurel. Laurel is well-known in our congregation. She is consistent, supportive, loving and kind. She possesses a deep spirituality and displays that spirituality through earnest service. She is devoted to the mission of our church and she has wonderful skills that will result in her being a superb chairperson. Please welcome Laurel, thank Jacquelyn and then offer to do what is needed to help our church continue being the Beloved Community on this corner.

If you haven’t signed up for our e-newsletter, please do so. You can email our Moderator, Karl, at Karl_Maxwell@yahoo.com and ask to be added to the list. This e-newsletter comes out weekly. We thank Karl for his service.

Coming up this week: our midweek prayer and praise service at 7pm on Weds. A free organ concert at 7pm on Friday. And please mark on your calendars the 7th of April when Rev. Dr. Al Staggs will preach in our morning service and then at 3pm, he will present his one-person play, “A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazis and paid for his resistance with his life. In this time of rising anti-semitism and racial hatred, this play is both timely and necessary. Rev Staggs will pull no punches in his sermon that will address this moment in our history. And his play is inspiring and will compel us to courage. Bill Moyers wrote about his play, “”When I watch Al Staggs as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I am confronted by the deepest moral questions of what it means to be a witness and how I am using my life.” You will want to attend this and invite a friend.

Be connected. Be committed. Be the Beloved Community. ~PSTR

Musings on 27 years

For nearly half my life, I have pastored Riverside Baptist Church. For over half my life I have been a pastor. February 1992, I stepped into the pulpit of Riverside for the first time as your pastor. Needless to say, I have a whole lot of stories and have seen a lot. If these were collected–and I wouldn’t because of pastoral confidentiality–I would entitle that collection, “Stories of Faith and Betrayal, Hope and Loss.” That, as they say, is the human predicament. If you’re interested, I published a book about a long pastorate entitled, The Novel Pastorate. You can find it on Amazon.

In 2006, I asked the church to put together a development committee because I could see that our small, progressive Baptist church was threatened by an aging facility and no money in the bank to speak of. We were faced with potentially losing our history which stretched back to 1857. And just as importantly, we were at risk of losing our future. A dozen years later, we are sitting in a beautiful sanctuary full of light, fully accessible and paid for. We have an endowment. I am reminded of the story about Jesus healing the ten lepers and only one of them turning back to him to say thanks. I’ve said it before and I say it again: we should be praising God and thanking God for this remarkable moment in our history, not complaining about some aspect we might individually dislike. Thank you, God–every day, every Sunday and then Monday through Saturday, roll up your sleeves and work on connecting your church to this community.

I also muse about how old I’ve become in the process. This too is simply the human predicament. I’m putting a double exposure picture of me when I graduated from college and a current picture of me, below this blog post. I am an old man now. But as regards the pastorate, age can actually be a benefit since with age comes wisdom. At least we hope so! It is a sad truth that persons age physically but when they’re senior citizens some still operate with the theology of a child. As the Apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 13), when he grew up he put away childish things. So look, it is a wonderful gift to be able to age in place in a church we love. It is a hopeful thing to be allowed to partner with God for the future so others whom we will never know or meet, find their way into this sanctuary of peace.

This Sunday, add your thank you in the midst of the people of God. Add your voice to the choir and sing in praise for how God has led us this far. Stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow congregants and this old pastor to say to the world, we will not be moved. We continue to proclaim the Gospel and work for justice and peace.

Pastor Michael Bledsoe, 1976 graduate of Stetson University, old pastor of Riverside Baptist Church, 2018.

black history month

“The power of song in the struggle for black survival–that is what the spirituals and blues are about.” –James Cone. Join us in worship this month if for no other reason than the Church is the epicenter of struggle and response for Black survival in the apocalypse of America. Our celebration of Black History includes reading Cone’s book (it is a brief book and under $10); we will share in a soul food potluck on February 10th (bring a soul food dish to share with others); and we will hear a review of the book by Pastor Bledsoe. After lunch, we’ll head upstairs for a presentation of Spirituals directed by Lauren White. The next day, we’ll go to Blue Monday at Westminster Presbyterian (with parking available in their lot). The goal here is to engage both our minds and our spirit as we celebrate Black History–let us think deeply about the contributions of this history and then let us experience it musically and as a community through our shared food and fellowship. As well, Pastor Bledsoe will speak to this theme beginning the first Sunday of February. Join us!

