Archive for the ‘Churches’ Category

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Observing Ascension Day at The Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes

Today is Ascension Day, a Christian celebration day commemorating Jesus’s ascension into heaven.  According to the Bible, Christ met several times with his disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out his teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day he took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as he ascended to heaven.  Therefore, Ascension Day occurs ten days before Pentecost and is observed on the 40th day of Easter, which always falls on a Thursday.  However, some churches, particularly in the United States, celebrate it on the following Sunday.

In observance of Ascension Day, on this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, located at 1215 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in the Downtown neighborhood of northwest D.C.

The origin of the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes dates back to May 7, 1844, when several people who had previously attended services at nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square met to discuss establishing their own parish.  After approval from the diocese, the territory of St. John’s was split between the two churches, formally establishing the Church of the Ascension on March 1, 1845.

After the donation of land on H Street, between 9th and 10th streets, by Parishioner Martha Burnes Van Ness, a prominent local socialite and the wife of banker and future D.C. Mayor John Peter Van Ness, the cornerstone was laid for the church’s new home on September 5, 1844.  Construction of a the Gothic Revival brick building was complete enough to use by December 1844, and the first services were held on December 14th.

During the Civil War there were disagreements within the church. with some parishioners as well as clergy sympathizing with the Confederacy while others were Unionists.  After one such disagreement in which the parish’s bishop asked the church to pray and thank God for recent Union victories and the church’s rector refused, Washington’s Provost Marshall notified the church that the authorities would assume control of the church to prevent a disturbance.  The Church of the Ascension then became a military hospital to house casualties from the war, as did Church of the Epiphany, and Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

During the subsequent war years after their church was seized by the government, the parish was without a home. The problem was solved by member William Corcoran, a prominent banker and partner in the firm of Corcoran and Riggs, later known as Riggs Bank. Corcoran offered the use of a building he owned on H Street, between 13th and 14th Streets.  The congregation met there, and would not return to its permanent home until after the conclusion of the war more than three years later.

Within a short period of time after the congregations return to the church, the structure proved too small and not grand enough for what was now one of the most affluent areas of the city.  So after much debate, church leaders decided to erect a new structure. William Corcoran donated the site at the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 12th Street where the church continues to be located, as well as approximately half of the $205,000 construction costs.

The cornerstone for what is still the church’s current building was subsequently laid on June 9, 1874.  The building is constructed of white marble quarried near Cockeysville, Maryland, with accents of pink Ohio sandstone.  Designed in the Victorian Gothic style, it reaches a height of 74 feet with a 190-foot tower and spire that was visible across much of the city at the time it was built.

After World War I, membership at the Church of the Ascension began to decline, and in 1925 the congregation merged with nearby St. Stephen’s Church to help stabilize the parish.  This worked briefly until the onset of the Great Depression, when a downturn began that lasted through 1947, when the diocese considered selling the building to another congregation.  It was then that the Vestry received a proposal from St. Agnes Episcopal Church to merge.  It accepted and adopted its present name, under which its diverse, urban congregation continues as an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

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Today’s 24th Annual Blue Mass and Procession

During today’s bike ride I rode to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to attend the 24th annual Blue Mass, which is an annual mass celebrated as an opportunity for the community to show gratitude to first responders and their families.  Celebrated each year by the Catholic Church, the Blue Mass is similar to the Red Mass, a service held to honor law enforcement officers and others in the public safety field who died in the line of duty during the past year, and to pray for the safety in the coming year of those still serving.  Here in D.C., the service is usually held shortly before the beginning of National Police Week

Located at 619 10th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, St. Patrick’s is the oldest parish in the national capitol city.  It was founded in 1794 to minister to the needs of the stonemasons building the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, and continues to serve the needs of downtown D.C. through daily Mass and confession, as well as adult education and cultural activities.

Before the beginning of the Mass, hundreds of law enforcement officers and public safety officials gather outside for the solemn processional into the church. Units from a variety of Federal, state, and local jurisdictions from the D.C. Metropolitan Area and around the country gather in official formation to pass under a huge American flag proudly hung over the street by two fire ladder trucks. Also gathered outside are officers on horseback, as well as bagpipe and drum corps units.

