A Puzzling Call: Abundant Life at RBC Our season of stewardship at RBC is upon us as we ponder what it means to follow God, to love our enemies, and live together in a way so that everyone flourishes. Your incredible stewardship team has come up with the theme of A Puzzling Call and a three-week study of the book of Jonah. What is puzzling about our call? How do we share love, do justice, and build community right now? We’ll discuss our call and have some fun along the way.
Worship each week: studying the book of Jonah and hearing from our church members about our life together. Watch this fun video to learn more about Jonah!
Church Puzzle Exchange: Coming soon on the front porch. Drop a puzzle, grab a puzzle, share!
Online Puzzling: each week we’ll share a new puzzle to put together online.
Cafe Ravensworth: Trivia Night: Join RBC for a fun night of trivia, games, and maybe even some special performances! Date TBA.
This Advent, we have committed to the theme of Those Who Dream. In the midst of a global pandemic, we have been ones who dream of…hope for those who live under occupation in Palestine, peace for those who are sick and struggling because of COVID-19, joy for those who are missing beloveds, and love for this world.
“In the midst of turmoil and tumult, it takes courage to dream. In a world of worry and grief, it takes strength to believe in a better day. In the face of injustice, it takes resilience to fight for healing and wholeness,” said the creators from A Sanctified Art.
We affirm that it does take courage to dream, especially during difficult seasons, and that dreaming brings us life and vision. Ravensworth Baptist Church has been faithfully dreaming since we closed the building in March to keep our congregation and community healthy and safe. We’ve continued to dream as we’ve collected thousands of pounds of food for ACCA, moved forward with antiracism work, and worshipped in new ways with windshield wipers whipping and Zoom-ed in voices singing.
Our COVID Advisory team met faithfully over these last months, suggesting health and safety improvements for our building and monitoring numbers and the latest data on the virus. Hooray for touchless faucets, toilet seat covers, and HEPA filters! We are also investigating necessary updates to our HVAC to best filter and clean our air. The RBC Leadership Council received the COVID Advisory team’s recommendation that our building remain closed through at least May 15, 2021. Leadership Council affirmed that recommendation, committing to constantly evaluate the current numbers and metrics. Even though everyone agreed it was the right decision to make, everyone also agreed that it was a hard one because we miss being together. The good news is that we now know how to worship in even more creative ways and we will continue to do so, especially once warmer weather returns. We are hopeful that the vaccine will be widely distributed in early 2021. We are dreaming of what has been and what is to come as we continue to share love, do justice, and build community.
Advent hope, peace, joy, and love to you, G.J. Tarazi, Chair of Leadership Council
Beloved, Who beckons us with the aroma of baking bread, Whose breast offers milk and sweet honey, Who showers manna in the wilderness, with fresh water from sheer rock, and instruction from the mountain.
We give thanks for our baptismal trek through the sea, on the road from slavery to freedom.
Even still, though the restraints on our hands have fallen, those on our hearts remain. We are anxious about our 401(k)s and find ourselves longing for Pharaoh’s shiny baubles and Amazon’s free delivery. Even as our ancient kin were skeptical about Moses’ mandate, so too are we about the one from Jesus.
Disquiet haunts our dreams. Confidence in Your Dream fades. Sometimes, like Nicodemus—fear of losing a seat in the halls of power, of forfeiting “Gold” status or “Rewards” benefits—we slink through darkened streets for a clandestine encounter with Your incarnate Presence.
Thank you for keeping a light on, a door ajar, a gentle embrace, a welcoming table.
We live in a season, on a land, among a people, with much scalding. Our seas are burning. Our forests are burning. Our streets are burning. Pandemic’s fever surrounds.
We are confronted with the awful truth that many who have worn crosses are prominent among those who burn them.
Grant to us a reforming repentance that overshadows grief, that prompts not regret but joyful refrain. Rend and amend our hearts with the aborning power from above—beyond the reach of every marketeer—by the Spirit Who neither shames nor tames but unleashes courage and prowess and perseverance.
Beloved, send Your angels to remind us that we are a delight to the Most High.
And thereby make us audacious, for the living of these days.
