Rock Spring Presbyterian Church at 1824 Piedmont Ave NE Atlanta has been presenting a live nativity scene in the days directly preceding Christmas continuously for over 60 years. 2017 makes it 64 years in a row, the longest continuous Live Nativity in Atlanta history. On Saturday December 23rd the Live Nativity begins at 6:30pm and goes on (in half hour shifts) until 8:00pm. On Sunday December 24th, Christmas Eve, the Live Nativity starts at 6:30pm and goes 'til 8:30pm. The evening concludes with a candlelight communion Christmas eve worship service in the beautiful historic sanctuary beginning at 8:45pm.
Early each December the stable is erected in the front yard of the church directly across from Piedmont Heights neighborhood Fat Matt's Rib Shack. A split rail fence encloses the area around the stable where the live animals will be during the scene (usually sheep, goats and a donkey).During the Live Nativity Scene live costumed volunteers come out to the stable and play their parts (shepherds, kings, Mary, Joseph, Angel) as recorded music is played and scripture depicting the birth narrative of Jesus is read. This scene is repeated in half hour shifts and at the end of each scene the people viewing the Live Nativity are invited inside the church for festive food, hot drinks, fellowship and music in fellowship hall.
This Atlanta Christmas tradition is free and open to the public. Parking is at the back of the church. In addition to the Live Nativity outside and food and festivities in Fellowship Hall inside, the church sanctuary will be also be open during the Live Nativity with guided tours available. As Barbara Wright Cheshire says in her book The Spirit of Rock Spring, "It [The Live Nativity Scene] is a heart-felt gift of love from Rock Spring Presbyterian Church to the community."
New day and time for Rock Spring's Bluegrass Gospel Service
Starting Thursday evening December 7th and weekly thereafter sounds of Bluegrass will ring from the Loudermilk building behind the main building of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church at 1824 Piedmont Ave NE. Begun about 5 years ago, this casual service was on Sunday mornings and now after a short hiatus it is back in the saddle but now on Thursday evenings from 7:30pm-8:15pm. It features bluegrass music, scripture and prayer and includes rousing sing a longs, traditional tunes and house made favorites.
With couches and chairs instead of pews and an overall casual atmosphere Gospel at the Rock (GATR) offers a discussion oriented approach to scripture, encourages acting on one's faith, and praises our creator through music that can quicken anyone's pulse.
If you are curious about Christianity but are intimidated by imagines of churches in the media (judgmental, rigid, scary) come visit Gospel at the Rock. We are a welcoming group of bluegrass loving musicians and friends who enjoy music, one another and have the love of Christ in our hearts.
If you are already a Christian and want to experience a different, more casual, faith community, you are welcome too.
Last night Rock Spring held a candlelight vigil for peace and unity. A week after the mass shooting at a church in a small community outside San Antonio Texas we opened our sanctuary doors to our Piedmont Heights community and congregation for a time of lamenting and grieving those killed through acts of violence and also a time to contemplate peace in the world and in ourselves.
Those present could light a candle for people and situations that are affected by violence. I found myself lighting candles for and thinking about and grieving for those of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs and for those of Emanual AME church in Charleston, SC. I lit candles for people affected by domestic violence and targeted by sexual predators. I lit candles for those people whose stories of violence I don't know. I lit candles for those affected by violence caused by forces of nature: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis...
We were offered a handout out to guide of meditations (see below) and it lead me to redirect my thoughts after grieving to consider the concept of peace and to inventory where I find it in myself and in my life. It challenged me to be open to how I might become more of an "instrument of peace" for myself and others.
If you missed our candlelight vigil consider having one of your own, at home. Use the rubric below.
A Vigil is a time set apart for lamenting and grief and also for watching and waiting.
In a quiet setting:
Heresy. Other than speaking of historical, and often ancient controversies, I have not used this word. I have spoken of the Declaration of Barmen, and the Belhar Confession, both of which address contemporary heresies of segregation and racial hatred in Nazi-era Germany and Apartheid-era South Africa, but I have not discussed religious expressions as heresy regarding current events at any time in my ministry.
What follows is a more refined statement of my unrehearsed words about the abhorrent displays of racism in Charlottesville, VA.
This is not a statement of faith from the members of the church nor their elected leaders, called the Session and elders. This is my pastoral discourse about white supremacy and white nationalism.
Yesterday, Sunday, August 13, 2017, with gratitude of the call to the preaching ministry of this particular church, I prayerfully waded into deep waters with many other white pastors across this nation, and declared to our mostly white congregants that
White Supremacy, White Nationalism, and the pursuit of white race based policies promulgated by people in the name of Christianity are heresies.
They are not faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the grace and love of God for God’s beloved creation, nor the ongoing work of reconciliation in the Holy Spirit. The Triune God of Christian faith is not, I repeat, not compatible with any form of differentiation that pits “white against black” and claims or enforces any form of superiority for whites. To believe in white supremacy is to believe in an idol and to reject our God.
We are all one in Jesus Christ our Lord who teaches us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no love in demeaning another person, in word or action, for the color of their skin. There is nothing inherently good about classifying oneself as being white, and nothing inherently bad in being classified as black.
From Genesis and God’s idea to create humankind in the image of the divine and Holy One, to the ministry of Christ that reconciled all divisions between peoples into one new human being, to the birth of a religion called Christianity that recognized no differences between “Jew and Greek” and claimed one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, the witness of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is for our common inheritance as beloved children of God, without distinction.
However, there are privileges associated with whiteness in America that create an unequal and unjust system of socioeconomic power and freedom suggesting a special blessing upon white people. This is a false blessing. It is not an endowment by our Creator. The advantages have occurred due to inequality begun in this nation with the enslavement and domination of a subjected, kidnapped, and imprisoned people from the nations of Africa. Chained to their owners, they were subjected to patriarchal religious oppression by their white slave masters and clergy. Yet, the descendants of these slaves who came to believe in Christ have much to offer whites just as Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, came to rescue the Israelite people of ancient times. If white people will listen and learn.
For white Christians, some faithful responses to the hatred, bigotry, and idolatry of white supremacy is to actively work toward racial reconciliation and communion, to actively understand the nature of racism and its roots in American society, to actively uncover one’s own biases and advantages with an eye toward repairing the breech that prevents black and African-American people from being able to achieve the same positive outcomes from the same level of opportunity and efforts.
The best chance for success in any of these avenues is in conversation, in truth-telling, in the painful honest dialogue between white and black citizens. Go, learn, grow.
Or come to Rock Spring Presbyterian and grow with us.
This week we will prayerfully consider the 3 words of our goal: Justice, Mercy, and Humility (faithfulness), and the 4 words I introduced as a posture for achieving those: Welcome, Authenticity, Laughter, Love (building the WALL).