Inside the church, the principal celebrant and homilist again this year was His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. The Blue Mass included A Police Officers’ Prayer to Saint Michael, who as the Archangel of battle and defender of Heaven, is said to be the Patron Saint of policemen.

The police officers’ prayer to St. Michael is as follows:  “Dear Saint Michael, Your name means, “Who is Like a God”, and it indicates that You remained faithful when others rebelled against God. Help the police officers of our day who strive to stem the rebellion and evil that are rampant on all sides. Keep them faithful to their God as well as to their country and their fellow human beings.  Amen.”  The Mass also included the solemn playing of “Taps” in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past year.

Today’s Blue Mass was a powerful reminder of that working in the public safety field is not only extremely difficult and dangerous, but also involves a willingness to sacrifice for others, even if they don’t appreciate it.

 

The Procession Leading Into the Church for Mass

 

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The Church of Two Worlds

On this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the building that houses one of the more unusual churches in the city, The Church of Two Worlds.  The church was founded in 1936 by the Rev. H. Gordon Burroughs.  Initially the church met all over the city, holding services in hotel banquet rooms and, for a time, even at the French Embassy.  In 1960 it bought the building where it currently resides, which was built in 1906 as a Methodist church, and then was the home of the Bible Presbyterian Church of Washington.

But what makes the church different is not its building.  The building, located at 3038 Q Street (MAPin northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, has a tan brick exterior, stained glass windows, and large wooden doors that together give it the appearance of a typical local church.

What makes The Church of Two Worlds unusual is that it practices Spiritualism, whose philosophy holds to the doctrine that the spirit exists distinct from matter.  Now that may not be all that different from many other churches.  But where it begins to become unusual in comparison to most other churches is that one of Spiritualism’s goals is to prove the continuity of life by contacting the spirits of the dead, or “discarnate humans”, who they believe continue to maintain their individuality and personality after the change we know as death, and have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living.

Further, adherents of Spiritualism, also known as Spiritists or adherents of Spiritism, believe the spirit world is not as a static place, but one in which spirits continue to evolve and advance beyond where they were in this world.  And because they believe that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits are more advanced than humans, they believe that spirits can provide followers with useful and practical knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as offer insights into the nature of God, whom they often refer to as Infinite Intelligence.

Other beliefs or practices of Spiritualism include belief in the power of their faith to cure diseases, healing with crystals or energy, and that healing can be helped by meditating on chakras.  They also believe in readings and past-life regressions, and that all reality is spiritual, not material.

On a lesser scale, The Church of Two Worlds is different from many other churches in that it’s members can sleep in on Sundays.  But they may have a scheduling conflict during football season.  They meet on Sundays, but not until 2:00pm , when activities begin with ministers conducting a healing service.  Then at 2:30 p.m. a teaching service begins, in which ministers provide information and topics such as communication with spirits, meditation, prayer, and mediumship.  A message service then begins, which includes the availability of mediums who give messages from spirits to anyone who wants one.  This is followed by food and fellowship in the church’s Fellowship Hall.

Some famous Spiritists include author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, magician Harry Houdini, and the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.  So if for no other reason, it might be interesting to visit The Church of Two Worlds on a Sunday afternoon to get a glimpse inside the mind of Sherlock Holmes, learn some of Houdini’s tricks, or find out what Hippocrates thinks about modern medicine.

    
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In Memorium

During today’s lunchtime ride as I was passing by Luther Place Memorial Church, located at in Thomas Circle, a number of handmade signs caught my attention. So, of course, I stopped to take a closer look and find out more.

The signs contained only names, with no other information at all. So later after my ride I Googled one of the names, but with no results. So I tried Googling a few of the names together. It was then that I discovered that the names were those of individuals in D.C. who passed away last year and were homeless at the time of their deaths. There were 45 deaths in 2017 of homeless people who lived here in the nation’s capital.

As I thought about those people, I also thought about another death that occurred earlier this week, that of the Reverend Billy Graham. Rev. Graham was 99 years old, and passed away peacefully in the long-time family home in Montreat, North Carolina, where he and his wife, Ruth, raised their children. He had plenty of food to eat, and a warm bed in which to sleep. And he was surrounded by and taken care of by his family in his final years since retiring. And people all over the world grieved his death, many having heard about it through the worldwide news coverage of his passing.

