Tag Archives: inclusive church

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

The Old Rugged Cross

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 Crux sola nostra theologica est

The cross alone is our theology.   ~Martin Luther 

This Wednesday morning, June 27, early in the morning, a single steel cross was attached to the “bell tower” of our new church.  I am saddened I am out of town and was unable to witness this.  Thanks to Trustees Luke and Karl for being there and recording the event for us.

The great religious traditions crystallize theology and narrative into symbols and very often we can see those symbols and identify immediately whose symbol it is.  There are all kinds of problems with these meta-symbols that sometimes make it difficult for people to appreciate their power and their positive contribution.  Suffice it to say, religious symbols can become polluted.  A modern example of a polluted symbol would be the Nazi emblem or the Marxist hammer and sickle.  Persons with all kinds of terrible agendas have taken religious symbols and hidden their perfidy behind them. Think of the klansman who hides behind a burning cross.  So it is not surprising that some people have argued for giving up these religious symbols, fearing their pollution makes them at the least irrelevant and at worst, irredeemable.

I’m not persuaded.  I do not believe for example, that Americans who believe in freedom and justice should give up the flag to the brassy patriots who preach hatred and are blighted by xenophobia.  Sorry, you do not get to have a monopoly on the flag.  Nor should Christians allow hateful persons to have sole possession of the Cross. You do not get to own  our most cherished symbols.   The Cross is not yours to have.  So why erect a cross on our church? Why is it important?

One of the earliest hymns I can remember learning was The Old Rugged Cross.  In the very first verse, it captures the reason why we place this symbol on our building:

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross

The emblem of suff’ring and shame

And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain…

The Cross, despite those who used it for vile and violent purposes, does not endorse sacrifice or violence. It is a symbol opposed to these.  We follow a Savior who was innocently slain, who suffered and died and from his suffering and death, we have come to learn that God has and will overcome death and suffering.  It is an emblem of suffering and shame and reminds us that our own redemption was costly.  Words from that cross were uttered that asked forgiveness for those who harmed him; words were spoken from that cross that speak the human condition—why am I forsakenI thirst!  And from that cross the words of faith and the belief in a power greater than all the empires and tyrants of the world was expressed:  into thy hands, I commend my spirit.

I wish I could witness this moment in the life of our new building but pictures will be taken and I’ll see it soon enough. And besides, I’ve been witnessing the power of the Cross my entire life.  The ground is level there.  We are all beggars searching for mercy and grace.  Indeed, the Cross alone is our theology.

Don’t miss worship this Sunday as we gather with Westminster Presbyterian.  There is a sweet spirit in our worship and a remarkable and striking sign of the Beloved Community that can empower you in these dim days of a reckless government. “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light…”

All My Life’s a Circle and the Decemberists

The second day of May and I am on the Silver Line headed to a faculty meeting, listening to “June Hymn” by the Decemberists. That’s a lot of months in one sentence.  But it captures where I’m headed, not to Howard University School of Divinity, but into May, full throttle and “all my life’s a circle” rebounds to me in my little seat as the train operator’s voice crackles over the speaker, unspeakable and unhearable.  If that’s a word.

What is ahead is a dedication of an adopted son, Master Mason, by loving parents on Mother’s Day, the 8th of May. And the following Sunday, the baptism of a dear child, Wyatt Alexander, who has conquered my heart since his birth and whose parents I love dearly for their faith and their devotion to their special needs son. These young people are a gift from God to us. We have the blessed opportunity to receive them into our community and as well, to see them as God’s signs of grace to us.

The perspective of a long-time pastor is one of circles, concentric, widening in ever expansive rings of inclusion and rippled across the lakes of lives and church.  I’m nearing my stop at Van Ness, switched to the Red Line and switched to Macklemore’s newest album, listening to “Need to Know.” He raps, “we are what we run from.”  But at Riverside, we are what we run to. We run to each other and toward God, toward grace and mercy.  I hope you’ll worship with us this Sunday.  After all, “it’s the circle of life, and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love…”  

~See you Sunday

Book Sale and Give-Away

350px-reading-jester-q75-760x753A few of Pastor Bledsoe’s books are being given away free (online at Amazon) and at reduced price.  You can find these here.

