What might God do with the dust of our fallen structures?

In light of last week’s headline, World Health Organization declaring an end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency


A word of encouragement to those (re)building, (re)viving, (re)missioning, and (re)forming institutions

All humans long for stability. Throughout time, Societies have built structures to protect stability. Call it covid, call it chaos, there’s been a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. Rigid structures don’t tend to fare well when the ground starts shaking. No structure is meant to last forever and yet when history circles back around we’re surprised by its arrival. Anything we carve or build out of rock, bricks, steel, or glass, eventually falls. Travel to Greece, Rome, the site of the former World Trade Center in NYC, or, (dare I say it) down a long stretch of Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va, historical structures eventually and always buckle under the pressure of the passage of time.

Most any group of people that find themselves finally tasting the “good life” naturally want to build a structure that can maintain, expand, and protect that way of life (aka stability). Think about the destructive cycles that spin chaos into the world from there. If building, maintaining, expanding, and protecting our “good life” requires the diminishing, disqualifying or destruction of the lives of others, expect chaos and prepare to choke on the dust of fallen idols, fortresses, and structures.

I believe God is refashioning us, not only out of the dust of our fallen idols, fortresses, and structures, but also out of the dust being stirred up by the beautiful feet of those walking beside “God with Us”

There’s a moment in the Bible when the disciples of Jesus find themselves awestruck by the Temple structure,“Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what a wonderful structure!” Jesus responds, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The temple is supposed to be the most stable place on earth, the one place where God’s finger touches the world, therefore the one place chaos can’t possibly exist.

Later in the story, those that arrested Jesus justify their actions based on the audacity of Jesus bringing chaos, the equivalent of kryptonite, into the temple. He doesn’t help his case when he predicts the temple’s destruction or in claiming he will rebuild the temple in three days. To add insult to injury, he claims the new Temple won’t be confined by geography or any other lines we might draw in the sand. No-one-corner of the world will be able to claim this One as their own. This One, is meant to travel. This One is a throwback to the original design. Anyone with institutional memory might call him “Tabernacle”, but most of his followers call him Savior.

Church, I know we’re all longing for stability, it’s natural to do so, especially in our grieving. I want you to know that I join you in deep grieving. So much more, I want you to know that we worship a God that brings order out of Chaos.

Any version of life, built upon a structure that diminishes the potential for thriving in the lives of others, cannot be attributed to the goodness of God.

YHWH didn’t fashion us out of metaphorical dust, breathe air into our lungs, and put us on our feet, only for us to create our own versions of the “good life”. Any version of life, built upon a structure that diminishes the potential for thriving in the lives of others, cannot be attributed to the goodness of God. Any version of the “good life” that leads someone into isolation, separation, or even relational annihilation is a cheap counterfeit. God is good…all of the time. The good life Christ offers is the real deal….the Way, the Truth, and The Life. Walk in the knowledge that we follow a Savior that can take all of the fallenness, brokenness, and complexities of the stories of the past and present, all of the unintentional chaos we’ve unleashed into the world, and somehow bring profound goodness through it. Know that God can, and will, make ALL things for good.

As we move out of this global pandemic, it will be critical for us to understand that it’s not our job to rebuild our temples. God already did that, three days after his son was crucified. The news gets even better. The resurrected Savior is inviting us to tabernacle with him right smack into the middle of the chaos. He’s inviting us to join the search party for those who have stumbled into, or were pushed into, lostness and loneliness. He’s inviting us to join him in the reclamation of the abandoned, to participate in the healing of the brokenhearted, and even in the resuscitation of the hearts of the presumed “righteous”.

In this very moment, I believe God is refashioning us, not only out of the dust of our fallen idols, fortresses, and structures, but also out of the dust being stirred up by the beautiful feet of those walking beside “God with Us”. It’s an invitation to breathe again. It’s an invitation to life again. It’s the invitation of a lifetime!

Rev. Sterling W. Severns, Pastor

  • This is an adaptation of something first written in January 2022.

A Word From Our Pastor……..

Good news. Challenging News. Great News. 

Earlier this fall the youth group kicked off a new weekly program with high aspirations and minimal fuel to make the engine “go”.  Long story short, after a couple of weeks of experimentation, it became pretty clear the most recent reboot of our youth program isn’t sufficient.  