In stark contrast to the Rev. Graham’s death, the deaths of our homeless neighbors here in D.C. occurred under very different circumstances. These men and women often had little to no food to eat, no warm bed in which to sleep, and no family members to care for them. They even suffered the same indignity in death as they did in their final days or years of this life, that of not having a home.

Their names were Chris Mason, Darius Duncan, Duane “Joey” Henderson, Galaxina Robinson, James King, Lisa Jennings, Mark Jenkins, Michael Kelley, Michael Dunne, “MS”, Mweane Sikuzote, Nick, Norman Anders, Joseph Watkins, Wilkie “Bill” Woodard, as well as thirty additional unnamed city residents. And very few people knew about them, in life or in death.

And sadly, these neighbors’ deaths while homeless are from just 2017. There were 51 others the previous year, and 41 more the year before that. As this information sunk in, it made me question how in the capital of the richest nation in the world, a progressive city that has declared itself to be a human rights city, this can continue to occur. But I don’t have the answer to that anymore than I have the answer to preventing school shootings like the one that occurred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

While I don’t have the answers to these problems, I think they are caused by or the side effects of the same thing – the fact that evil exists in this world. And even if there isn’t a solution to the problem of evil, an improvement can occur. But for that to happen we each must try to recognize the different ways in which evil manifests itself, whether it be through commission or omission, and then vigilantly oppose it wherever and whenever we see it.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church

On this lunchtime bike ride I saw some new and unusual-looking banners hanging on a fence as I was riding past St. Thomas Episcopal Church, located at the corner of 18th and Church Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood.  So naturally I stopped to get a closer look, and find out what I could about them.

There are currently four banners on the fence at the construction site where the historic church is being rebuilt.  Each of them has an image of Christ doing a facepalm, a gesture in which the palm of one’s hand is brought to one’s face as an expression of disbelief, shame, or exasperation.  Each banner also includes a political message intended to criticize the conservative agenda of President Donald Trump.

One banner reads, “Yes, science is real,” while another states, “What is it with America and guns.”  The other two banners seem more personal.  The third reads, “I never said I hated anyone.”  But the banner that is grabbing the most attention seems more political than issues-driven and is aimed at the President himself.  It reads, “The president said what?”

The church’s Priest-in-Charge, The Reverend Alex Dyer, said they were put up to send a message.  “We wanted to add a new voice,” he said, adding, “One voice that’s been perhaps too silent is the progressive Christian voice.”  Personally, I would expand that to the voices of all Christians.

Beyond turning heads and raising eyebrows of passersby, the banners started to gain international attention when the D.C. correspondent for the Toronto Star newspaper, David Dale, tweeted a photo of the banners with the message, “How churches advertise in Washington, apparently.”  Since the tweet, the banners have continued to gain attention on Twitter and other social media.

As news of the banners has spread the church has received some negative Emails and feedback about them.  The Reverend Dyers has said, “I know there are Christians out there who are definitely in line with what our president is doing, but there is also a voice in Christianity that says this is not in line and this is not okay.”  So according to the reverend, there is no chance they will take the banners down.

In fact, he not only plans to add more banners in the future, but starting this past weekend the church began selling “Faithpalm Jesus” merchandise, including t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, magnets, yard signs, and more.

 

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New School Baptist Church

I almost always go for an extended bike ride on long holiday weekends.  And although this weekend was not a long one, when it’s February and the temperature is in the upper 70’s here in the D.C. area it’s impossible to stay inside.  So I took one of my recumbent bikes and went for a long, leisurely ride this weekend.  And during the ride I happened upon the historic site of the New School Baptist Church, which is located along The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail at 15557 Cardinal Drive (MAP) in Dale City, Prince William County, Virginia.

According to the historic marker it was the site where slaves from plantations in the area “gathered between 1861 and 1865.  They built a brush arbor church, worshipped God and became a faithful congregation.  On December 5, 1881, Reverend John L. Bell and four other church leaders purchased one acre of this land for eleven dollars and called themselves the New School Baptist church.  George W. Thomas helped erect a wooden, steepled church which was renamed Neabsco Baptist Church.  The building was used also to educate children of former slaves and free persons of color.  This church has undergone two renovations.  Hand-hewn timbers below the flooring of the present church are silent reminders of the toll of many persons who held a dream during troubled times.”

