We hope to hear from some of you about what you are reading this summer! Pastor Leah Grundset Davis begins this week:
What I’m reading:
The Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr I heard some rumors that we might have a few book discussions at RBC over the summer (more info coming soon) so I thought I should start reading. This is one of those books that is liberating and focuses on the expansiveness of God’s love.
Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too, by Jennifer Grant This book is a hit at my house! We often think that loving our neighbor is difficult, but Grant reminds us of just how simple love can be. She also wrote RBC favorite, Maybe God is Like That Too.
Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I’ve been working through this book for awhile. History, narrative, and a call for justice meet. Anything by Dr. Gates is excellently written and this is no exception. As I continue to understand my own white privilege, it’s important to understand the history that many of us were never taught.
We’ve been hanging out in the Acts of the Apostles during the season of Easter to look at the power of Holy Spirit and witness of those earliest disciples. The stories of Beautiful, Ananias, and Paul have challenged us thus far with calling us to acts of beauty and courage.
Where are you seeing beauty and courage in our world right now? Several of us spent the weekend after Easter at the Alliance of Baptists’ Annual Gathering. The theme, “What is Liberty without Liberation?” guided the weekend.
I invite you to watch Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis’ sermon from the Friday worship service. (Her sermon begins at the one hour mark). Her call to a Love Revolution is in itself an act of beauty and courage.
I’d love to hear from you about the ways you are seeing acts of beauty and courage in the world. Email me and let me know!
Grateful for each of you,
Even though we talked about moving forward in hope, I want to look back for a moment. What a weekend of celebration, memory sharing, and hope we shared on our 60th Anniversary Weekend, March 16-17!
We heard music from “Two Brothers, One Pick,” also known as Jesse and Will Baskin. We shared memories around the fireplace, with Don Moore framing our time with his memories of this place. We worshipped with incredible guest musicians, Tia Wortham and Barbara Wilkinson. We heard from former pastor Mahan Siler and former pastoral intern Alicia Davis Porterfield. As I tried to sum up how I felt on Sunday afternoon, I could only think of one word: grateful.
Our celebration pointed us toward God’s promises of hope and presence, even in the midst of the season of Lent and chaos in the world. Our belief in the goodness of this community of faith was evident, even as we stretch ourselves to consider the places where we feel called and our rough edges. We will jump into the river of God’s justice-love…together.
Special thanks to the 60th anniversary committee and everyone who pitched in time, food, set-up, and tear down. You are so appreciated.
At the Thursday Breakfast Club in January we shared how we felt about New Years’ Resolutions. We all had different opinions (surprise!). I shared about how I’ve set a goal to read 52 books this year. (Biblical commentaries don’t count).
Most recently, I finished up Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, by Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber and am currently reading The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation, by Jodie Patterson. Patterson writes about how she had to expand her understanding of community to meet the needs of her transgender son. It’s a beautiful story and reflection of how we live and love in community.
In keeping with the theme of books, our Lenten worship and faith formation series will be called Just Mercy, named after Bryan Stevenson’s masterwork by the same title, on justice and redemption. His words will challenge us: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
I’d like to invite all of us to read Bryan Stevenson’s book between now and April 7 when we’ll come together after worship to discuss what we learned. The stories are powerful testimonies of the legal justice system in the United States and how it is built to work against communities of color.
There’s so much to unpack and I’m grateful to have the conversation alongside all of you as we seek mercy for ourselves and one another.
PS- Podcast Recommendation: The Word is Resistance podcast focuses on the lectionary and is produced by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).This past week’s episode, “Catching Our People” connected the interpretation of the idea of Jesus’ statement “You will become fishers of people” to ideas of colonialism and forced conversion. As we pursue conversations around the intersections of justice, I’d encourage all my podcast listening friends to listen to the voices interrupting the silence.
Holy Land News- What are we up to?
On January 31, five of the Holy Land Group went to Richmond with the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights (VCHR) for a 7:30-5:30 day of lobby work. The VCHR represents 17 organizations including the Alliance of Baptists, and many other church denominations. It also has Jewish members. I am a representative for the Alliance of Baptists in the VCHR, as part of the RBC Holy Land Group.
