Tag Archives: interracial baptist church dc

Another Bend In The River

Pastor Bledsoe returns to the pulpit this Sunday, March 18. In a sermon entitled, “Another Bend in The River,” he will provide important news on our interim journey that will impact us for the next several months.  You’ll want to be here for this.

Our new church “milestones” are tacking along well.  Our foundation will be completed by end of this month and the steel structure for the church should be up by end of April. We will have a “topping out” celebration on Pentecost Sunday, May 20th, when we will walk over from Jefferson Middle School School the site so we can see the structure and offer a prayer of thanksgiving.  We are being told that sometime in the  first week of November, our new church will be ready to enter. These are milestones, mind you, not guarantees but the construction firm and development team seem confident of these dates.  May God watch over those who work on our site and keep them safe.  May the Lord lead us, the sheep of his pasture, safely home. ~ See you Sunday.

The Falconer Calls

The Gospel is overheard as much as it is directly preached to persons.  Like a beggar who overhears where there is bread, the Gospel is handed out in crust and slices to those who find their way to the servers.  We preach the Gospel, sing the Gospel, proclaim it through prayer and meditate on it like an artist meditates on the painting of another artist, searching for clues— and we do that every Sunday.  But Monday – Saturday, we practice it in a myriad of kindnesses, mercies, affirmations, and sometimes by bold and prophetic action as we stand beside the weak, the marginal, the bullied, the elderly, the young and all who inhabit the continuum of what we call existence. And along that continuum, as its string of “present” episodes become a string of pearls we call a day or a week, people overhear the Gospel.  And there are days, not always, but sometimes there are days when the entire web of existence is a shimmering vibration of light and goodness. To stand in that light!  ah. To resonate so that we vibrate in our own goodness!  wow.  To be part of a community of faith, hope and love!  OMG meets ML&MG (my Lord and my God, the confession of Doubting Thomas).

Now what has any of this to do with anything.  Simply this: when the center holds, the circle of life revolves and holds.  The orbit of our daily existences spins in symmetric harmony.  When the center does not hold or there is no center or someone has replaced the Holy One with an idol like a gun or war or hatred then, well,  as W. B. Yates said it in his fantastic and alarming herald of a poem, The Second Coming, in that first stanza:

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity. 

I ask you, has the blood-dimmed tide been loosed?  Indeed, it is praised by the craven and the posers of patriotism.  Where are the best among us, ready to serve and to stand? Are not the worst full of passionate intensity? We have seen them in the streets of Charlottesville.

There is a center, however. It holds. We gather ‘round it on Sundays at 10 a.m. over at Jefferson Middle School Auditorium (for now).  The Falconer calls.

~See you Sunday

Billy Graham: Red, White and Blue Crusader

The Southern Baptist churches I grew up in loved Billy Graham and I can remember as a young person listening to his “crusades” on television.  His  oratorical power and presence combined with a fervent and warm religiosity appealed to my family, as he appealed to so many.

Now decades later, I see Rev. Graham in a more complicated way.  Perhaps you have heard that phrase, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  This is sometimes taken up as a slogan for pastors, preachers and journalists!  There is something of the truth that resonates in that slogan.  But what I have come to conclude is that—for whatever reasons, be it naïveté or cynical and machiavellian religion—Billy Graham turned that phrase on its head.  He did not comfort the afflicted  in a time of Viet Nam and Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.  He afflicted the afflicted.  He did not afflict the comfortable but was intwined with the State, providing cover and aid to Richard Nixon and even participating in anti-semitic conversation with the President.  And this is, perhaps, the telling point for me as regards this Baptist preacher who called his mass evangelistic rallies “crusades”—insensitive to the historical reality of what a word like “crusade” even conveys, violence in the name of Christ—he was a Baptist in name but historically severed from Baptist proclamations about liberty and its distrust of the State.  When he wrapped the Gospel in the American flag and became a spokesperson for the Empire, he looked less and less like a Baptist and more and more like a sycophant of the State.  He must, however, be given credit for his having denounced the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Years ago I attended a session of the DC Baptist Convention where Anne Graham Lotz spoke as a keynote speaker.  Her sermon bristled with homophobic rhetoric.  Billy’s son, Franklyn, is a darling of the right wing, using his voice to harm the stranger in our midst, lashing out at Muslims and carrying the cross to oppress women and minorities.  Surely these acorns did not fall far from the tree.