Ken Sehested is the editor/author of the online journal, prayer&politiks. He served as the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
On four Sundays over the several months, Pastor Sarah Scherschligt from Peace Lutheran, Pastor Casey Wait from John Calvin Presbyterian, Pastor Leah Grundset Davis from Ravensworth Baptist Church, and Pastor Alexis Vaughan Kassim from Little River United Church of Christ will be sharing the virtual pulpit and preaching at all four churches! For these four Sundays, we will hear greetings from each church and a sermon from the pastor of that church.
Each church will worship in the way they are currently worshipping and the sermon and greetings will be included. Pastor Sarah will preach on Oct. 11, Pastor Casey on Nov. 15, Pastor Leah on Jan. 10, 2021 and Pastor Alexis in Feb. 7, 2021.
Rev. Sarah Scherschligt: Peace Lutheran Church
Pastor Sarah sees her primary responsibility as helping people know God’s love and follow Christ in their daily lives. Pastor Sarah was ordained in 2007 and was called to Peace in 2012. Prior to becoming a pastor, she served in the Peace Corps in Malawi and worked for the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College in both Minneapolis and Namibia. She is married to RBC member Ridgeway Addison and they have two young daughters, Magdalene and Lydia. We love the Scherschligt-Addison family! To learn more about Pastor Sarah and Peace Lutheran Church, click here.
Rev. Casey Wait: John Calvin Presbyterian Church
Rev. Casey Waitis a native of New Rochelle, New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Colgate University, A Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Master Certification in Biblical Storytelling through the Academy for Biblical Storytelling. Casey served at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, VA from 2006-2017. As Associate Pastor, she was responsible for setting the vision for the education/formation ministries of the church for all ages, as well as providing leadership and supervision for the Christian Formation staff. Casey was originally called to the church as the founding organizer of their active young adults group. She has previously served as Interim Associate Pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia and as a hospital chaplain in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Lean more about Pastor Casey and John Calvin Presbyterian Church.
Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis: Ravensworth Baptist Church
Pastor Leah began as full-time solo pastor of Ravensworth Baptist Church in November 2019. She previously served as pastor alongside Rev. Dr. Steve Hyde in a shared pastoral ministry model beginning September 1, 2017. Leah loves all things church– the liturgical year, preaching, building community, church history, and thinking about new ways to live out our callings to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Leah previously served as communications specialist at the Alliance of Baptists and Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. Learn more about Pastor Leah and Ravensworth.
Rev. Alexis Vaughan Kassim: Little River United Church of Christ
Rev. Alexis Vaughan Kassim came to Little River United Church of Christ in 2017 to be our associate pastor. She is primarily responsible for Christian education, social outreach, and pastoral care. Rev. Kassim grew up in Fairfax County and is glad to be serving in the area. She attended Duke University as an undergraduate, and received her Master of Divinity from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Rev. Kassim was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination, meaning that she has the freedom and authority to serve in the UCC. In her free time, Alexis enjoys watching tennis and Duke basketball. Lean more about Pastor Alexis and Little River UCC.
This summer we’ve gathered Around the Campfire with Holy Spirit as our fire and our guide. We’ve heard stories from one another, from our world, and from our sacred texts. We’ve heard from Voices of Ravensworth, worshipped weekly with worship leaders from around the world, continued with antiracism work, formed a new voter mobilization group, hosted a food drive with our partners at ACCA, and more. Even though our building has remained closed, the congregation of Ravensworth Baptist Church has been very much open and at work in the world.
In June, the Leadership Council commissioned a COVID Advisory Group, consisting of Cathy Baskin, Cindy Cruzan, Pastor Leah, Kathy Ichter, Rhine Morgan, and Karen Scapellato and Patty White from PDO.
In late July, the Leadership Council received and affirmed the recommendations made by the COVID Advisory Group. We maintain our commitments to health, safety, and the well-being of our congregation and community. The recommendations from the COVID Advisory Group and affirmed by Leadership Council are below:
Equip our building with items that promote health: touchless faucets and air filters to bring spaces up to CDC recommendations;
Apply for a $2500 grant through the DC Baptist Convention Foundation to assist with these facility improvements, which we submitted last week;
SupportPDO as they consider best practices for a possible fall semester;
Pursue small group gatherings on church property and drive-in worship services for the fall;
Keep our building closed through at least January 15, 2021 to large group gatherings, including worship.