Good News: 

God is doing something exciting in our experimentation and intentionality. We’re feeling encouraged to see our students integrating into the specific spaces of belonging we’re building for intergenerational Discipleship. We’re seeing God at work in and through the lives of those participating in Community Ministry (Saturdays), Dinner Church (Wednesday evenings), and Woven (Sunday mornings). God is bearing fruit in the deliberateness of our relationship building, through the continuity and deliberateness in our holy conversations. 

Challenging News: 

1) The identified need and desires we’re seeing in our younger youth are radically different from what we’re seeing and hearing from our older youth. This has always been true AND there is a palpable and definitive tension unique to the moment. 

2) The vast majority of the adults in our congregation, including many parents of our children and youth, do not express feeling called or remotely equipped to disciple children, youth, or adults. 

3) We have not been able to identify a core group of adults to make a weekly investment in the intentional discipleship of children and youth. Yes, there are individuals but no core groups of adults. We have no reason to believe this will change anytime soon. 

4) Families with children/youth are in constant motion. It was true long before the pandemic began and it’s even more true now. We have no reason to believe the pace of life is going to slow down anytime soon. We have no reason to believe that “church” will ever be the center of family life again nor should we assume the church should be the center of family life again.  The road ahead doesn’t resemble the place we’ve come from. 

5) We can’t seem to put down the baggage of the past (discipleship as a program) which gives us little or no capacity in the embracing of discipleship as a deliberate form of relationship building with Christ at the center. 

6) The Church is adrift. We have not come together to identify our priorities and we can’t make critical decisions together until we discern our priorities together. 

None of us, myself included, saw the missional drifting when it first began; we can’t identify when it  actually began. We certainly didn’t make a conscious decision to drift. Let’s be clear, no parent, leader, partner, community or organization drifts away from purpose….. on purpose. When we drift, and all of us do, we don’t usually know it’s happening. Maybe it begins when we get ahead of ourselves or a little full of ourselves? Maybe it happens when the tired sets in?  Maybe it happens when we get scared or overwhelmed? Maybe it happens when grief claims our focus? For whatever reason, we’re all prone to gently drift asleep at the wheel. If only the awakening would be so gentle. 

For the record, we have not come together to make a collective decision to radically change course and nobody has deliberately sabotaged our vessel.  We fell asleep at the helm and we’ve been awakened by a crisis. 

1) We didn’t see the need to recommit to our priorities, or discern new priorities during our chapters of thriving. 

2) The lack of seeing the need to clarify our priorities gave each of us, individually and as little groups, silent permission to determine our own priorities. 

3) A church full of individuals, boards, official and unofficial committees, each determining their own priorities, is a church adrift.

4) The wake-up call continues to be painful. 

The most obvious proof of our missional drift is our lack deliberate walking with children, youth, and their families. Judy, April, a couple of lay leaders, and myself are not able to do this on the church’s behalf. As it relates to ministry with children, youth, and their families, we must clarify what we’re trying to accomplish. We must receive the resources God is providing for the purpose of equipping. We must embrace our commission to make Disciples.  

Great news:

1) The leaders of the church are actively creating a plan to bring all of us together so that we can actively discern what God wants us to prioritize. Your voice is needed. More importantly, your listening heart and ears are needed!  Mark your calendars for a church-wide spiritual renewal weekend, January 13-15, 2023  and pray for our leaders as they help prepare the soil. 

2) In the meantime, as it relates to children, youth, and their families, we’re creating new spaces for you to make an immediate investment. The table you choose to sit at, the attitude you arrive with, your motive for participating, the risk you take in sharing, your gentle listening, makes more difference than you know. 

