Tag Archives: The Wharf

Advent and the task of preaching

Most people these days use the word ‘preach’ in a negative way.  Like “stop preaching at me.”  I’ll use the word ‘proclaim’ on occasion just so we can steer around the negative connotations.  But the reality is, the Gospels all agree when Jesus began his ministry and it wasn’t in the manger–it was after his baptism by John.  Immersed in the Jordan River, he came forth “preaching the good news.”  So a preacher is, or should be, trying to echo that good news of Christ. And you’ll note this by the way–there is Good News before the crucifixion. We have a lot of crucifixion-fixated Christians who fail to recognize that Jesus proclaimed Good News from the very beginning.

So I bring this up to say, I’m preaching on the second Sunday of Advent (Dec. 9)  from a song that Moses sang as one of the last things he ever did, reminding the people who were about to enter the Promised Land without him just how they had managed to journey to that moment in their lives.  Not only is it a challenge to proclaim any time but during Advent, it is a special challenge. I won’t bore you with all the reasons that is true but just one:  it’s a challenge because everyone has heard the story or they think they have heard it.  So why show up in church on a Sunday morning when you could be doing laundry or watching the news cycle which very much resembles the dry cycle as you do your laundry?  Right!  You can show up to get out of that rutted and mundane hamster cycle of existence, sit in a sanctuary of peace and light with others who simply want to daydream about peace and justice or rejoice for what Advent uncovers or are praying, like you and I, for some answers to the riddles we keep in our pockets like old parking meter stubs.

How about this?  You come to worship on Sunday and I’ll do my dead level best to sort through Advent and offer some good news.  Afterward, we’ll all go downstairs for our potluck Koinonia Lunch (a word that means ‘fellowship’). And then we’ll have a short concert on the carillon outside.  It beats the heck out of wet clothes and dried, recycled news.  ~See you Sunday

First Worship Service Is A Go!

Dear family and friends:  Our interim journey is completed.  We have many to thank who supported us in that time, like Jefferson Academy Middle School and our dear friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church.  We will worship at 10 a.m. this Sunday, November 18th.  The church is easily accessed via Metro with a free Wharf shuttle that picks up at the Maryland Ave St. entrance to L’Enfant Station, the 74 and Circulator buses that drop off in front of the church and limited parking.  We do not have access to our 40 spaces in the underground garage because the residential portion of the project is lagging behind us.  For now, we’ll have 35 spaces across from the church on Maine Ave.  Go east past the church and turn right into the entrance for parking for the Odyssey and Wharf and then turn right. The lot is on the right. We will have someone with passes to put on your dashboard.  That said, you may end up having to find street parking or park in the garage near the Safeway on 4th St and walk over. There is parking across the street in the Wharf garage but that is pricey.

What a remarkable moment!  In this journey we have accomplished our two great goals:  1.  create an endowment that will safeguard our church financially for decades to come and 2. build an iconic structure that brings us into the 21st century (our sanctuary and restrooms are very accessible and we have an elevator).

I look forward to worshipping with you on this Sunday.  Let’s come full of joy and thanksgiving.  Grace & Peace, ~Pastor Bledsoe

A Historic Church in a New Building on a New Corner

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!

What I’m Learning at Westminster Presbyterian Church SW

Riverside Baptist Church @ The Wharf has, since June, been worshipping @ Westminster Presbyterian Church just down the road from our building site.  Since no leading celebrity or leader in either traditions has arrived to pat us on the back for this ecumenical experiment, I want to commend these two congregations and their pastors for the courage it took.  Mind you, not the courage to share a building because that is nothing new or brave. Churches rent space from one another all the time.  But when it came time to make an arrangement where we, Riverside, would worship next (after our interim experience at Jefferson Academy Middle School) and I approached Pastor Ruth of Westminster, we made a decision to share worship together.  THAT is POWERFUL.  And why is that so powerful?  Many reasons but let’s just cut to the quick and hear the prayer of our Lord as rendered by the Gospel of John in chapter 17:

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one.”