We know that the last recommendation on this list is full of mixed emotions. It is full of grief and disappointment and relief and care. The grief and disappointment is real. And, we know we can do hard things and continue listening for Holy Spirit in our midst to live out our calling in creative ways.
During this time, the staff will continue to largely work from home and will not hold regular office hours. The staff is working hard to implement drive-in worship services for the fall so please stay tuned for more information about those Sunday morning services. You have likely seen our Around the Campfire small group gatherings of six people on our lawn. We hope you will join one.
One of the advantages of making a decision for a longer period of time is that we have time to plan meaningful events and sacred services that will feel like RBC even if we aren’t in the building. We’ll never forget Easter 2020 and our guess is that we’ll never forget Advent 2020, the season of longing for hope, peace, joy, and love.
We know that we all process this news in different ways. We hope you will join us at an Around the Campfire small group on the lawn (sign up with Gail), or zoom groups like Tuesday Morning Bible Study at 10:30am or Cafe RBC on Sundays at 10:30am.
Our work and our life together continue. Ravensworth Baptist Church has never been closed. We have been open and at work sharing love, doing justice, and building community. And we will continue to do so, in new and creative ways that we know are full of Holy Spirit, who comforts us and guides us as we go.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Ravensworth was invited to participate in an Activist Preacher series in August by fellow Alliance of Baptists’ congregations. Thanks to Rev. Lia Scholl, Wake Forest Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Rev. Robin Anderson, Commonwealth Baptist Church, Alexandria, Va., we have the opportunity to hear from Judge Wendell Griffen and Rev. Melissa McQueen-Simmons. We are also excited to welcome Rev. Kyndra Frazier and our own Sara Sadler to the RBC virtual pulpit in August. What a gift for us to get to hear from these incredible preachers. We have stories to tell, stories to hear, and stories to examine. Join us Around the Campfire for August worship! Learn more about our preachers below:
8/2: Judge Wendell Griffen
Judge Wendell Griffen (he/him/his) prefers the term “radical” rather than progressive or liberal. He made national news when he faced ethics charges for taking part in a death penalty demonstration in April 2017. He is a pastor and a judge and the CEO of a consulting practice focused on cultural competency and inclusion. See below for his full bio.
8/16: Rev. Kyndra Frazier
Rev. Kyndra Frazier is a licensed clinician in the state of New York, and the Founder and CEO of KYND (Knowing Yourself In Need of Devotion) Consulting, Inc. KYND offers trauma-informed care through a variety of services from clinical therapy for individuals, families and couples to trauma-informed training for ecclesial communities and corporate entities. Rev. Frazier is the Founding Executive Director of The HOPE Center, a free mental health facility located in Central Harlem of NYC. She also served as the Associate Pastor of Congregational Care and Wellness at First Corinthian Baptist Church for 4 years. Known for her work in removing barriers to mental health access for communities of color. Rev. Frazier has been featured in multiple print and digital publications including Vice Magazine, New York Times, and Sojourners Magazine. Rev. Frazier holds a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology|Emory University, a Master of Social Work from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from North Carolina A&T State University.
8/23: Sara Sadler
Sara is the Director of Communications at RBC. She grew up in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Potomac, Maryland and has lived in the DC metro area her entire life. Sara earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, with a minor in History from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC with the intention to be ordained. Sara and her husband, Tom, live in Herndon with their two fur-children: Clark and Cayden.
8/30: Rev. Melissa McQueen-Simmons
Rev. Melissa N. McQueen-Simmons is a native of Greensboro, North Carolina and a first-generation college graduate. She is a mother to a charismatic toddler, Camdyn McQueen-Simmons, and the spouse to the beautiful and graceful Vondalyn McQueen-Simmons. She is a sister, an aunt, a friend, and Iraqi-Veteran. Melissa was born into Generation X, the demographic cohort between Baby Boomers and Millennials. She earned her Master of Divinity (M.Div.) with an emphasis in Pastoral Care at Howard University.