While I was there I also ventured behind the church where the church’s historic cemetery is located.  There are headstones there that are so old that the names and dates are worn away.  The cemetery also proudly has the grave of a World War I veteran, Owen Thomas, whose family members still attend the church.

Neabsco Baptist Church has undergone many changes throughout its history and is about to undergo another major change.  On six acres of recently-purchased land adjacent to the existing church building they are curretly building a new and much larger sanctuary to accommodate its growing and dynamic congregation.  Even with its long history it’s pastor, Pastor Joshua Speights, Jr., feels some of the best days for the church are still ahead.  So it appears that the 156 year-old church will continue to make history well into the future.

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Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church

Whenever I’ve been anywhere near the Southwest Waterfront during one of my middle of the day bike rides, I have been able to hear church bells ringing out at noon.  So on this ride I decided to track down the source.  As a result, I ended up at Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church, which is a Roman Catholic and Dominican parish, located in D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront neighborhood at 630 E Street (MAP), which is adjacent to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, and just two blocks south of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. 

The parish of Saint Dominic was first established in 1852 under the care of the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the “Dominicans.”  Two years later, in March of 1854, the original parish church was dedicated during the feast of St. Joseph, the patron of the province of Dominicans serving St. Dominic’s parish.  A decade later, just months after the conclusion of the Civil War, the cornerstone was laid for a new church building, designed by the now famous architect, Patrick Charles Keely, who designed nearly 600 churches and hundreds of other institutional buildings for the Roman Catholic Church or Roman Catholic patrons in the eastern United States and Canada.  The new and larger English Gothic church was dedicated in 1875, and it is that church that remains today.

The outside of the church building looks much like it did when it was originally built.  But the inside of the church is very different,  And the neighborhood and surrounding area where it is located is also unlike it was.

On March 12, 1885, a fire destroyed the entire interior of the Saint Dominic’s.  But the church’s interior was restored thanks to fund raising efforts of Catholic and Protestants alike.  As part of the parish’s new interior, a Hilborne Roosevelt Organ was installed.  Today it is one of the few surviving organs made by the cousins of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the sound quality remains largely unchanged since its installation.  Although no photographs of the original interior are known to exist, it is said that the new interior is even more beautiful than the original.

The area surrounding the parish has changed even more than its interior.  In 1954 much of Southwest D.C. was demolished and rebuilt in accordance with the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1950.  The convent, school, and original priory which were originally part of the parish were demolished to make room for the Southwest Freeway and frontage road.  The main church building itself, however, was protected and saved as a result of an official act of Congress.  During the intervening years since the church was built, everything else in the neighborhood has changed too, either being developed or torn down and replaced with large buildings housing either government offices, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters, or private businesses such as the Hyatt Place DC/National Mall Hotel.

Hopefully the parish bell tower’s large bronze bell, which was installed in March of 1889 and has been ringing each day for the past 127 years, will continue to draw people like me to experience this unique and beautiful church, which remains consistent in the midst of change.

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Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church

On this lunchtime bike ride I went back to Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church.  It located at 1908 North Capitol Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, and is situated on hill next to a bridge where T Street passes over North Capitol Street.  I say I went “back” to the church because although it’s been many years, I have been there before.  My first (and current) wife and I were married there almost two decades ago, and this was the first time I’ve been back since.

Saint Martin’s Church was built in phases over time, and embraces an architecturally eclectic mix of neo-classical Greek and Roman styles. Beginning in 1902, a parish hall was constructed to serve the church, which was established the previous year. The original parish hall remains, and now serves as a community center. As the church continued to grow, a basement church was built on the corner of North Capital and T streets in 1913, and the main church was eventually added in 1939.

Martin of Tours was born in in Savaria in the Diocese of Pannonia, in what is now Szombathely, Hungary. Born of pagan parents, his father was a senior officer in the Roman Army who was later stationed at what was known as Ticinum, now Pavia, in northern Italy, where Martin spent much of his childhood. At the age of ten he attended the Christian church against the wishes of his parents, and became a catechumen. As the son of a veteran he was forced to serve in the Roman Army beginning at the age of 15. Then at the age of 18, while still in the Roman Army, he was baptised. This would eventually lead to a conflict of conscience and, at the age of 23, Martin found his military duty incompatible with his adopted Christian faith. He refused a war bonus and told his commander: “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” After great difficulties, he was discharged.