3) We don’t have to succumb to either/or thinking.  It is entirely possible to remain a committed member of a class/group AND also participate in intergenerational spaces of belonging.  Venturing out of your regular class/group, once a month, is healthy and undergirds the priesthood of all believers. What a gift it will be to return to your group the following week, to testify in what God is doing in the life of your church.  We urge you to carve out time, at least once a month, to participate in in one of our new spaces of belonging (Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, and/or Saturdays)

3) Whoever said that what God wants is for any of us to put church at the center of our lives? Jesus certainly never said that. He speaks of himself as God’s Temple, continually moving in the neighborhood.  God wants us to put Christ at the center of our the totality of our lives. What a tremendous opportunity we’ve been given to help families learn to disciple one another so they might share God’s love with those they are actually “doing life with”… on the sidelines of sports fields, on field trips, at work, and all of the gazillion places they find themselves on any given day.

5) And then there’s this…… best news ever…..God is with us AND for us. Drift is inevitable AND God is faithful.  We may have wandered but the Spirit guides. The crisis we’ve brought on ourselves in missional drift brings opportunity for Jesus to help us find our way again.  Our intentional walking in these last two months of the calendar year could very well determine whether or not we thrive in the year that follows. 

We have some amazing kids in the life of this church. Their parents, surrogate parents, and grandparents are also pretty amazing. Don’t even get me started on the newcomers that have only recently found an home in our little corner of the world. Each and every one of us, a child of God, full of holy potential, yet-to-be-discovered wonder, and renewed purpose. Each and every one of us with a part to play.  

We make the road by walking.

Yours in Christ, 
Sterling W. Severns, Pastor

Leadership (2022): Invitation and Challenge

Over the next couple of weeks, the congregation will receive two ballots and 2-3 specific presentations:

BALLOTS = votes on leadership for 2022 and budget for the first half of 2022.

PRESENTATIONS = exploration of the role of Deacon Ministry, exploration of staff structure and possibly a third presentation from building and grounds.

This video provides a helpful primer for discernment.

COME AND SEE: Last Program has concluded. If you missed the programs or want to watch again, please click the links below for the recordings.

These days, so many of us find ourselves looking into the mirror with questions about about our identify, our allegiances, and our belief systems. We’re trying to figure out where we fit into the world and, how we’re supposed to guide the next generation in doing the same. Most of us are challenging the assumptions we’ve previously made of ourselves, the institutions we have called “home,” and oversimplified presumptions about the stories of those that have come before us.

A couple of Sundays ago, Braxton Kemp joined Sterling at the “pulpit,” to share a conversational sermon about blind spots and a mutual longing to see more clearly. 

What a gift it has been to discover something in the world that feels life-giving, as opposed to the familiar weariness and loneliness that so many of us have grown accustomed to in the pandemic.

Here is the recording from the first Come And See on October 20.

Here is the recording from the second Come And See on October 27.

Here is the recording from the third Come And See on November 3.

Here is the recording from the fourth and final Come And See on November 10.

Seeing (again) is life abundant (again).

In October 2021, a small handful of us began a holy conversation, some us physically present in sanctuary at Tabernacle Baptist Church in RVA and others by way of zoom.  As we’ve continued the conversation, some others have joined in and others have stepped out. Each week, those who make a conscious decision to show up continue the conversation and whoever shows up the following week does the same.

  • The conversation begins at at 7 p.m. sharp (EST) and concludes no later than 9 p.m. (EST).

 It’s a beautiful conversation.

It’s a difficult conversation.

It’s a life giving conversation.

If you are unable to attend in person, join us virtually on Zoom.


This isn’t a space for spectating.

This is an engaged space where sharing will be the norm. We don’t intend on asking for deep levels of vulnerable sharing in this space. Anyone looking for a more vulnerable space is encouraged to invite some folks to join you, informally, in the hours or days that follow. We’ll be more than happy to provide some helpful questions to go deeper together.

In turn, this isn’t a space for multi-tasking. 

Virtual and “In Person” participants are expected to be fully present from the moment they step into the space until the moment we say “amen” and step out of the space. If you don’t feel you can commit to full presence, we ask that you wait to join us until you can do so. The only devices that should be “on” during the conversation are those you are using to participate in the conversation. If you can’t make the commitment to fully engage, on any given Wednesday, it’s ok. Work and school deadlines happen. Stress at home happens. Surprises happen. Rest and retreat should happen. Whatever the reason for needing to step out of the conversation, do so with full blessing. Watch the recordings and jump back in when you are ready to be fully present in the space again.