Church to dedicate new building

Sunday the 20th we dedicate our new church on MLK Sunday. Our previous building was built in 1967 and was to have its first service on April 7, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4 and the subsequent riots in DC postponed that first service. Now, 50 years later, on a national day of remembrance of his birth, we gather to dedicate our new church building. Terryn Nelson will be singing Patti Griffin’s MLK Song (Up to the Mountain). Dr. Michael Kinnamon will be preaching. And we will stand up! shoulder to shoulder to say The Beloved Community that gathers on the corner of 7th and Maine Ave in Washington DC is alive and vibrant and still speaking truth to power. Join us at 10 a.m. won’t you? Let us be the Beloved Community.

What will you bring to the manger?

Sunday the 23rd is the last Sunday of Advent, the Sunday before Christmas. Christmas Eve will be at 7:30pm with parking at Westminster Presbyterian who will be joining us for our communion and candlelight service.

I’m not sure how to encourage folks to show up for these worship opportunities. I assume worship is high on the list of things one must do for Christmas to be truly Christmas. O Come All Ye Faithful. In the midst of the chaotic world and the swirling hatreds and violence around us, how would we pass up a chance to enter a place of peace in order to worship and honor The Prince of Peace? I look forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 10, Monday evening at 7:30. Because a communion of believers gathered ’round the holy child IS Christmas. Grace & Peace ~PSTR

FAKE NEWS. SYCOPHANTS. AND THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST.

“Trump Privately Urges Pastors to Help Him From the Pulpit in Midterms” The following is a repost of a March 18, 2017 post.  It is still–unfortunately for us and our nation–relevant.
..for it is the nature of kings that they will hold good men in more suspicion than the bad, and dread the talents of others.’  —Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline

Our President is not a king so one might object that the Roman historian, Sallust’s depiction of kings does not apply.  Our President, however, performs as a king, taking great relish in the issuing of edicts and demanding that his voluminous lies be accorded the appellation of Truth simply because the words are coming out of his mouth.  Despite evidence to the contrary, he will double down and triple down on his lies, as if by merely repeating the words he will magically make it so.  Having addressed the positive in Mr. Trump, let’s ponder the negative for a moment.

In his book, Dynasty:  The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar, Tom Holland writes, “Words, under the Caesars, had become slippery, treacherous things.”  And then turning to the Roman historian of that age, Tacitus, describes the moment:  ‘The age was a tainted one, degraded by its sycophancy.’   Tacitus, meet Trump.

This sycophancy—at least it seems to me—is the danger of the moment in which we live.  Sycophants are servile persons who obey and pander to someone important in order to gain an advantage.  What this means is we have a congress that refuses to hold the president accountable because they have an agenda of their own (they would like to be rid once and for all of Medicaid, render the safety net useless, deny medical care to its most needy citizens, the elderly and the poor, and burn billions of dollars building more weapons of mass destruction).  They won’t check the President because for now, they want the President to check the boxes on their legislative agenda.

The banal chant of “fake news” has been taken up by an administration that has attached itself to White Nationalism.  White nationalist apparatchiks [like Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael Anton] who fawn over fascists of previous eras have taken up residence in this administration with little objection from the party in control of both the House and Senate.  Sycophancy has tainted our age and our government to a degree previously unthinkable.  Here’s a tip though:  when the alligators on your animal farm assert the swamp should be drained, you should think twice about who is faking whom.

Why would a pastor speak to these political realities? someone might ask.  My response: The Church has since its inception worked out the Good News of Jesus Christ within the matrix of power and politics.  It was Rome that crucified its Savior.  And it was within the Roman history of which Tacitus and Sallust wrote that Christians had to live.   They offered Good News, not fake news. They worshipped one King, the King of the Universe, not the tyrant that occupied the Roman throne at any given time.  As the Gospel of Luke tells us, Jesus was born under the rule of Caesar Augustus.  He was ruthless.  He insisted upon being referred to as Divi Filius, son of a god.  So when Luke tells the Good News of the birth of Jesus and the New Testament declares him to be the Son of God, it is a direct affront and counter to the tyranny of the Roman Caesar-god.  As then, so now.  The Church declares the Good News and thus opposes the fog machine of lies.  Here’s a tip:  when politicians and presidents declare they are being merciful, as Mr. Ryan has claimed about himself, or that they are born again, as the President has said he is, but they attack and assault the weak, the poor, the hungry, the sick, then you can chalk that up to fakery.  The Apostle James was clear enough:  “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress,. . .[James 1:26-27]  May the Good News of Christ dissipate the fog of  fake news of this Orwellian government.  In such a time as this, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. ~See you Sunday

Dignity in the midst of the storms

We pray for:

THOSE IN THE PATHWAY OF STORMS  We are especially mindful of all those who reside in Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas, the Bahamas and Caribbean who, at this moment on Friday,  seem to be in peril as Hurricane Irma makes its way closer to the United States.  And for those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.  Christ, have mercy.

