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Update from Leadership Council

Dear RBC Beloveds,

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:

  1. Equip our building with items that promote health: touchless faucets and air filters to bring spaces up to CDC recommendations;
  2. Apply for a $2500 grant through the DC Baptist Convention Foundation to assist with these facility improvements, which we submitted last week;
  3. Support PDO as they consider best practices for a possible fall semester;
  4. Pursue small group gatherings on church property and drive-in worship services for the fall; 
  5. 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. 

Peace to you,G.J. Tarazi, Chair of Leadership Council and  Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis, Pastor, on behalf of RBC’s Leadership Council & COVID Advisory Group

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August Preaching Forum: Around the Campfire

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.

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From Leadership Council & Staff

Dear RBC Beloveds,

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

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Our Life Together: From RBC Leadership Council & Staff

Dear RBC Beloveds,

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.

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Acts at Home

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

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Effective Immediately: All RBC Church Gatherings Canceled through June 10

April 1, 2020 Letter:

This Sunday, April 5 is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. The church calendar calls it Palm/Passion Sunday, which gives the option of combining all of Jesus’ last week into one day. I don’t know about you, but I need to stretch out those days because it’s too many ups and downs for me to grasp over the course of one morning in worship. 
And so it is with our lives during this pandemic. We need some stretching out of time– to breathe, to comprehend, and to put some words on the ups and downs of this experience. 
On Monday, Governor Northam declared a “stay at home” policy effective for the Commonwealth of Virginia through June 10. At RBC, we will follow that requirement and continue with our virtual gatherings through that time because it’s how we live as good neighbors. 
I am missing each of you and I know we are missing one another. This will be a challenge, but we will make it through together. We will have to go through all of it–just like Holy Week. It doesn’t help us to try to ignore the grief, the pain, or the resurrection. Feeling it all leads to the powerful raising  we await on Easter Sunday. This will be an Easter we will never forget! 
Peace to each one of you, ~Pastor Leah

March 20, 2020 letter:

Dear Ravensworth Beloveds,

In November, Lill Wachter gave me this plant and told me it’s called a prayer plant. She split this one off from the one in her home.

She said to remember that she was praying for me and that we do this work together. Two weeks ago, when I realized it would be my last day in my office for awhile I remembered to grab this plant and bring it home with me. It’s thriving here.

We’ve been making a new way at RBC these days. One that’s full of creativity and hope, even as we acknowledge our grief and our concerns. That’s what it means to be community.

The Leadership Council and Staff met on Monday via Zoom and determined it’s best for RBC to suspend all in-person gatherings through the month of April. The building also remains closed. As we follow the CDC guidelines and seek to remain healthy, this is just another way to be good neighbors.

Of course, we will still gather virtually: on phones, on Zoom, on facetime, in our prayers, and during our communion time in worship. We will journey through Holy Week and Easter together, in a different way. Resurrection happened in the quiet, in the dark, with just a few people present. It might be the closest we ever get to that first Easter morning. 

Prayers and community are sustaining us and will sustain us during this season. Hope is here and God is with us.

With deep gratitude for each of you,
Pastor Leah

March Letter:

Dear RBC Community, We are living in a season without a roadmap that we’ve named “Wilderness.”  The Leadership Council and Staff have been following the updates on the COVID-19 virus and the calls for social distancing, especially after the National Cathedral and the Episcopal Church in our area ceased activities for the next few weeks. 

At this time, the RBC Leadership Council and Staff unanimously agreed to suspend all activities at RBC for the remainder of the month of March, including worship:

  • For this Sunday and remaining Sundays in March, staff only will be present in the sanctuary and we will livestream our 11am service. 
  • For the rest of the month, access to the building will be limited to staff. If you need to pick up something from the building, please contact Gail Fewell to make a pick up appointment for Monday, March 16.
  • See the complete list of cancellations below.

 This was a difficult decision, but one that we believe is best for the overall health and well-being of Ravensworth and our wider community. It is also a decision for a season–not forever. Fellow Annandale clergy will be recommending similar decisions, as we think of how to best care for our congregations and our community. 

As a colleague shared with her church, “The temporary cessation of gatherings is intended to ‘flatten the curve,’ that is, create fewer opportunities for coronavirus to spread, thus allowing hospitals and medical centers to stay on top of the cases they have now without becoming overwhelmed. This also helps to prevent the spread to more vulnerable populations for whom the disease might be more traumatic.” 