Many who seek a church do so without flinching in the face of the obvious:  churches are divided. And they are divided not only along cultural, racial and ethnic lines but their pastors and priests will not offer communion to those who are outside their flock or fold.  We may as well have erected barbed wire fences between our various communions. So when I sat in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian on this past Sunday and received communion, I did so with a heart full of gratitude that we—whatever differences we may have—came to the Table of our Lord as ONE.  Do not let this slip past your gaze.  This is a powerful experience.  We could have been worshipping in the basement at a different hour and not shared our worship but we rejected that approach.  We believe in the gift of the unity of Christ. And we have been worshipping for a few months now as though we actually believe in those radiant words found in the Letter to the Ephesians (chapter four):

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Mind you—we must mind this—our unity is not our accomplishment. This is God’s gift to us in Christ.  What Westminster and Riverside have done up to this point is simply to believe in that unity and live up to it and through it.  We have rejected the logic of “if…then” as the scholar of ecumenism, Michael Kinnamon, puts it.  You know, “if certain conditions are met then certain steps can be taken.”  Instead, as Kinnamon prophetically states it,  we embrace the Gospel logic of “because…therefore.” Because God loves us we are free to love our neighbor.  “In the same way,” he writes, “because we are one in Christ, therefore we are freed and empowered to seek common mind on those matters that have kept us apart.” [The Vision of the Ecumenical Movement].  To say we have no need of one another, Kinnamon reminds us, is a sinful denial of this unity that was achieved for us by the costly grace of Jesus Christ.  Westminster Presbyterian, I salute you!  Riverside Baptist, I salute you!  Let us worship together the One God who is above all and through all and in all.  Those who are weary of business as usual, with divisive and provincial notions of church and worship, we invite you to join us on Sunday.  ~See you Sunday as One people

Worship As One this Sunday

August 19th, time to worship! We’ll be at Westminster Presbyterian at 11 a.m.  Riverside singers are singing and playing.  Pastor Bledsoe is not preaching but will be there to greet you.  This is an opportunity to worship as one.  One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. That is how the Apostle Paul put it.  Christ prayed that we would be one. So let’s fulfill scripture this morning.  Let’s be one.  One human race. One big love (nod to Patty Griffith who is surely nodding to Holy Scripture).  One People of God. A bunch of Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists and Pentecostals and others–singing and praying together.  ~See you soon

Social Media and who we are

F8A5BDE6-A337-4F81-A958-CA2437452948

 

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

Repost: A Church Is A Theater Is A Church Is A …

Riverside Baptist Church, DC
This is a repost of a blog entry one year ago May…

The Swiss architect, Mario Botta, who designed Évry Cathedral, spoke about churches and their design in an interview with Judith Dupre:

It’s a bit like theater. The theater is also for those who don’t go to the theater because it’s a place of collective imagination. It’s a place where people go to buy a ticket to Dream. People think, “My city is rich because it has a theater-even if I don’t go to the theater.”   A church is a rich addition to a city, even for those who don’t go to church. It becomes a human institution like a library, bank, stadium.

There is so much to appreciate in this statement!  Religion and the arts have always been hand-in-glove.  Indeed, the function of roles, art, performance and yes, that idea of “collective imagination” are all so spot on and insightful.  I also like his willingness to speak to the larger culture that does not “go to church,” suggesting–no, instructing–that a city is enriched by the presence of a church in its midst.  Frankly, this is something that percolates in conversations with Monty Hoffman when we talk about the design and construction of our new building, arriving in the Fall of 2018.  Charged with the development of the entire Wharf, he is a person who has both an historic regard for and appreciation for the presence of a church (indeed churches) within the matrix of what is being created along the Tidal Basin.  Whether or not you attend a church, a church can be a human institution that raises the quotient of humane and intellectual discourse in a community.  At least it should and one would hope churches and their architects would aspire to such. We at Riverside certainly do so and our architect, Philip Renfrow of GBR, has melded a rich theological appreciation with a keen modernist/post-modern vocabulary in the sanctuary his team has designed for us.

Arena Stage is a nearby marvel and beautiful landmark in our SW community.  It has been and continues to be a place where one “buys a ticket in order to dream a while.” We at Riverside are not so different.  We are about to provide a beautiful and evocative space of collective imagination where people enter for a station of rest and peace, to dream of justice and mercy in the light of God’s mercy and love.

~See you Sunday (where we worship together with Westminster Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m. )

Ride a Bike, Worship the Lord

Imagine opening a garage door and seeing a bicycle splayed out on the concrete, its various parts lined up across the floor.  There’s the handle bars over there and there are the tires separated from the rim that is lying beside it and so forth. Then imagine the owner of the bike telling you, this is what it means to have a bike.  What on earth could such a statement be telling us other than the owner of the bike has confused parts with the whole?

We live in this kind of age though where people think that you —YOU— can be explained by reducing you to your various parts or your blood chemistry.  But just as a bike is more than the sum of its parts (so that actually riding a bike and feeling that nearly inexplicable feeling of balancing on two tires and the breeze gliding across your face is the point) so it is with you.  You are more than the sum of your parts.  You are a living soul.