******One caveat here: Some of us struggle with attention issues. If crocheting, knitting, or any form of quiet fidgeting helps you to focus…..by all means fidget away 🙂

This isn’t a space where weekly attendance is expected.

It’s ok if you join us one week and miss the next three. The recordings will be invaluable in preparing you to step back into the space the next go around.  

FYI: There are other spaces where smaller groups of 5-12 people, each with unique covenants, lean into vulnerable sharing and invited accountability. Weekly commitment is an expectation in these spaces as it’s critical in the building and keeping of trust. Should you find yourself looking for that kind of space, reach out to one of the leaders and we’ll go from there. 

The conversation isn’t livestreamed but the recording is shared on the internet.

The invitation to be fully present doesn’t presume full disclosure. This is a public space by design. Please be mindful that anything you share in the conversation is shared on the internet. It’s really important for us to make this space hospitable and accessible to anyone that longs for connection. If you’re seeking to go deeper, share more vulnerably, or share more of the story, we will be more than happy to create a safe space for you to do so.

This as a space where simple answers to complex questions will be rejected.

You should expect to leave the space with some conviction. If we’re going to expect God to receive our honest questions, we should expect God to have some questions for us to consider. This is a space where all questions will be welcomed.

We’re going to lean into exploration of words that most of the western world have little or no use for.

Examples of these words might include: discipleship, mission, sin, evangelism, heaven, hell, etc. If you aren’t familiar with the host church, you might assume that you already know how we’re going define those words. We encourage you to join us in placing aside the assumptions about any one person or group represented in the room.

We will also explore phrases and words that tend to shut conversations down (e.g. white privilege, idolatry, pretty much any word that ends with “…..ism, etc.” If this is going to be an honest conversation, one that leans in holy wonder and expresses a deep longing for transformation, we need to be open to complexity and honest about our blind spots. In Christ, seeing (again) is life abundant (again). Limiting our vocabulary and arriving with preconceived assumptions, will only limit the potential for seeing differently.

This is a space hosted by a local church but created for the Universal Church. 

Whereas, Tabernacle Baptist Church is hosting the space, the conversation is so much bigger than the small congregation that has made a home at the corner Grove and Meadow in Richmond, Virginia. God is guiding all of us to make a road by walking together. Conversational leaders, and conversational partners (FYI – that’s you), will come from multiple contexts, all with unique world views and life experiences. Long story short, the invitation to participate in the conversation goes well beyond any one local church and we’re going to prioritize the inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives in this space. 

This space is designated as “Sanctuary” for all.

Sanctuary is a space where all are made welcome, where each and every one of God’s children come to understand that we are loved as we were made, in all of our beautiful messy complexity. Sanctuary is an active space of hospitality AND transformation alike. Transformation means, “come as you are with the assumption that Christ loves us too much to leave us as we are.”

Expect to be welcomed fully. Expect to be challenged fully.

This isn’t a space for children.

While all adults and youth are invited to join us, it doesnt mean that everyone should join us. This is a space set aside for honest/messy story sharing, full expression of doubts, wide open questioning, and the testifying to revealed wonder along the way. We’re going to lean into the tension that surfaces and we’re going to encourage the embracing of holy mystery. Each of us will need to determine our level of comfort in stepping into this space and each parent needs to determine if their teenager is ready for a conversation with limited boundaries. 

Like us, you’re probably wondering about what needs to be made available for children and youth not-yet-ready for this kind of conversation. A group of leaders are actively engaged in discernment about the next right step in the spiritual and emotional formation of our children and youth. Expect news soon.  Remember, the first critical step in the formation of children and youth begins with the formation of the adults that will lead them.

So there you have it. You’ve been invited and warned 🙂

We really would love for any teenagers and/or adults to join us. It is really important that any and all conversational partners honor the intent of the space.

Our first weekly gathering will take place on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. We will start at 7 p.m. sharp and wrap up no later than 9 p.m.

Show up in person at 1925 Grove Avenue, Richmond, VA 23220 OR virtually.

If you’re driving, you can park for free in the pay lot on Meadow or park in the alley parking lot and/or blacktop behind the building.


