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Fall 2021 at RBC: Imagine

A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

The prophet Isaiah knew what feeling far away from home was like as he spoke to the people who were Exile. Isaiah will be one of our guides this fall as we might feel far from our ordinary lives. How will God comfort us and show up in our midst? Can we hold the sacred space to imagine again?

Our COVID Advisory Group has been hard at work to maintain the safety, health, and well-being for all people, especially our youngest children who have not yet been able to be vaccinated. Below you will find our plans for the fall. Each week looks a little different and will follow all safety protocols. For all worship gatherings (indoor and outdoor) we masks are required, including fellowships following worship. Small groups meetings outdoors will decide together about masking preferences.

RBC Preschoolers/K, Kids & Youth will meet outdoors on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month at 11am during the worship service. All adults who teach and volunteer with the children are fully vaccinated. All adults and children over age 2 will wear masks outdoors. On 3rd Sundays at 9:30am, Pastor Leah will host a special class with RBC Preschoolers/K and Kids for 30 minutes on zoom. We have some fun activities planned about learning the Lord’s Prayer including stickers and coloring pages. Parents, we will be sending detailed instructions this week.

Childcare: We will not have childcare available for the months of September and October. When we have outdoor Sunday services, they will take place on either a 1st, 3rd, or 5th Sunday to maximize outdoor options for families with young children. We recognize comfort levels are different for everyone and encourage you to make the best decision for your family.

Adult Sunday School

  • Genesis Class: 1st-3rd Sundays at 9:30am on Zoom, 4th Sunday fellowship at church at 10am. Contact Cathy and John Baskin
  • Moore Class: 9am via zoom, Contact Ken Nidiffer for link
  • Philippians Class: 6:45pm for fellowship on zoom, 7pm on zoom for class, contact G.J. Tarazi
  • Friendship Class: beginning Sept. 19 at 10am indoor in-person, Room 134, contact Margaret Diamond

Worship & Sunday School Schedule for September and October

Oct. 3, World Communion Sunday: 11am Outdoor in-person+zoom worship

Oct. 10: 11am Indoor in-person + Livestream worship 

  • 11am RBC Preschool, Kids & Youth Outdoor Sunday School

Oct. 17: 11am Indoor in-person + Livestream worship

  • 9:30am RBC Kids on Zoom with Pastor Leah

Oct. 24: 11am Indoor in-person + Livestream worship

  • 11am RBC Preschool, Kids & Youth Outdoor Sunday School

Oct. 31: 11am Outdoor in-person+Zoom Worship, Happy Halloween! 

THRIVE Book Discussion:

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW (use this link to Amazon to purchase the book!)

Beginning Sep. 28, 7pm, via RBC Zoom
From Amazon: In this groundbreaking book, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology…

As we continue the work of becoming anti-racist, we will discuss this book during the fall. All are welcome to join. The attached flyer has a detailed schedule, including chapters to be read and a list of facilitators and the proposed session format. Please contact Cathy Baskin if you plan to participate in some or all of the weekly sessions, or if you need to have a book ordered, so that we can plan for break-out groups during the sessions.

Sept. 28 begins with a discussion of the preface and Ch. 1 of the book. In addition, we will discuss a podcast that will give us all a common understanding of how trauma affects the body. Please listen to the podcast before the session: This Conversation Will Change How You Think About Trauma

For the rest of the schedule, follow this link!

[Note: the podcast references specific kinds of trauma often experienced by children and adults. If trauma is part of your personal history, please be prepared for topics that might trigger difficult memories. If you prefer not to take part in the podcast discussion, let Cathy know and we can make arrangements for you to join the book discussion portion of the session.]

Fall 2021: Ethics Seminar & Special Offering

Food Justice: Ensuring Food Access for All

Mondays, Oct. 18 & 21, 7 – 8:15pm, via RBC Zoom

Join us in our annual Missions Ethics Seminar, as our guest presenters highlight food justice challenges as close as Fairfax County, and as far away (but close to our hearts) as Cuba. Featured presenters are Diane Charles, of the Fairfax Food Council; Betsy Clevenger, layperson and manager of the Heritage Food Distribution Center; and our friend Midiam Lobiana (via video) of the Christian Women’s Network in Cuba. Follow this link for more information and the Zoom information!