The group visited with 26 delegates and senators, asking them to do a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) study on two areas of concern. We became aware that Virginia textbooks have very slanted information about Palestine and Israel. Members of the VCHR, including our own RBC members, researched this. VCHR had college professors, including some from George Washington, George Mason, and other universities, review the social studies books. The historians and social scientists that reviewed the selected textbooks found them to be “inaccurate” and “biased.” They found and documented the false statements.
As we dug deep in the process, we found the way in which textbooks are approved and chosen leaves a lot of room for mis-information. This is not only true for Palestinian issues, but for black history and science as well. So, we asked for this process to be investigated. It was a successful trip! We had several of the delegates and senators listen and welcome us back in April to discuss more thoroughly our findings and possibly join us in a resolution. We had another equally important topic, which got a good response as well.
You can ask any of the Holy Land Group about if you are interested. That was our day in Richmond-on to Capitol Hill next!
Working for Peace through Justice as the Spirit leads us,
Patti Brockmeier, Chair of RBC’s Holy Land Group
I grew up in a pretty conservative Baptist church and gained many important values there – primarily learning that Christianity is about loving others as yourself. My experience at RBC has reinforced this but has added another focus, one that was NOT a point of emphasis in my home church – the focus of standing with the marginalized in their fight against injustice. This was the focus of Jesus, and this is a focus at RBC as we ask, “Where is injustice, and what can we do about it?”
In this last year, RBC’s Holy Land Peace through Justice Group has often talked about how we might help others understand why we are so passionate about Palestine. It has become clear that our passion comes from what we have seen and heard about Palestine, but also from our desire to help resist injustice in the world – not just in Palestine, but wherever we see it. RBC, for example, is ALSO passionate about injustice toward our immigrant community, Southern Sudan, Annandale, Cuba, Farmworkers, Puerto Rico and more.
For this reason, the Holy Land Group has decided to lead out at RBC in highlighting our congregation’s concerns about injustice – wherever it exists. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We have decided to plan programs to show the intersection of our church’s concerns about injustice — specifically injustice suffered by some of the following communities: yes, Palestine, but also the communities of African Americans, Native Americans, women, the LGBTQ persons, and more.
As Kay has expressed, I believe our church has found its focused direction, following the teachings of Jesus – JUSTICE FOR THE OPPRESSED. There are many special interest groups in our congregation, all doing good work for the cause of justice. Justice has percolated to the surface as an important focus of our church.
Our Holy Land Peace through Justice Group will continue to focus on advocacy for Palestinians as they are oppressed by the Israeli government. At the same time, there is much similarity in how groups in the USA are treated and not understood. The Holy Land Group has concluded they want to offer the discussion of intersectionality of the Palestinians, people of color, LGBTQ, refugees, and migrant workers, indigenous people, and more. We would like to offer opportunities over the next year at luncheon meetings and movies to address some groups that are oppressed or marginalized. There are so many similarities while there are still differences as to how marginalized groups in our society are treated. This is intersectionality.
So, in moving forward to better understand the oppressed and marginalized groups right in front of us, we decided to have our first session focus on the transgender community.
The Holy Land Group and the Deacon Commission are co-sponsoring this session after church on Feb. 10, with a “grab and go” lunch and presentation. Cathy Baskin and Christy Moyer have found a speaker, and the Holy Land Group will provide the lunch.
All are welcome; we encourage you to attend.
On February 1st, I’ll begin my third and final sabbatical.
As I anticipate these next three months, the first word that leaps to my mind is gratitude. I’m so grateful to be pastor of a congregation that honors the importance of renewal and reimagining. I started to include rest, but I learned during my first sabbatical in Galilee and Palestine that Sabbath-time is not necessarily centered on rest and relaxation. Even more important than rest is whole-heartedness.
