For more than sixty years, Ravensworth Baptist Church as been a progressive Baptist presence in Northern Virginia. We began our life as an outgrowth of the First Baptist Church of Annandale, sent as a mission to the growing North Springfield community. On March 15, 1959, 54 persons accepted an invitation to join together and make that mission a Church – dedicated to enacting the love of Christ in our community and around the world.
Founded as a mission, we took missions to heart: in those early days, we held regular worship services at Leewood Healthcare Center, and began the first stages of what would become the Ravensworth Parents’ Day Out program. Both ministries continue to this day.
But it has always been our passion for God’s Justice that has defined us as a congregation. During the civil rights movement, RBC joined with other local churches in a pledge to support fair housing. During the Poor People’s campaign in the late 1960s, we provided housing for those traveling to the capital, even converting the baptistry into a temporary shower: God’s house may be sacred, but God’s people are more sacred still.
This deep desire for justice led us to foster a greater diversity in our congregation over the years: providing facilities for two separate Korean churches, and helping to reach across the racial divide all too present in Baptist life by partnering with an African American congregation in the District of Columbia. From the beginning, we were committed to affirming the full partnership of women in ministry and have benefited in countless ways from the leadership of lay women, deacons, and as members of the pastoral staff.
In 2006, we followed God a little further along the road, voting to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, thereby officially acknowledging and accepting the LGBTQIA+ community already in our midst. Now, we have joined the ongoing struggle for the dignity and rights of people in our community.
Over the years, God has continually remade our congregation into an inclusive, open church, and this has only fueled our desire to go beyond our doors and engage with the wider world: the more we get our house in order, the more we want to go outside. We participate in missions and social ministries in our local area, all over the country, and throughout the world. We enthusiastically support the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA), Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, and, in recent years, the Shepherd’s Center of Annandale/Springfield.
Looking back on our history, it seems that God has called us to multi-task: in addition to these local efforts, we have worked to combat hunger, make peace, and ensure religious liberty for all people around the world. We have formed lasting relationships with people, congregations, and organizations in as far-flung places as Bethlehem, Cuba, South Sudan, Mississippi, and Malawi. Each year, we participate in Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters, walk in the Church World Service CROP Walk, and collect offerings for a wide variety of missions endeavors. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we sent mission teams to Biloxi, Mississippi to assist Habitat for Humanity.
Each year we become more deeply engaged in the effort to bring peace with justice to Israel and Palestine, even sending teams to Israel and the Palestinian territories to learn firsthand about peacemaking efforts in the Holy Land. And we frequently participate in interfaith dialogue so that we may have a greater understanding of those who believe differently than ourselves – to gain respect for our differences, and to see what deeper humanity connects us as well.
In addition to these outward activities, we are often encouraged by our pastor Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis, to consider how following Jesus transforms us and the world. Church members deepen their prayer lives through contemplation, silence, and other spiritual practices. And our Sunday School classes and Bible Studies have long been committed to an intellectually challenging scriptural scholarship, while still remaining respectful of all persons’ intelligence and autonomy.
Worship, though varying slightly over our history, is always a mix of the new and the old, of contemplation and of joyful expression – reflecting our commitment to spiritual diversity. It is warm, uplifting, and stirring, drawing forth the best from everyone in the community.
It may seem that we have our hands in a little bit of everything, moving from one ministry to the next. This is only because we see all our efforts as contributing to one great mission: the furthering of God’s love and justice in the world. Wherever we are, and wherever the hearts of our congregation are drawn, we hope to make the world the way that God always intended it to be.
We celebrated our 60th anniversary in March 2019 and we move forward in hope!