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RBC Selected for THRIVE Racial Justice Project & Atonement Study

Alliance of Baptists’ Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice Project 

In late 2020, Ravensworth Baptist Church was invited to apply to the new project through the Alliance of Baptists called “Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice.” Leadership Council and staff agreed that this was an opportunity that would support the ongoing work of racial justice to which RBC is committed. We submitted our application in late 2020.
Exciting news: RBC was chosen as one of the 25 congregations to participate! 
The Alliance of Baptists released this announcementlate yesterday from co-director Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey saying, “Followers of Jesus are called to constantly examine the way things are in our churches, communities, nation and world, as compared to God’s dream and vision for the way the world should be. Examining the way things are, and working to nurture the way things should be— through the lens of race—is at the heart of the Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice five-year project of the Alliance of Baptists. In this project the Alliance, led by the 25 congregations who make up the learning cohort, will engage in a collective examination of identities, structures, ministries, worship, staffing, and commitments, in order to give birth to the kind of Alliance and local church God dreams.” 
As we have more information from the Alliance, we will share. We are thrilled that Rev. Caitlyn Gudmundsen has agreed to be our RBC coordinator for the first year of the program. Today, we are giving thanks for the Alliance of Baptists and this opportunity to pursue more work around justice and God’s dreams for our world. Learn more about the grant description from the original Alliance press release.

RBC to Participate in a Study on Baptist Churches & Atonement with Rev. Dr. Tim Moore

Last month, Pastor Leah was approached by her colleague Rev. Dr. Tim Moore, writer in residence at Sardis Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C. to see if RBC would be interested in participating in his research around how Baptist churches like ours practice and live out the concept of atonement in our worship, communion and baptism, and in our hymnody. 
Specifically, Tim is interested in pursuing conversations around traditional views of atonement (penal substitutionary atonement: Jesus died on the cross for my sins because God was angry) and what churches like RBC are living out in practice. Pastor Leah shared this project proposal with Leadership Council, Education Commission, and staff. All were enthusiastic about RBC’s participation. He plans to compile his research into a book after interviewing congregations and share the findings at the Alliance of Baptists’ Annual Gathering in 2022. All interviews and findings will be shared in a general way, without specific names. 
Tim wrote, “The academy may be the place where great minds deconstruct old beliefs and propose new concepts, but congregations revise Christian practices, and transform the faith. I am curious as to how this critique is reforming centuries-old practices of congregational worship and impacting congregational ministry.”
Later this month, you will be invited to take a congregational survey on your views on atonement and our practices at RBC. He’ll also host a few focus groups via zoom, so let Pastor Leah know if you’d like to participate in a focus group. 
With these two special projects intersecting, we have the opportunity to reflect intentionally around traditional views of atonement and those implications on racial justice. Together, these reflections and action will help RBC and the Alliance of Baptists participate in God’s justice at work in the world. What an exciting time to be sharing love, doing justice, and building community at Ravensworth Baptist Church! 
If you have any questions about either of these opportunities, contact Pastor Leah or RBC Leadership Chair April Pavis-Shroeder. 

Rev. Dr. Tim Moore
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Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames preaching Transfiguration Sunday, Feb. 14

We welcome guest preacher Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames Transfiguration Sunday Feb. 14! Rev. Dr. Thames was last with us proclaimer at Pastor Leah’s installation service in February 2020.

She is the Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University. As an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, she served as a pastor in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for nine years. Theresa is a graduate of Howard University, received her Master of Divinity from Duke University Divinity School, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary in Leadership Excellence exploring how best to equip young clergywomen of color to thrive in ministry. Theresa is also the founder of Soul Joy Yoga LLC, an in-person and online gathering that inspires womxn and folx of color to discover their deepest truths and cultivate joy. Theresa is a wife, transformation coach, challenging preacher, certified yoga teacher, dog mama, and devoted friend. She is a lover of life who prioritizes self-care and believes that radical joy is resistance.