At a recent Leadership Council meeting, I was asked:
“If you had to name a theme for your sabbatical,
what would it be?“
I had not thought in terms of a theme for the sabbatical, but it was an evocative question, and I replied:
“A Season of Discernment.“
I view this season as a time to discern, an opportunity to reflect upon our years together at RBC, and to seek the Spirit’s guidance on how and when to write the final chapter. I will not return from sabbatical and immediately wave goodbye to everyone. I do not yet know the right time to leave this place and people I love so much, but I will let you know when I know, and I can tell you now that it will not be abrupt.
These few months of stepping away will give me a sense of what it would be like to be retired. I’ll pay more attention to that, in ways that would not have fit my first and second sabbaticals. For over 17 years, I have seen up close how creatively so many of you have spent your retirement years. Michael Catlett, my personal and pastoral superhero, tells me that it’s important to know what you’re retiring from, and what you’re retiring to.
It’s much clearer to me that what I will retire from is something wonderful. It’s life in the Beloved Community with all of you. It’s “seeing” the face of Christ in 10,000 places in our life together. What I will retire to is not as clear to me yet, but I will have a chance to sample spending more time with our adult children and grandkids, and a long road trip with Jean (we will return in time for the 60th anniversary weekend). I plan to do more reading, especially the poetry of Mary Oliver, some of my books on Palestine, and the Jesus books in my library at home. All of this, as well as unplanned excursions, will be a real joy. I will enter it all whole-heartedly, and with deep gratitude.
I want to thank Leah and Michael, Cathy and Gail, and Phil and Russell for making a worry-free sabbatical possible. Everything and everyone will be in the best of hands. Joan Didion wrote a book entitled Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I feel like I’m slouching toward retirement. The reason I have not run toward retirement is simply that I continue to enjoy all of you so much, pastoring alongside Leah is such a privilege, and there is so much joy, substance, and inspiration in the life we share as disciples of Jesus.
I’ll see you Sunday, then the anniversary weekend in March, and I will return the first Sunday in May. These months for all of us will be full of the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
As we miss being together in worship on Sunday, January 13 due to the snow, you’re invited to meditate on the Gospel lesson for the day, Luke 3:15-22 and the poem below by Jan Richardson. Remember YOU are God’s beloved!
15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Beloved is Where We Begin, by Jan Richardson
If you would enter into the wilderness,
do not begin without a blessing.
Do not leave without hearing who you are:
Beloved, named by the one who has traveled this path before you.
Do not go without letting it echo in your ears, and if you find it is hard to let it into your heart, do not despair.
That is what this journey is for.
I cannot promise this blessing will free you from danger, from fear, from hunger or thirst, from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night.
But I can tell you that on this path there will be help.
I can tell you that on this way there will be rest.
I can tell you that you will know the strange graces that come to our aid only on a road such as this,
that fly to meet us bearing comfort and strength,
that come alongside us for no other cause than to lean themselves toward our ear and with their curious insistence whisper our name:
Beloved. Beloved. Beloved.
By the time you are reading this, we will be two days into 2019. Advent is past, Christmas has come, and Epiphany is upon us; or at least the day of Epiphany is upon us. Even better: maybe you experienced an epiphany of your own in recent weeks?
I received one at a most needed moment. The Friday before Christmas, I was in our Peet’s Coffee shop, sharing table fellowship with my son, Will. We lamented the events of yet another week when it seemed that Decency and Order were losing to Chaos and Carelessness. Our spirits were agitated and getting lower.
In an effort to reorient and cheer ourselves, we made plans for our holiday time together. We decided to listen to Canticle of the Turning, the song that Leah had selected for Will to sing in worship on December 23. It is a contemporary version of Mary’s Magnificat, set to an Irish folk tune. We hadn’t heard it before, though Will recognized the melody. The steady rhythms and lilting music created a growing energy that was embodied in the lyrics:
Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.
As the song worked on me, I felt a surge of hope. I remembered that things are happening that we cannot see. I was reminded that the movement of the Spirit may begin as a trickle here and there; but the unhindered Love and Justice of God can grow into a mighty force that will sweep away Hate and Injustice. I believed in my soul that it was indeed possible that “the world is about to turn.”
Happy New Year!
Listen here to a recording of Canticle of the Turning, by Gary Daigle, Rory Cooney & Theresa Donohoo.