A Word from our Pastor: Seeing Again

Jesus, through insight discovered in John’s Gospel, persistently challenges us to acknowledge our blindness but always with an invitation to see (again). If someone were to ask the author of John’s Gospel to define the word “sin”, the author would point to blindness. “Sin”, he might say, “is less about moral failure and more about refusing to see the gift of God’s revelation, standing right there beside you.”

Last Sunday, Braxton and I shared a conversational sermon based on John 9. The story begins with a portrait of one blind person, standing in a room full folks that all believe they possess 20/20 vision. In reality, every last one of them are afflicted with a form of blindness. By the time we reach the end of the story, one of many blind folks in the room receives tangible sight, others are brought to an awareness they are only beginning to see, and then there the others that refuse to acknowledge their affliction. (John 9)

As we continue to reflect and pray on what Jesus is revealing through his encounter with the man born blind and the religious “faithful” (Disciples of Jesus. Pharisees, etc.)

  • How would you know that Jesus is present with you? Do you “see” Jesus in your life? If so, would you feel comfortable sharing this with your small group, Sunday School Class, circle of trusted friends, etc? In a similar light (bad pun….sorry), what if you’re struggling to see Jesus? Would you feel comfortable sharing this with your small group, Sunday School Class, or circle of friends? What might happen if you took the risk in sharing? If you’re not comfortable talking about this with “your people”, what is it about the culture of your trusted circle that fuels the hesitancy to share?

  • Where are your spiritual blind spots? Can you name the source(s) of the blind spots? Is there a member of your faith community, or even a new friend, you might be willing to explore the topic with? What risks are involved in sharing? What is at risk in not taking this risk?

  • When/if we come to acknowledge our blindspots, however that happens, how do we push past the guilt and shame that so often surfaces in that process?

  • Is it possible that seeing Jesus first gives us the unique ability to see others through his eyes? If that’s possible, if we see people through the eyes of Jesus, how might this new way of seeing transform the destructive spiral we’re all experiencing in society as we know it? What’s at risk if we continue to walk in the blindness?

  • As you deliberately engage with strangers and friends alike, what is Jesus revealing to you….about yourself, about your assumptions of others, about the nature of our hope in God’s promise to bring the Kingdom of Heaven?

  • Is it worth the risk in sharing aloud what Jesus has revealed through newfound sight…..with a family member? with a co-worker? with a new friend? What is at risk in the refusal to share? What would the fruit of transformation look like, in your own life, if you leaned into a relationship based deliberately on spiritual sight/formation?

  • Can you think of someone that is clearly experiencing the presence of Christ in their lives? If so, is it worth the risk in setting up a time and asking them to share what they’re seeing?

May we have the courage and wisdom to ask for help in the discovery of our blind spots, and the wherewithal to forge relationships with others that long to see (again). May we take the risk in testifying with humility, “I don’t know…..but what I do know is this….I was blind but now I see“.

Finding the way…

We’re in John 14:2-6, the very beginning of Jesus’ farewell discourse. Jesus informs the Disciples that he’s leaving soon, to prepare a place for them. He promises to return so that he might travel with them back to that place. He wraps up the surprising news with a word of confidence, “It’s a good thing you all know how to get to the place where I’m going”.

Um”, Thomas says, “I’m pretty sure that none of us know how to get to the place you’re talking about. How could we when you haven’t given us the address?” Thomas’ response reminds me of something Yogi Berra once said, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” Sounds about right.

About 15 years ago, a group of folks at Tabernacle were standing together around carousel #4, in the baggage claim area at RIC. Back in those days it wasn’t uncommon to find a group of us standing in that space, often well after midnight. The vast majority of us had only travelled the short distance from our front door to the Richmond airport. However, the familiy of five that we greeted on this particular evening travelled a much greater distance, first fleeing for their lives from the Burmese Army and more recently on a 72+ hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to Richmond, Virginia.

It took less than twenty seconds for the baggage handlers to place the family’s earthly possessions onto the carousel. Everything that family owned fit into one small suitcase and two plastic bags. Back in those days, there wasn’t a single identified interpreter in Richmond that could speak both English and Burmese. Fortunately, some of the members of our expanding greeting party included brothers and sisters from the Karen ethnic group. All of them were refugees and most of them had been greeted at the airport, only a few short weeks ago, by the very people they were now guiding in the welcoming of others.