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Rev. Dr. Ridgeway Addison preaching, January 31

Ridgeway Addison is a theological educator and learning designer with particular interest in the fields of spirituality and ethics. He is a research specialist on the American minister, educator, and public theologian Howard Thurman (1899-1981).
Ridgeway works as a learning designer for 2U, a global educational technology company that partners with top tier universities and colleges to offer online and hybrid degree programs. Prior to joining 2U in 2019, Ridgeway served in a variety of faculty and chaplaincy roles at Georgetown University where he continues to teach clinical bioethics as an adjunct professor.
He is an ordained Baptist minister associated with the Alliance of Baptists and Baptist Peace
Fellowship of North America and, most importantly, a proud member of Ravensworth Baptist Church.
Alongside his current work, Dr. Addison serves on the Board of Trustees for the Washington
Theological Consortium. A classically trained musician (piano, voice, guitar) and composer, he regularly incorporates music and other arts into his teaching, speaking, and writing.
Ridgeway is married to the Reverend Sarah Scherschligt, pastor and head of staff at Peace
Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA. They have two young daughters, Magdalene (5) and Lydia

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This Puzzling Call

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.
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Update from Leadership Council, Dec. 16, 2020

Dear RBC Beloveds,

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

Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis, Pastor

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A Prayer for Reformation Sunday, by Rev. Ken Sehested

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

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Good Neighbors Proclaiming Together

Good Neighbors Proclaiming Together

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.

What a special way for us to continue our community work by hearing from each congregation and pastor. As you know, our churches partner for our Good Neighbor Homework Club with ACCA.

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 Wait is 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.

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All Saints’ Sunday, November 1: Drive-in Worship & Zoom Worship

This Sunday, our 30-minute, 11am worship service will be available via drive-in worship and via Zoom. 

For those joining via drive-in worship:

  • Enter the RBC Parking lot via Braddock Road and exit via Bristow Road (no u-turns allowed on Braddock road). Ushers will be there to guide you as you park and exit. 
  • For All Saints’ Day, ushers will have a bag with battery operated candles. Please indicate if you would like candles. You may keep them,
  • Remain in your vehicle the entire service,
  • Keep windows up,
  • Tune in to 90.3 FM to hear the service on your radio; or join via zoom,
  • To say Amen, flash your brights! 
  • If you need assistance or need to leave during the service, please honk your horn,
  • The building remains closed. There will be no access to restrooms,
  • Print your own bulletin or access digitally. See bulletin and music below for printing. We will send another email on Saturday with these documents included as well. 

For those joining via Zoom,

  • Use same instructions for joining Zoom, as for all zoom meetings.
  • You will be muted upon entry to the zoom room. Please remain muted until Cathy Baskin invites you to unmute.
  • Please click speaker view to view the largest images of worship.
  • Please bring a candle to light during the service, during our time of remembrance.

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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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Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis Now Full Time Pastor

Leah Grundset Davis is the first woman called as Pastor of Ravensworth in its 60 years of ministry. She served in a half-time shared pastoral position alongside Ravensworth’s long-time pastor Rev. Dr. Steve Hyde since September 2017, and she her family have been members since 2014. Hyde retired on October 31, 2019, and Davis began her tenure as full-time Pastor on November 1, 2019.
“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.” ~ Brian Hall, Chair of Ravensworth’s Leadership Council
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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: rbc@ravensworthbaptist.org, (703) 941-4113

Sara Sadler, director of communications, sara@ravensworthbaptist.org

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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.

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Advent & Christmas at RBC

From SALT: God becoming incarnate in a human being is too astounding, too dazzling, too impossible an event to merely celebrate on a single day. Poetry (and podcasts!) can help – and the Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama’s beloved podcast, “Poetry Unbound,” is an inspiring case in point: evocative, accessible poems illuminated with sensitivity and insight by Ó Tuama’s commentary. 

In our Advent and Christmas devotional and worship services, we let scripture and “Poetry Unbound” be our guides, together pointing us toward weekly practices that can help deepen and enrich our experience of the season – a perfect way to prepare for the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas day. Each week, we’ll hear a poem in worship that connects to our theme of the week–hope, peace, joy, love, Christ.

So grab a Bible and your favorite way of listening to the “Poetry Unbound” podcast (the poems and episode transcripts can also be read online). Week by week, poem by poem, we’ll wait and prepare and listen and sing, unbinding the season – and with God’s help, unbinding our hearts – along the way.