Billy Graham was a true believer.  He was a powerful preacher.  He was a crusader wrapped in red, white and blue.  Those who fell sway to him should soberly ponder his legacy as those who were harmed by him continue to feel oppressed by his ministry and those who carry its torch.

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Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington

This coming Sunday, January 14th, is Martin Luther King Sunday. Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on:  “Epistle From a Birmingham Jail, Memo to Washington.”  This Sunday has always been about more than remembering events in the past–we at Riverside take the opportunity to speak to issues of concern for our nation and world as we live up and through Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community.  Join us for an effervescent Sunday of music and proclamation.

If you’re going to give into something this year, give into hope.  If you’re going to throw up your hands and resign yourself to something, let it be love.  If you are indignant and angry (and if you’re not then you are not, as the saying goes, paying attention), then wage peace.  There is a world to heal, be a healer.  Enough with self-hate. Enough with ruining or being complicit in the ruin of the world. Let’s come together. Right now.  ~See you Sunday

Advent and Christmas at Riverside

Advent and Christmas reminders: 

Please note:  Because DC Public Schools will not open the school for us on a holiday,  New Year’s Eve Sunday service will worship elsewhere.  Where?

Sunday morning New Year’s Eve, 10 a.m., some of us will worship at Christ United Methodist Church (we will not be involved in leading the worship or participating in the worship). 900 4th Street, SW. You may park at Jefferson and walk over to Christ United Methodist.

Please remember our church depends solely on your offerings and since we will miss two Sundays of collection, we encourage you to mail in your offering or use the PayPal button on this site.

The Peace of the angelic presence and announcement to shepherds in the field abide with you throughout this season of hope.  ~See you Sunday

We Are Here

We are here:  another Advent, the culture’s mad rush to Christmas-intoxication.  Counter the madness by entering the sanctuary (such as it is, we worship in an auditorium in a middle school but it is still sacred!).  As a reminder for what is going on and how to plug in:

After worship the:

First Sunday, bible study at the church office with Pastor Bledsoe

Second Sunday, Caregiver Support Group with Kristy Hunt (Mondays we meet online 8:00-9:30 except the Monday following second Sunday)

Third Sunday Deacons Meeting (except in December, we’re off)

Fourth Sunday, Book Club (except in December, we’re off)

Don’t forget:  because DC Public Schools will not open the school for us on a holiday, both the Christmas Eve Sunday service and New Year’s Eve Sunday service will worship elsewhere.  Where?

Sunday morning Christmas Eve, 11 a.m. We will worship together with Westminster Presbyterian Church,  400 I Street, SW. Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching and we will bring singers to the service as well.  You can still park at the school even though we are not able to enter the building.  This will be a wonderful ecumenical opportunity!

Sunday morning New Year’s Eve, 10 a.m., some of us will worship at Christ United Methodist Church (we will not be involved in leading the worship or participating in the worship). 900 4th Street, SW.

Please remember our church depends solely on your offerings and since we will miss two Sundays of collection, we encourage you to mail in your offering or use the PayPal button on this site.

Join us this Sunday as Pastor Bledsoe preaches to us and we begin our journey of Advent together.  The Peace of the angelic presence and announcement to shepherds in the field abide with you throughout this season of hope.  ~See you Sunday

Crossing the Street For Sunday

Everyone has reasons for not going to Sunday service.  You could list five in the time it takes me to finish this sentence.  But allow me a moment to ponder why crossing the street for Sunday is worth your while. And I’ll do this list like Letterman used to read his list, from the tenth to the first.

10.  You won’t have to run through one more spin cycle of news and social media.  This reason alone will warm the cold blood in anyone’s veins.

9.  You have a reason for putting off the laundry.  Don’t worry about what you’ll wear.

8.  You get out of the house and step into another realm entirely.  I’d call it the realm of peace and resistance.

7.  You become part of a worldwide resistance movement to reductionist formulas that oppressively consign you to a label.