Melissa is ordained in the United Church of Christ and is installed as pastor and teacher to Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice. She is passionate about relationship-building within the community. Melissa leads the LGBTQ committee for the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice. She also directs the Long-Term Strategic Planning Committee for Holy Covenant United Church of Christ.
Melissa coordinates panel discussions relevant to social justice issues regarding the LGBT community and the Black Church. She conducts necessary research on the Black church, community, and ongoing sources regarding biblical scholarship and sexuality. She also assists with helping pastors and religious leaders address social and theological opposition in the Black community towards LGBT equality. She helps institutions create radically inclusive faith spaces.
She practices various healing techniques. She believes in African religious traditions, religious pluralism, liberation theology, black liberation theology, womanist theology and mindfulness living. Her ultimate goal is to work with the oppressed and advocate for restorative justice in both church and community with the intention to enforce God’s inclusive love for all of creation.
Melissa is a lover of international cuisines, travel, and music. She is a musician, singer, and loves expressing herself in drumming, dance and expressive liturgical praise. Melissa says of herself, “As I continue on my path to living authentically, I am committed to helping others do the same – I am initiating the change I want to see.”
Full Bio for Rev/Judge Griffen
Wendell Griffen has served as Pastor of New Millennium Church since its inception in May 2009. New Millennium Church defines itself as “inclusive, progressive, and welcoming followers of Jesus Christ” based on the belief that social justice is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is also Circuit Judge of the Fifth Division, Sixth Judicial District, for the State of Arkansas, a position he has held since January 1, 2011. Griffen is also Chief Executive Officer of Griffen Strategic Consulting, PLLC, a consulting practice focused on cultural competency and inclusion. Reverend/Judge Griffen grew up in rural southwest Arkansas near Delight (Pike County), and attended racially segregated schools until 1965. He graduated from Delight High School in 1968 and from the University of Arkansas in 1973 (Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, and Distinguished Military Graduate). After serving three years as an Army officer, Griffen received an honorable discharge in 1976 and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for leading race relations and equal opportunity efforts within the 43d General Support Group at Fort Carson, Colorado. In 1979, he received a degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1979 (Juris Doctor), where he was Associate Editor of the Arkansas Law Review. Since 1979, Griffen has actively devoted himself to law, public policy, and ministry. He was the first person of color to become an associate and later a partner in a major Arkansas law firm (Wright, Lindsey, and Jennings in Little Rock). For almost two years, he was Chairman of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission by appointment of then Governor Bill Clinton. He pursued seminary extension studies through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained in May 1988 after being called to his first pastorate. From January 1996 to December 2008, he served as a Judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Then Griffen taught administrative law, constitutional law, criminal procedure, and a seminar he developed on law and cultural competency as a Visiting Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law before being elected Circuit Judge for the Sixth Judicial District, Fifth Division, in Arkansas, his current post. Inspired by the gospel of Jesus, Griffen regularly speaks and writes about legal ethics and professionalism, religion and social justice, cultural competency and inclusion, and public policy. His sermons and other essays can be found on the websites of New Millennium Church, Ethics Daily, and on his blogs, Justice Is a Verb! and Wendell Griffen on Cultural Competency. Reverend Griffen is married to Dr. Patricia Griffen, a clinical psychologist in private practice, and they are parents of two adult sons.
Thank you for your thoughtful messages and emails as we face the fire of Pentecost alongside the fires of injustice in our country. Your messages of concern are beautiful reminders of the spirit of RBC. We do not know what else will happen this week, especially given the president’s address earlier this week.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked the latest round of protests, but as Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III said, “Racism is a virus. It infects the spirit. It infects the soul. This is nothing new that I’m sharing. Dr. (Martin Luther) King spoke of it in the same manner. Howard Thurman talked about it as being a spiritual infection. Frederick Douglass spoke about racism and white supremacy as a virus that infects the soul.”
We follow Jesus on the Way of peace, justice, hope, and love. As a community of faith we grapple with the atrocities taking place around us, we remain steadfast in denouncing and actively working against actions that hurt ANY of God’s beloved children.