So imagine that garage door opening and then in a kind of backwards-winding of a film, you watch as the parts reattach themselves one by one until, wow, the bike stands before you.  And its standing before you is also a beckoning to you to ride it.

That dear friends is Church on a good day. When the church door opens and we cross over the threshold, we are not reduced to our various and multiples parts. Instead, we are put back together; we are reattached; we are re-membered.  And that experience of song-praise-prayer-proclamation is not so far removed from riding a bike and defying gravity and being engaged with the world around us in a remarkably different perspective than when we are standing on a corner waiting for traffic to stop or sitting in a cubicle answering a phone call.  It is invigorating and we are renewed because the truth is, you really are more than the sum of your parts.  In the midst of the congregation, you have transcended those parts and become part of the whole.  I hope you get on a bike this week.  I hope you’ll put aside the excuses for not attending church and get yourself into the congregation of those who pray, praise and proclaim the Truth of God’s abiding love for us.  ~See you Sunday

What Did You Do In a Time of Cruelty?

beloved_communityWho the heck is running things?  Have you ever asked that? Maybe at the Department of Motor Vehicles?  The doctor’s waiting room?  The grocery checkout?  Our country?

For two weeks I have been “gone” on vacation and I can tell you what I did not do:  never turned on the television; did not read one news article in print or online.  I was in solitude and dialed into contemplative mode.  I highly recommend that you practice a news blackout for at least one day in the week for your own sanity and peace.  It was indeed a restorative time as I did not digest the toxic spew gushing out of the White House and Congress.

We, by which I mean our country, have descended to depths of depravity and cruelty that defy reason.  We are a rich and resourceful country. There is no reason to grant massive transfers of wealth to the richest while denying citizens access to healthcare.  There is no reason to separate children from their parents and imprison them for the crime of fleeing poverty and violence.  No reason other than an intentional cruelty.  There is no way to square what we are seeing with the compassion of Christ and those Christians who have provided cover for this administration’s assault on dignity should stop doing so.  Immediately.

Look, kingdoms rise and fall.  Princes, Kings and Presidents come and go.  We will survive this presidency of petulance and hate but soberly speaking, we will not return immediately to what we were or could have been.  The debacle and sin that is this administration and the Congress will take a generation to undo.  Meanwhile, here is what you can say to those who ask you how you are navigating this treacherous time:  I belong to a community of faith that week in and week out seeks to live as the Beloved Community.  That is worth more than I can put into words.  Doing so ennobles your life, provides you peace and luminously illustrates to the world what the world needs to know—that  we are made in God’s image and we can and are obligated to treat  others as though they carry within them God’s image.

I hope to see you in the Beloved Community on Sunday as Westminster Presbyterian and Riverside Baptist Churches worship together.  11:00. Sunday. At Westminster Presbyterian in SW, DC.  Step out of the madness and into a community of peace, justice and compassion.

The Church in Shadowland America

End the Cruelty:  National Council of Churches Statement on Separating Children of Immigrant Families.

If you can cast a shadow—be it your hand on the wall of your imprisonment or your body along the sidewalk you navigate—there is light. Shadow is not possible without light.

We are living in dark days, our country unraveled from former notions of democracy and human rights. We separate children from mothers and fathers at the borderlands while our highest officials quote from holy scripture to defend the profane and hideous.  Shadowland and shadows everywhere.

The maelstrom of heated rhetoric,  a firestorm of disunion and civil war, sends sheets of flame across newspaper, social media and congress.  We cannot seem to enter any conversation anywhere—homes, offices, churches—without the pollution of smoked and incendiary speech. Where is peace? Where the words of grace and inclusion?

I sat in a church this last Sunday, Westminster Presbyterian Church in SW DC, along with members of my church, Riverside Baptist Church, and we sang sweet words of sacred timbre; we prayed words in fervent desire for healing and repair of our lives; we read ancient texts devoted to the Holy; listened to a proclaimer of scripture remind us of faithfulness and a heart of obedience; we shared food at table and we embraced one another.  It was a luminous beehive of peace and justice.  We were radiant and because there is Light, we can see light. And yes, there are shadows in this shadowland of what used to be a beacon of freedom and light called America.  Just remember: if you can cast a shadow, there must be light.

I hope to you see you this coming Sunday at Westminster [400 I St.] where two churches dedicated to light and peace and justice meet.  11 a.m. Beloved:   Sing. Pray. Be the beloved community.