“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!
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.
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
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 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
“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
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!
If you can retweet tweets you consider valuable then why can’t a pastor re-preach a sermon? My Easter sermon this year got a lot of hits. It was entitled Why I Believe. It just might be worth twenty minutes of your time this week. Below is an excerpt but you can of course listen online by clicking on that title which is linked.
Why do I believe in God? Because I do not believe in Humankind. You have likely noticed that the militant atheist swears by the power of reason and consigns religious belief to the kindergarten of intellectual development. I will simply point out what should be obvious to anyone who is awake that intellectual, educated persons who have great powers of reason do terrible things. Consider the Holocaust. Consider slavery. Far be it for me, a simple Baptist pastor who dares to believe in God, that one only need read the headlines for a week to come to an empirical conclusion that human beings are not gods nor does their reason cure their madness for violence. I do not believe in Humankind. We are flawed in ways our reason cannot reach. Just think about the psychiatrist who treated Anthony Soprano. That was an HBO series about a mob boss who sought treatment for his depression and it was riveting for how his therapist could not reach him because her medical vocabulary did not contain a word like “wicked.” Which quickly brings me to another reason I believe in God and it will sound strange to you but listen carefully and see if I can make sense of it. I noted that Anthony Soprano was a wicked man. He was violent to the point of being a monster. Now of course, the Sopranos was a fictional television series but do I really need to spend time making the case that monstrous human beings prowl our world?
Why do I believe in God? Because I think there is something called evil…
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
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. ~John 17:21, the priestly prayer of Christ
This past Sunday, June 10th, was our last worship service at Jefferson Middle School. We are grateful for how wonderful the staff there has been to us and as well, for the hospitality of the DC Public Schools. When we began looking for an interim worship space two years ago, we were turned away by institutions with whom we have a shared history in this community; declined because they feared opening their doors to a religious community; declined because they feared children in their building; but Jefferson opened its doors to us. Thank you! We wish the school all the best as it renovates its historic space.
In our eighteen months, we have kept together and supported one another. We gave away $125,000 to about forty groups locally, nationally and internationally who help to heal the world and work for justice. And needless to say, we have kept caring about each other and our community. And with joy in our hearts, we watched as the steel frame to our church finally rose out of the ground. We are almost there…but not quite.
Beginning June 17th, our place of worship and our time of worship will change. We will share not only space but we will share in worship with Westminster Presbyterian Church at 400 I St., SW. We will worship at 11 a.m. And we will do this until we move into our new church building sometime in early November. Again, we are grateful for the generosity and hospitality of our friends at Westminster. They didn’t have to open their doors to us but they have and not only opened them, but with a generous spirit have invited us in. Our choir will continue to rehearse on Thursday evenings 6:30-8:30 but at Westminster (where we will join up with Kevin Twine and singers from Westminster). The pastors and some interns and associates will rotate preaching duties. We will share communion together. WOW. I tried to anticipate as much as I could the various challenges and opportunities we would have but honestly had no idea that perhaps the most significant lesson we would learn in our wilderness interim journey is the ecumenical truth that in Christ, we are one. We are not only going to embrace that intellectually, we are going to experience it.
I urge you to adjust to this new situation and not forsake assembling together. I urge all of us to joyfully step into this moment and prepare to be strengthened and renewed as we make new friends and deepen friendship with our fellow travelers at Westminster. ~See You Sunday