Tag Archives: interracial church dc

on the front porch

Last week I spent two afternoons in a row sitting out front of our church with a sign that says, “The Pastor Is In.” A couple of guys (rightly) pointed out that I was outside. I was thinking more along the lines of Lucy in the cartoon strip Peanuts. “I’m in” as, “I’m available.” I will occasionally sit outside with my sign and an extra chair. Feel free to drop by for a chat, tea, coffee, a vent or a prayer.

We are right in the middle of Lent which for me has meant composing sermons around the temptation narratives in the Gospels. But I’m moving along a plot line that includes Christ’s baptism, temptation, withdrawal to Galilee, departure from Nazareth, setting up in Capernaum and then calling disciples. This coming Sunday we will find ourselves on a hill (or mount) listening to the teaching of the Christ. If someone asked you what Jesus taught, well, you could not do better than to point them to Matthew chapters 5-7. We’ll begin with the Beatitudes.

Worship is about one hour long. We praise, pray and hear a sermon. In one hour folks. One hour in a week, give yourself to worship. Some will say that is not much time and they are correct. But have you ever watched a large rock thrown into a lake? Worship ripples over our lives, pulsing across the web of our interrelationships with themes of peace, justice, healing and repair. We’re easy to access by metro and bus. The Circulator, #52 and #54 buses drop right at our corner and the free Wharf shuttle picks up at L’Enfant and delivers you at the Wharf a block and a half from our church.

See you Sunday or on the “porch” sometime this week (likely Tuesday and Wednesday). ~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.

40 Days, Not 100, Are Sufficient

There is a fascination politically and in the media with the first 100 days of the Presidency (or any given presidency).  I can’t account for it though I’ve read a few pieces about this, one tracing it to the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  No matter, consider this:  there is a fascination in scripture with 40 days.

For example, in the Flood narrative in Genesis, it rains for 40 days.  Moses and the Hebrew children wander the wilderness for 40 years.  Years!  But there is that number again, 40.  Moses went into the Cloud on the Mountain for 40 days.  And later, when Moses is on the mountain inscribing the Ten Commandments, he is there 40 days and nights and does not eat or drink.  Moses sent spies into the Promised Land and they remained there 40 days.   In the temptation narrative of Christ in the Gospels, Jesus is said to have remained in the wilderness for 40 days.

I suppose what is going on here,  not only with the 40 days in scripture but with our own country’s fascination with the first 100 days of a presidency,  is that the number more or less represents a sufficient amount of time for accomplishing a task or revealing what needs to be unveiled.  The character of a person or of an event needs some time to unfold before we can assess its meaning—so 40 days or 100, by then you can gather what the significance of an event means or what the nature of the character of a person is.

We don’t need 100 days to determine this for the current occupant of the White House.  40 days was sufficient for us to realize that there is a level of intense hostility aimed at those who are at-risk in our country.  You can name it what you want, but “repeal and replace” is an effort at deny and damage.  40 days has been sufficient to unveil a level of ineptitude not only with regard to governance but with regard to a basic appreciation for how our democratic institutions function.  40 days has been sufficient to recognize that not only is this administration oblivious to climate change science, but it is intentionally dedicated to polluting our air and streams.   And of course, the mixed signals with regard to both allies and adversaries has signaled to us all that the concern that a narcissist and pathological Orwellian has his finger near the nuclear button is not over-wrought but legitimate, rational concern.

The country does not need 100 days to figure this out.  40 was sufficient.  We are in a wilderness.  We are, however, not led by Moses, but we’re being led by ruthless, duplicitous politicians whose singular goal is power, not patriotic duty.  In the mean time, we should take this lesson from scripture:  whether it is 40 days, 100 days or 40 years, the princes of this world pass but the Kingdom of God is enduring from everlasting to everlasting.  Come out of the wilderness wandering this Sunday and rest a while in a place of peace.  You have a place at the table with us.  My hunch is, if you linger with us for 40 days, you will discover a source of strength and courage for the living of your lives.

~ See you Sunday

MLK Sunday: $100,000 to heal our world

One Sunday from the inauguration of President-Elect Trump, many in our area are trying to find a way to step out of that drama.  How about this alternative?  This Sunday is also Martin Luther King Sunday, a day we remember the Baptist preacher and dreamer who led the “second revolution,” the Civil Rights Movement.  And we at Riverside will not only worship and sing in celebration of the values of the Civil Rights Movement–the enduring dignity of human beings, the worth of all of God’s children and the constitutional mandate to protect all of our citizens–but we will be dispensing thirty grants totaling $100,000 to groups who help heal, repair and redeem the world.  Want to be inspired and plugged into those values in a powerful way?  Join us Sunday for worship at 10 a.m.

Among those we’ll be offering grants to are the Malala Fund, Temple Micah’s Micah House, the Equal Justice Initiative and many local groups that carry out humane and just actions on behalf of the marginal.  Schools in Southwest like Jefferson Academy, Amidon Elementary, Apple Early Learning; shelters, hunger solutions like Martha’s Table and S.O.M.E; housing like Casa Ruby and Mary’s House, Sasha Bruce Youthwork; LGBT advocacy groups like Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, the Gay Christian Network and DC LGBT Center’s Global Division;   special needs children who, with their families, find support through ARC of Montgomery County; and many more.  We are doing this for a few reasons. First, because we are blessed to have secured an endowment for our church that will safeguard it for decades to come. Second, because we can think of no better way to counter the extreme right-wing rhetoric that would put these very persons and families at risk than to make a donation to the urgent work of these groups.  Third, because as our Lord taught, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

This Sunday, join us. Together, let’s honor the Dreamer and his legacy and worship in power and truth as we bless those who heal the world. ~See you Sunday

Dial into Silence

Perhaps you are old enough to remember or have simply seen an old radio with a tuning dial.  With deft fingers and patience, one could turn the dial slowly to eventually land on a radio station. With fine-tuning and precision, the noise and static would give way to a clear–if faint–station.

And this is analogous to prayer.  Now I grew up in a noisy church.  The electric organ would vine leaves of notes around prayers. The choir sang. The church, which is to say, the congregants, would exhort with “amen” like a boy throwing a firecracker on the pavement on the Fourth of July.  And the preacher would proclaim for well over thirty minutes and very often forty-five minutes, a sermon that now seems to me in hindsight to have been more stream-of-consciousness than a crafted commentary upon holy writ.  Church was noisy. Silence was not even a word in our theological vocabulary.

We live in a very noisy world. I am sure you have noticed this, especially during these weeks of political conventions that provide a stage for our culture’s anxiety.  The rhetoric, protests, speeches and and speeches and speeches, pelt us with words.  It is little wonder that we feel confused, agitated or simply worn out after listening to even a little bit of all this.  What to do?

Prayer and worship offer us a still point of silence.  You can listen to my sermon, Still Point,  from this past Sunday to ferret out the deeper meanings here. This week, I urge you to patiently tune the dial of your inner life until you find that still point of quiet where you are met by “the peace that passes all understanding.”  Turn off the news for a while.  Barricade yourself against the noise.  Dial into the center where, to borrow from Eliot,

the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

~See you Sunday  where silence and peace meet praise