We get to be the church right now in the midst of this season and we will be checking in with ACCA to learn what they need. We want to be good neighbors and support public health recommendations. Communication will be key during these few weeks. We’ll be sending email updates regularly, with links to worship, giving, online Bible study, and more.The staff will move to working virtually in the coming days.

PDO and APC are following best guidance as they determine how long to remain open. We want to remain healthy and connected as a church. Let’s stay in touch with each other via phone, text, email, virtual meetings, Zoom, skype, facetime, and any yet to be named creative form of communication!

Fortunately, we have experience at being and working differently and to great success. We are still figuring out what that means, such as how we can hold a business meeting to approve the budget, but we are blessed with creative and flexible members and staff. We will meet our commitments to each other and the community as a whole as best we can. Please be patient with us as we work through all the details and we promise to keep you updated.

During this season, we must keep being good neighbors–caring for one another, lifting each other up in our prayers, and for now, keeping our physical distance, all the while rejecting all forms of racism and prejudice. We have the opportunity to live out our calling in a new and completely unexpected way, but one which still connects to the heart of God.

May we continue in this season together, with open hearts to  Holy Spirit as we share love, do justice, and build community.

Grateful for each one of you, Pastor Leah

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Ravensworth Baptist Church Calls Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis as Pastor

August 25, 2019


Ravensworth Baptist Church Calls Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis as Pastor

ANNANDALE, V.A. Ravensworth Baptist Church voted to call Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis as the church’s full-time Pastor, effective November 1, 2019.

“I am thrilled to continue our covenant as pastor and congregation in a full-time setting. I’m looking forward to the ways God will continue to call us to share love, do justice, and build community,” said Davis after the special called business meeting on August 25.

Davis is the first woman called as Pastor of Ravensworth in its 60 years of ministry. She has served in a half-time shared pastoral position alongside Ravensworth’s long-time pastor Rev. Dr. Steve Hyde since September 2017 and she and her family have been members since 2014. Hyde will retire on October 31, 2019.

Chair of Ravensworth’s Leadership Council, Brian Hall said, “We look forward with excitement and hope as we mark a new beginning with Pastor Leah’s care, accomplishments, and leadership. We know that Ravensworth and Leah, as church and pastor, will continue to follow God’s call together.”

In additional to her pastoral role, Davis is an adjunct faculty member at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va., where she teaches preaching and biblical studies in the Diploma Program. She previously served at the Alliance of Baptists as communications specialist (2013-2017), and at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., as Associate Pastor (2008-2013). She graduated in May 2017 with a Doctor of Ministry degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, focused on Baptist women preaching the Magnificat, which was published as Believe the Women in 2019. Her seminary studies were conducted at Baylor’s Truett Seminary where she received a Master of Divinity degree in 2007. She graduated from Baylor University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Religion.

Leah resides in Bristow, Va., with her husband John and two daughters, ages six and four.

About Ravensworth Baptist Church

We are a progressive Baptist congregation that constantly seeks to be responsive to the movement of the Spirit to establish justice, peace, and the reign of God “on earth, as it is in heaven.” We are a welcoming and affirming congregation. Our church vision is to share love, do justice, and build community. You are welcome here!


Brian Hall, chair of Leadership Council & Ravensworth Baptist Church Office:, (703) 941-4113

Sara Sadler, director of communications,

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Christmas in August!

Saturday, August 24, 5:00 P.M at RBC Come and join this kick-off party for any and all who might be interested in singing in our Christmas program this year.  The “Christmas in August” party is set for Saturday, August 24 at 5 pm in the church fellowship room, where we will gather for a time of food, fellowship, and previewing our Christmas music. Please plan to attend, bringing your favorite Christmas dish to share as


part of our potluck dinner. Drinks and a main dish will be provided. You are encouraged to bring your favorite side dishes, vegetables, breads, salads, and desserts.   To make it a fun evening, wear something Christmas-y, whether it is a necklace, earrings, a tie, scarf, or your favorite/ugliest, oh-so-itchy Christmas sweater! And, please bring your spouse, significant other and anyone else who might be interested in singing with us this year.   As is our custom, we will have several rehearsals on Saturdays and/or Sundays to make it possible for our community singers to join us.  I’ll have the full rehearsal calendar to share with you at our party on August 24.  The Christmas program is scheduled for Sunday, December 15 at 3 pm.  I can hardly wait to see you and begin planning for Christmas music this season! Please RSVP to let Phil know if you can come on the 24th, or if you may be able to join us for the December 15 program.