6.  You join the ranks of the poets and the prophets.  Who can’t benefit by recitation of such?  Shakespeare himself was weaned on the scriptures with their cadence and vision of common folk confronting the powerful for righteous cause.

5.  Music.   You may not be able to sing but you’ll hear someone sing. And music and singing is a shot of love, infused into your weekly life that too often depletes you.

4.  Friends.  Loneliness has always been and is an epidemic. Getting out of your residence and into the sacred space of Sunday means connecting with others. And these are not bar flies or fly-by-nights. These are people who are looking for that little light in themselves and others.

3.  Rest.  One hour of rest from all the voices in your head and all the tasks on your to-do list. Sabbath rest is deep and rhythmically aligns us with the rhythm of the cosmos and the Holy.

2.  Service.  In a community of faith, opportunities arise to help heal the world.  So not only are you part of a great resistance movement, you are part of healing instead of harming the world.

1.  G-O-D.  I hyphenate here to simply say the word is nearly too holy to be pronounced, not in an effort to spell it. Because it is so overused in our O-M-G culture, it is nearly impossible to understand.  But the word love is also overused.  No reason to give up using it or G-O-D.  Crossing the street for Sunday means risking that you will be found, embraced by the Loving Good Shepherd.

Take that risk. Cross the street.  Drive in, metro in, walk, ride a shuttle.  We’re across the street from The Wharf. We’ve been in DC since 1857. Right now, we are one year out from completing our new church on the corner of 7th and Maine.  You can find us at Jefferson Middle School at 10 a.m.  ~See you Sunday

The Archives of Grace and Truth

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness.  ~ Exodus 23:1

When a dignified general joins hands with a malicious liar in a scurrilous attack on a widow of a soldier and the congresswoman who comforted her,   then the depths of despair this single act brings to an entire nation is devastatingly profound. We wake up in that moment–if we awaken at all–to just how lost we have become.  This president lies incessantly, daily and about the most sacred things.  General Kelly has polluted his character by joining hands with a malicious witness.  Shame.

After the fall of the Soviet Empire, countries that had been oppressed by the lies and cruelty of that empire began to unearth their archives in an effort to tell the truth about what had happened to them.  The Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, kept a watch over its citizens, turning neighbors against neighbors.  I recall reading about a couple, Vera and Kanud Volenberger, who had grown up in East Germany.  After the Berlin Wall fell, Vera became a German congresswoman and was instrumental in getting the archives of the Stasi opened so people could read their files.  She read her file and discovered details so intimate, details of her health and her husband’s and her finances, excerpts from letters she had written to her children that she realized the only person who could have possibly known her that well and told the Stasi was her husband. She confronted him and he admitted to having been the informer on her.

Americans are waking up to the truth that our president has pitted American against American.  He is the great divider-in-chief, polluting our entire society with lies.  The former President of the Czech Republic nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and honored by George W. Bush with the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, Vaclav Havel, referred to the country in which he had grown up as a “morally contaminated society.”  This sounds very much like the prophet Isaiah’s confession when he cried out in the temple, confronted by a Holy God who expects truth, “woe is me, for I am  a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.”  America is polluted by the lies of presidents and generals poured from unclean hearts and mouths.

There is another archive.  It is the archive of grace and truth. I take this phrase from Dr. James Melvin Washington and his book, Conversations With God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans.  He prayed, “Thou who grants clarity, thank you for permitting us to have access to the archives of Thy grace and truth.”  We desperately need to break open these archives! Testaments of faith, hope and love; the affirmation that we are made in God’s image; the expectation that God is holy and expects us to be holy and just.  The East German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg tells how important the church was to him and others in the midnight of Communist oppression.  The church, he explained, was the one place in their society where they could tell the truth about themselves.

In a culture of pollution, let us find our way toward each other and open the archive of grace and truth.  Step out of the fuming hatreds of hearts on fire with hatred.  Walk into a holy space and time of grace, truth and love.  ~See you Sunday