After living as a Catholic for some time, Martin traveled to meet Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, a theologian who would later also be canonized a saint. Martin’s spirituality and dedication to the faith impressed the bishop, who asked the former soldier to return to his diocese after a planned journey back to Hungary to visit his parents. While visiting them, Martin persuaded his mother, though not his father, to join the Church.

Martin became be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers, and was ordained an exorcist. He then became a monk, living first at Milan. Later, he moved to a small island named Gallinaria, now Isola d’Albenga, in the Ligurian Sea, where he lived the solitary life of a hermit. Eventually Martin returned to France and established what may have been the first French monastery near Poitiers. He lived there for the next decade, forming his disciples and preaching throughout the countryside. It was after this time that the people of Tours demanded that Martin become their bishop. A story was devised of a sick person at the church in Tours who was in need of Martin’s assistance. The ruse worked in bringing Martin to the church, where despite the deception he reluctantly allowed himself to be consecrated bishop.

After his appointed as Bishop, Martin continued to live as a monk, dressing plainly and owning no personal possessions. In fact, throughout the rest of his life Martin continued to live an austere life focused on the care of souls. In this same spirit of sacrifice, he traveled extensively as a missionary to places where Christianity was as yet barely known.

During his lifetime, Martin acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, and he was one of the first nonmartyrs to be publicly venerated as a saint.  Saint Martin of Tours has historically been among the most recognizable and beloved saints in the history of Europe.

I enjoyed learning more about the church and the saint after whom it was named as a result of this ride.  But even more, I enjoyed seeing the inside of the church again after so many years.  And it is exactly how I remembered it.

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Street Church

A short time back during one of my lunchtime bike rides I found myself in Franklin Square Park (MAP) enjoying some take-out from a favorite downtown eatery located across the street from the park, Soho Café & Market.  It was a particularly warm day and, as I was enjoying some cold pasta salad, I watched a group of people who were gathered near the fountain situated in the main plaza in the middle of the park.  After watching them for a while I figured out what the gathering was.  So I chose to join them.

The group of people turned out to be a congregation.  And the gathering was a “Street Church” service, which is an outreach and social justice ministry of the Church of the Epiphany.  I had previously visited and wrote about the church in this blog.  And I even knew about the Street Church ministry.  But attending the service that day was the first time I got to experience it for myself.

Street Church takes place in the park every Tuesday, from 1:00pm to 1:30pm.  The service, which is part of the Ecclesia Ministries network which began with Common Cathedral in Boston, includes singing, prayer, participative preaching, and the administration of the Eucharist.  The congregation usually includes approximately 30 to 50 downtown poor, as well as church volunteers and other various visitors and passersby, like me.  The mission of Street Church is to build a diverse and inclusive community, worship as one, and give and receive the love of Christ.

Street Church’s mission also includes feeding the hungry.  So the service is followed by lunch in the park, consisting of sandwiches and lunches assembled by a group of volunteers in the church’s kitchen.  This seems particularly relevant to me because it reminds me of something one of my theology professors back in college used to say.  I remember him saying, “It’s more difficult to feed someone’s soul when that person does not have enough food to feed their body.”

Not only did I enjoy my first experience at Street Church, it also came at a very meaningful time for me.  At the end of the service, the priest invited people to come forward to an area near one of the park’s gigantic trees if they wished to receive a healing prayer.  And it just so happened to be the area was where I already was standing.  Then, as she very politely began to ask me to make room for those who were going to be coming forward, I told her that I was there to pray with her.  I told her how I had been diagnosed with cancer last fall, and how I had been to my oncologist a few days prior for a follow up, and that I was a little anxious about the results I was scheduled to receive the next day.  So we prayed together before I left.  And I am now happy to be able to report that I remain cancer free.