Not even the case worker could understand the words that were exchanged and none of the greeters spoke enough English to interpret their own words back to us. It mattered not, the native English speakers didn’t need to understand the specific words in order to understand what was being conveyed. The visual expression on the exhausted faces of those two parents interpreted the message they had received: words of hope, words of comfort, words of welcome. The limitations of language cannot conceal a peace that surpasses all understanding. By the grace of God they had found the way and in the mysterious movement of the Spirit we were all being transformed.

Back in a different day, I used to read the 13th and 14th chapters of John‘s Gospel differently. When Jesus tells the Disciples that he is The Way, I made assumptions that haven’t stood the test of time. Back then, I was more of a literalist and believed that Jesus’ words validated a viewpoint of exclusivity. I used to interpret Jesus’ words, “you know the way to the place I am going” to validate assumptions that haven’t held true in the long journey of faith. Had GPS technology existed back in the day, I would likely have used it as a metaphor for a Biblical worldview, “The Bible provides the turn-by-turn directions anyone needs to find their way. It’s as simple as believing the literal words and genuinely praying for those that don’t have the wisdom to do the same.” Humility, ushered in through my failure along the way and the unmerited grace that has been offered, has changed my thinking.

In hindsight, as I look back to those midnight encounters in baggage claim, the focal point of the memories no longer center on a group of strangers creatively communicating “welcome” through smiles, hand gestures, and helpfulness. The great truth of the memories no longer resides with a group of refugees finding their way to a new home and a circle of strangers helping them make a place to call home. That interpretation of the story is oversimplified and hasn’t stood the test of time. Humility, gratitude, grief, and grace have changed my thinking. These days, as I look back and remember, the first thing I see is the face of Jesus, bringing a group of people together in the cover of darkness, ALL of them refugees, ALL of them needing to find their place again. Some of them were certainly more aware of the need than others. Regardless, he knew what we needed and he made a way. Was it messy? Absolutely. Were we pretty confused? Absolutely. Did scripture validate and educate us in how to walk differently? Absolutely. Did the Spirit continually surprise us as we walked with Jesus together? No doubt about it.

In these days of confusion, grief, and weariness, we’re finding hope in our remembering. We’re finding resilience in the sacred stories of our forebearers and even in the recollection of our sacred memories . We’re also really struggling with connection with one another and the world around us. I’m guessing that a lot of us find ourselves standing in the place where Thomas once stood. It’s a familiar place, this place of lostness. Disciples of Jesus are supposed to know the way but we can’t seem to find it.

With apologies to Yogi, you’ve got to be careful you don’t assume you know where you’re going, because you may actually get there….only to find it’s not the place you thought it would be. Your way, my way, our way, will never lead us to the place we long to be. The memories shared in scripture, and the sacred stories we’ve experienced in our own lives, all point to the place Jesus speaks of. He calls that place the Kingdom of God.

Our thoughts on exclusivity and certainty have not stood the test of time. However, the same can’t be said of our Savior. His nature is revealed in scripture. His love is evident in our messy stories and his Mission continues to unfold through the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit.

What revelations await for the refugees, one and all? Will we find our place again? According to the Gospel of John…..there is one WAY to find out.

Making Adjustments, A Word from our Pastor

It’s hard to believe we’re 40+ days into this wilderness. I continue to be inspired by the resilience of the church and the steady in-breaking of love in this chaos. When all of this first started, in our little corner of the world, none of us knew what to expect. In many ways, we still don’t. I made a conscious decision in the first couple of days to pack up the art on my office walls, alongside a plethora of books, audio/visual cables, and office furniture. My office at church looks like it’s been ransacked and my make-shift office at home is a feeble replacement. I remember telling the staff on that “first” Sunday, 

“We should not assume that we’re going to be working from our offices for the foreseeable future. Maybe we’ll be back to lead worship in the Sanctuary in the week ahead….maybe not? We should be prepared to dock the ship and embark for an unknown period of time.”

Just before leaving that day, I spent the better part of an hour filming the empty building while praying for the people that have called it “home” in innumerable capacities. 