We are writing today, because we are called to action. That action will look differently for each of us. Below are some ways you can act right now:
Join us in a congregation-wide upcoming study on antiracism and examining ingrained white supremacy (more info coming soon);
Call your elected officials and express your outrage. From local to federal officials, all must be held accountable for actions that hurt and oppress people;
Contribute to causes that are supporting the work of #BlackLivesMatter and justice causes;
Learn about antiracism and issues of white supremacy:
Follow Black activists, clergy, justice-workers on social media. Listen to them.
Pray. We are a people of faith who believe in the great possibilities of what can be through our collective prayers. We are transformed in the presence of our Creator God who sees all people as Beloved.
We do this holy work together. Thank you for the RBC commitments of sharing love, doing justice, and building community. We look to God our Creator, Jesus our Shepherd, and Holy Spirit our guide.
Peace to you,
G.J. Tarazi & Pastor Leah on behalf of Leadership Council & Staff
The Leadership Council and staff continue to work alongside the congregation in determining the best, safest ways for us to move forward during this uncertain time.
At this time, we will keep the building and playground closed through August 31. That means our worship and meetings will continue virtually through August 31. Our grounds will re-open June 11 following the guidelines in the left column.
There are several reasons why we chose this date as our next marker:
As of today, we are looking at statistics and articles that share gathering in person in buildings (especially churches) is still considered high risk;
Maintaining this online presence through August 31 is a familiar summer schedule for RBC;
We want to hear from Fairfax County Public Schools and what their decisions are for the fall, as well as support schools and their programming (including our own PDO and APC) with people returning in good health;
By August, we’ll have a better read on the impact of the second wave of the virus as Virginia learns from Phase One. Annandale currently has the second highest rate of infection in Virginia. We want to care for our congregation and broader community;
We are not yet prepared to open our building given current CDC guidelines and safety issues. We are still working to develop the necessary plans and materials to allow us to reopen with the lowest risk possible;
We know that Holy Spirit is in our midst even as we are apart. We are benefitting from our creative online worship and meaningful online gatherings.
Moving forward, the Leadership Council will be forming a COVID-19 Taskforce to examine best practices and safety measures as we work to re-open our building.
Our building is closed, but we as the Church are very much open, linked mysteriously by that pesky Holy Spirit who calls us together. If you have any questions, please contact G.J. Tarazi (chair of Leadership Council) or April Pavis-Shroeder (Vice-Chair of Leadership Council).
Thank you for your faithfulness and commitment to RBC. We continue to share love, do justice, and build community in creative—and safe ways.
RBC Leadership Council: G.J. Tarazi, Chair; April Pavis-Shroeder, Vice-Chair; Marshall Marks, Deacons; Carolyn Shields, Education; Dave Farmer, Missions; Brad Moffett, Admin; Cathy Baskin, Director of Outreach & Admin; Rev. Phil Carpenter, Minister of Music; Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis, Pastor
Guidelines for Being on Church Grounds (outside only) Beginning June 11:
Maintain social distancing 8-10 feet apart between members of different households.
Groups no larger than 10 people total.
Do not enter building; facilities (including restrooms) are not available for use.
Do not go on the playground.
If you plan to be on the grounds at a specific date/time, please coordinate with Cathy Baskin. We are still having yard crew come, and maintenance work done on inside and outside of building.
The Book of Acts has a main character–Holy Spirit, and a lot of action. We’ll follow Holy Spirit and the earliest church as they tried to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus in difficult times. Their lives were disrupted and they had a church to create. You’re invited to read a chapter or so a day, following the guide below as we travel through Acts together. On Sundays, Pastor Leah will preach on a passage that took place in homes–a familiar place for most of us these days! We’ll discover some good news in unexpected places and Holy Spirit will be our guide.
Sunday, May 3:Acts at Home: Wonders and Signs, Acts 2:42-47
Sunday, May 10:Acts at Home: Visions, Acts 10:1-23a
Sunday, May 17:Acts at Home: A Knock at the Door, Acts 12:1-19
Sunday, May 24:Acts at Home: Hospitality, Acts 16
Pentecost Sunday, May 31: Acts at Home: Nimble Spirit, Acts 2:1-21