I have gone back to Street Church a few times since that first encounter.  And I plan to continue to attend when I am able to.  Someday soon I would also like to join in with their regular volunteers in the Epiphany kitchen and help prepare the lunches brought to and served in the park.  In addition to a core of volunteers who come on a regular basis, they welcome any volunteer who would like to participate in this ministry.  They also offer the opportunity to volunteer in the park, spending time and being in relationship with the downtown poor through worship, lunch, and conversation.

Another meaningful volunteer experience at Street Church is becoming a Street Church Partner.  By becoming a Street Church Partner, youth and adult groups are able to participate in social justice ministries with the downtown poor and to allow this experience to deepen their faith journeys.  Street Church Partners participate in the full schedule of preparing lunch, participating and serving in the park, plus orientation beforehand and spiritual reflection afterward. Street Church Partners also contribute to the cost of the Street Church lunch on their day.

Since all are welcome, I feel confident speaking on behalf of Street Church in inviting everyone to participate, whether it’s through attending, volunteering, or contributing financially to the cost of providing the food that accompanies the spiritual nourishment that Street Church provides.  Or if you don’t live in the D.C. area or are otherwise unable to be part of Street Church, I would encourage you to seek out something similar wherever you are.

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NOTE:  The service in the park and the downtown poor who attend remind me of a story about a church.  However, the church in the story is nothing like Street Church.  The story goes something like this.

One Sunday morning an old man entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore an old and faded pair of slacks, a plain shirt without a collar, and a pair of shoes that were appeared worn and ragged and had paper-thin soles.  And in his hand he carried a worn out old hat, and a equally worn out Bible.

The church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. It was one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful churches the old man had ever seen.  And the people of the congregation were all dressed in expensive clothes and accessories.

As he took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to or welcomed him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide it.

After the service as he was leaving the church, the priest approached him and asked the man to do him a favor: “Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what he thinks would be appropriate attire for worship.”  The old man assured the preacher he would.

But the next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing the same ragged clothes, shoes and and hat.  Once again he was completely shunned and ignored. The priest approached the man and said, “I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church.”

“I did,” replied the old man.

“If you spoke to God, what did he tell you proper attire should be for worshiping in here?” asked the priest.

“Well, sir, God told me that He didn’t have a clue what I should wear. He said He’d never been in here before.”

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Blessing of Bicycles

I don’t often write about my weekend bike rides, but this ride was different.  And definitely worth writing about.  My favorite youngest daughter was supposed to have a softball double-header this morning, but the condition of the fields remained so wet from all the rain during the past week that the games were cancelled.  So instead, she and I grabbed one of our tandem bikes and went to D.C.’s first annual Blessing of Bicycles service at The Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes, located at the bike-friendly intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and 12th Street (MAP) in downtown D.C.

Led by Father Dominique Peridans, the Blessing of Bicycles was a short, non-denominational outdoor prayer service asking God to bless the bicycles and provide both protection and joy for cyclists as they ride.  The service also included a time of remembrance for cyclists killed on local roads during the past year.  Blessings are a way that the Anglican church shows love and support for various groups, regardless of your stance on faith.  So the service was inclusive and open to all – regardless of religious affiliation or any affiliation at all, fat or thin tires, and brand of bike.  Attendees were also addressed by community representatives from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the District Department of Transportation.  MariAnn Budde, the Bishop of the Anglican Communion of Washington and an avid cyclist, also spoke and provided a prayer for the cyclists and their bikes.

The service was  followed by optional individual bicycle blessings for people who wanted a personal benediction.  There was then a short time for mingling during which everyone was be able to purchase pizza, baked goods and other snacks, drinks, and event T-shirts with an image of Madonna de Ghisallo who’s been dubbed “patron saint of cyclists,” designed by Cycology Gear.   All proceeds are to be used to help make the church’s 142 year-old church building more accessible for the disabled.  Free bicycle tune-ups were also offered by Gearin’ Up Bicycles, and free bicycle accessories and bike-related prizes were provided by Capital Bikeshare and the District Department of Transportation.

We then went on a sponsored group “unity ride” through the city led by Bishop Budde.  The ride had two options, both short and longer, allowing for participation by all, regardless of experience or skill level.  So what started out to be a day of cancelled plans turned into the chance to participate in one of the most unique and enjoyable cycling events in the city, and one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

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