Admittedly, I am really struggling with even the limited time I’m spending in our building. Our old ship at Grove and Meadow feels hauntingly quiet and undeniably lonely. We’re doing our best to conserve energy/resources. Thus, the majority of the space is dim. The majority of the doors are closed, now protecting disinfected rooms prepared for ministry. When I arrive early on Sunday mornings I really struggle with a profound sense of loneliness and palpable grief. I miss “us”. I miss the sound of our children and youth laughing in the hallway. I miss the beautiful chaos of Wednesday night suppers and the sound of music echoing in virtually every corridor. I miss seeing and hearing our teachers guiding children to lunch and the contagious laughter on the playground. I miss the beautiful sight of you all greeting one another before and after worship. I miss the sound of hearing the dialects of numerous Burma-rooted languages. I miss eye contact. I miss “us”. 

Lately, I find myself spending a lot of time sitting in front of my blank computer screen, praying for the Holy Spirit to guide me in determining what visuals to use in the facilitation of our current iteration of worship. We’re blessed beyond measure to have hundreds of hours of video footage and thousands of photographs to draw from. The cache of visuals we’ve collected through the years help remind us of our core values, and remember the ways God has guided us through each chapter of our 130+ year old story. 

Over these 40+ days of wilderness, I’ve found myself continually drawn to the footage I shot on that “first” Sunday after our dispersement. At first, I think I was drawn to it because it validated my sadness. It still does. That said, I continually find myself going back to the footage for a different reason. I’m noticing things that I hadn’t noticed before. You know, that is the tender gift of walking in darkness. Our eyes adjust, and we are given an opportunity to see everything with new perspective. Like the lens of the camera, the pupils in our eyes enlarge in dim light. God made us this way….to allow for more light to come in. 

I encourage you to take a look at this video again. 

  • NOTICE how the dimness at one end of the corridor transforms our understanding of light at the opposite end. The closer we move toward the light, the more we find ourselves adjusting to the emergence of Easter. 
  • NOTICE how the dimness, in the hallway that displays our family photos, accentuates the exit signs that hang directly above our photographs. The previously invisible intimation now states the obvious. The name tags underneath the exit signs are created to help us connect with ONE ANOTHER when we come INTO the building. And yet, in this unique moment they now serve as reminders of Disciples having exited the building, sharing the light of Christ in a world that desperately needs guidance in darkness. 
  • NOTICE the juxtaposition. We see our beloved sanctuary filled with empty pews. The footage makes me long for us to all be together again. However, we also see visual testimonies of God at work in this present moment and, through it, we are reminded that our God is a creative God that always makes a way. Isn’t it strange? Logic would tell us that we’re alone and yet we know that we are not alone. 
  • NOTICE now light pours into the darkened sanctuary when the doors at the threshold are barely even opened. I’m struck by the pattern of light temporarily etched onto the tattered carpet. It feels hopeful. I feels hope-filled. It feels promising. 

Sisters and brothers, I continue to feel the sadness of our physical separation. 

Sisters and brothers, I continue to feel grateful that God has given us each other. 

May Christ continue to help our eyes make the necessary adjustments as we were born for such a time as this. 


******Thank you Anna Tuckwiller, for singing the story!

LOVE GOD. LOVE NEIGHBOR. A significant update on the COVID-19 Situation.

A significant update on the COVID-19 Situation. 

We have decided to cancel all in-person church events for the remainder of March. Our concern is the wellbeing of the city and the most vulnerable among us. Our hope is that keeping a social distance for this short time will help the community by slowing the spread of the virus.

We want to use our facilities to serve our neighbors. In this instance, one of the best ways we can offer care is to sacrifice our time together in those facilities. Of course, we will also be looking for opportunities to use the facilities in unique ways, should something come to our attention. We will be using technology creatively to worship, remain connected, mobilize care, and meet together. 

We encourage you to carve out 20 minutes to watch this video. The content of the recording offers information about how we came to this decision, what to expect in the next few days, and opportunities we’re praying about. 

Please visit www.tbcrichmond.org for a quick Q&A about this weekend. 

Our free Church App, and the website, are your best source of up-to-date information. 


"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your God in heaven."

Matthew 5:14-16