THOSE IN MEXICO  We remember especially those in the state of Oaxaca and beyond who had family and homes destroyed.  Lord, have mercy.

DREAMERS  We pray for those children who have known only the United States and came here or were born here with families who had illegally entered the country but by no fault of their own were raised here and dared to dream they could be part of the American Dream.  This administration and the Congress seems prepared to do them great harm.  May it not be so.  Christ, have mercy.

FOR ALL OF US  We who toil day by day and attempt to do better by ourselves, our families and our communities are under great stress, carrying large burdens.  May these burdens be lifted and in their place may we receive courage and strength.  Lord, have mercy.

*******

Sunday I will be asking the following questions and I hope to give some guidance in my sermon entitled, “Superman’s Cape, A Clerical Collar and Clothed in Christ”:  How are you navigating this apocalyptic landscape?  How are you making sense of your lives as you daily wade through the swamp of political rhetoric, assorted hatreds, natural catastrophes, not to mention trying to find an affordable plumber on the week-end?  How are you living between sun up and sun down?  What strategy for maintaining your human dignity and the dignity of others do you have when the power goes out and the storm is raging around you?

Join us in worship Sunday at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Middle School.  Because there in that auditorium, we embrace each other as fully human. We carry one another’s burdens and share in each other’s joys.  ~See you Sunday

How to Live in the Toxic Atmosphere of Political Strife

I was struck Sunday in our worship service by the power and the simple eloquence of the lectionary reading take from Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12.  As you embark upon another week and ponder how you’re going to deal with the various catastrophes, hatreds and toxic rhetoric, I urge you to read these words. Print them out and attach them to the refrigerator or  recite them into your life every day this week.  They are words to live by.  They are words that can help us live in the toxic atmosphere of political strife that has permeated our culture.

ROMANS 12:

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 

10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 

16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;do not claim to be wiser than you are. 

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 

18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

AMEN.  So be it…in our own lives, in the lives of our leaders and within the sacred bounds of our beloved community.

An Administration of Bandits

The African Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, writing in the dusk of the Roman empire in his book, The City of God:  “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.”

Mr. Trump meet Bishop Augustine.  America, meet your Congress that is dedicated to obstruction and falsification and yes, burdening the poor while enriching the wealthy.  How does one live faithfully in a kingdom of bandits?  By refusing to sacrifice the assembling of one another in worship; by resisting evil by what is right and just; by rallying around those at risk and certainly, by all means, being willing to name the gansters and bandits, Diabolus.  The Congress could begin to redeem its soul by naming a Special Prosecutor to pursue Russia’s entanglement with the Trump campaign and our national election.  The judgement of God is not always swift. Sometimes it is a slow train coming around the bend (thanks to Dylan).  I can hear the click-clack rumble of that train.

Remembering Who We Are

I’ve been thinking about name tags.  Like when I was five years old and my mother sent me off to school the first day or week.  Was the idea that I might forget my name?  Or was it verification of who I was for the teacher?

Hospitals of course are quite meticulous these days with those wrist bands.  From patients to visitors they want everyone identified.  We get this and it’s not hard to figure out why a name tag or identity badge is important.

It becomes especially important however for persons who no longer have a clear memory.  Anyone who has had a loved one enter some phase of dementia or suffered an accident and is unconscious wants their loved one to be identified and people to know with whom they are working.

So I have a simple suggestion.  In these days of madness when the White House is now tainted by the President of the United States having invited a murderer to visit him, the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who delights in extrajudicial executions, let’s wear a name tag so we can remind ourselves who we are. And maybe we should write beneath our names, “I love justice.”  Alas, this may be so much jousting at windmills. But I do know a way to remind ourselves who we are each week and month after month.

Every Sunday in a middle school auditorium, we gather to create the beloved community. Frankly, there may be no greater counter sign to the madness of a world in love with death than to place oneself within the community of those who believe that God expects justice and righteousness and whose dream is to see these flow down like mighty streams. Worship as counter-cultural, non-violent resistance.   I invite you to remember who you are with us as we remember who we are in the presence of God, who loved the world so much… ~See you Sunday