We continue to sort through our church library material–you are welcome to any book you see other than those in the Jerry Davis Library shelf (enclosed).  There are some hymnals which are wonderful aids in devotion and prayer; keeping a hymnal on your nightstand allows you to pray (or sing of course!) in the night.

Preparing to Leave, Preparing to Arrive

stack of books

Strewn along the tops of the tables in the Foster Room are books from the Jerry Davis Library. There are books from the 1960s, some of which deal with issues that threatened the unity of churches (Black Power and Civil Rights, homosexuality, gender equality) and on this side of the 21st Century, it is fascinating to see how our brave little church stood up for Civil Rights, women and gay men and women. Those issues at that time were fuzzy, murky and unclear but our church found a way (and still does) to speak with clarity.  There are books about war and politics and there are of course a myriad of religious books.

Speaking of which, I noticed there are several hymnbooks (some given as gifts to the church in honor of loved ones at Fifth Baptist Church).  These hymnbooks are somewhat dated but I have said more than once that a practice of piety that you can count on is to have a hymnbook at your night stand so when you cannot sleep or are troubled, you can open that hymnbook and read a hymn as a prayer.  There are several–help yourselves and in the process, enrich  and encourage your spiritual life.

We are sifting and sorting now.  Our summer will be a time for such and then, end of September, we should be exiting this building and stepping into our interim worship arrangements.  It is not easy to say goodbye to a building that has offered us sanctuary and where we have evolved as individuals and as a congregation into God’s people. We will do so with dignity and hope. Christ tells the Church (in The Revelation of John), “Behold, I make all things new.”  We will trust in him to do so with us, for we have been and are in dialogue not only with our architect (Phillip Renfrow), but we are and have been in prayer with the Architect and Designer of worlds.  Of all the things we take with us, let us be sure to take our brave discipleship.  Of all we leave behind, may we leave malice, anger, grudges or anything else that weighs us down in our journey.  I love how Numbers (10:11) describes the journey about to begin as Moses led the children of Israel into their interim wandering through the wilderness:

Then the Israelites set out by stages

from the wilderness of Sinai

By stages, methodically, full of faith and dedicated to Christ who calls us to the future, let us prepare to leave. Let us prepare to arrive! ~ See you Sunday

The Cross Alone

“He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”   (Isaiah 53: 12)

Crux sola nostra theologica est  

The Cross alone is our salvation.     ~Martin Luther

On this Good Friday, may we find our way through contemplation and prayer to the garden of resurrection and hope.                                      ~ See you Sunday

Black History Month: History As A Weapon of Defiance

This Sunday, February 7th, begins our observance of Black History Month.  Pastor Bledsoe will be speaking on the topic, “History As A Weapon of Defiance” (a reference to an excellent essay by Drew Gilpin Faust, “John Hope Franklin: Race & the Meaning of America, “ New York Review of Books, December 17, 2015). An excerpt from that sermon to be delivered:

Our city was recently buried beneath more than 20 inches of snow in two days.  It wreaked havoc and continues to interfere with commerce and transportation, weeks after the event.  People comprehend this. It is not complex.  How is it possible then for our nation and in particular, for Christians, to pretend they cannot comprehend how the effects of slavery, lynching, terrorism, segregation, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and untold suffering continue to destroy Black lives?  Slavery and White Supremacy have been apocalyptic catastrophes.  Hence, we need a Black History Month to plow through the blizzard of lies that not only sustained these systems but continue to this day to erase, injure, and destroy.

Join us in worship Sunday as we tell the truth boldly about who we are and as we embrace across the chasm of human alienation and despair and find one another, made in the Image of God; and as we dedicate ourselves to protecting one another, loving one another.

~See you Sunday