We also begin our new lectionary for Sunday worship: A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, Year W, by Dr. Wilda Gafney.

Dec. 12: Third Sunday of Advent: 11am Worship In-person+Livestream

  • Advent Unbound: Joy Rev. Elijah Zehyoue, co-director of the Alliance of Baptists, preaching
  • Judges 13:2-7, Psalm 115:9-15, 1 John 3:1-3, Luke 1:46-56
  • 3pm Christmas Music Program, RSVP to Gail Fewell to reserve your spot!

Dec. 19: Fourth Sunday of Advent: 11am Worship In-person+Livestream

  • Advent Unbound: Love Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis, preaching
  • 1 Samuel 1:19-28, Canticle of Hannah: 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Titus 3:4-7, Matthew 1:18-25

Tuesday, Dec. 21, Longest Night Service 7pm, Zoom

  • Rev. Phil Carpenter will lead our time together in this special, quiet service as we leave space for grief and the love the God.

Dec. 24: Christmas Eve, God is with us: 4pm Zoom Service & 5:30pm In-person+livestream (RSVP to Gail Fewell for the in-person service to reserve your spot)

  • Isaiah 26:16-19, Psalm 68:4-13, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Luke 2:1-20

Dec. 26: First Sunday of Christmas, 11am Prerecorded Online Worship via Vimeo, Facebook, phone call-in to Zoom

Jan, 2: Epiphany observed, 11am Zoom Worship

  • Star Words Sunday
  • Isaiah 60:1-6, 11, Psalm 67, 2 Timothy 1:5-10, Matthew 2:1-12
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May 16-July 11 Worship at RBC, Updates from COVID Advisory Group+Leadership Council

Dear RBC Congregation,

Like all of you, we have longed for the day when we could safely gather in person. As you know, our most recent deadline is to provide an update by May 15 for gatherings and building use. It will take all of us to move forward in hope, so we invite you to spend some time with the information below so we can gather safely. 

The COVID Advisory Group and the Leadership Council have continued to look at the vaccination and virus positivity numbers in our area as well as make building improvements. We are awaiting the completion of our new HVAC system, which is scheduled to occur the end of June. Once that is complete, we will be able to provide suggestions for next steps for the remainder of the summer and into the fall. 

We are excited to make recommendations to the congregation for some outdoor in-person worship services as well as outdoor in-person small group gatherings! 

Outdoor in-person worship services

We will host three outdoor in-person vespers worship services (May 23 at 7pm, June 6 at 6pm, June 27 at 6pm) and one Sunday morning outdoor in-person service on June 13 at 11am. All services will be 30 minutes.
For those gathering for outdoor in-person services:

  • Wear a mask
  • Maintain social distance
  • Bring your own chair/blanket 
  • We will have an accessible seating area on the front patio
  • Restrooms will not be available until the completion of the HVAC

All services that take place outdoor and in-person will also take place on zoom so everyone can worship together.

Over the next few weeks we will worship in a variety of ways, as we are in between what has been and whatever will be. You are invited to print the schedule at the bottom of the email and keep it handy. Please read all RBC communications. As we gather for outdoor in-person services, it is possible we will have weather issues. If that is the case, we will gather on zoom. 
Here’s what each kind of worship means:

  • Online Worship: Pre-recorded service available on YouTube, Facebook, RBC Website, call-in for audio
  • Zoom Worship: Join our RBC Zoom link 
  • Outdoor in-person: Gather on the front lawn of RBC, masked, socially distant.

Small Groups Meeting Outdoors in-person at RBC

Want to schedule an outdoor small group meeting at RBC? Here’s what to know:

  • 10 people max
  • As schedule allows, outside PDO hours (Tues.-Fri., 8:30am-2pm)
  • If all are vaccinated, masks not required. Please keep a mask with you, as you may encounter those from outside your group.
  • No restrooms available at this time
  • BYO chair, etc.
  • Group leader must coordinate and reserve time on schedule with Cathy Baskin

We imagine we’ll learn some new things as we gather in these ways so we invite your patience, thoughtful reflection, and your enthusiasm. 

Moving forward in hope!

COVID Advisory Group & Leadership Council