Archive for the ‘Organizations’ Category

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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The FBI’s Washington Field Office

In honor of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who would have turned 98 years old today, on this bike ride I rode to the FBI Headquarters building, and from there to the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is located at 601 4th Street(MAP).  Mr. Zimbalist was an actor who is arguably most widely known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the television series “The F.B.I.”, which premiered on September 19, 1965 and closed with the last episode on September 8, 1974. The series was an authentic telling of fictionalized accounts of actual FBI cases, with fictitious main characters carrying the stories.

Mr. Zimbalist developed and maintained a strong personal relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the real-life Director of the FBI at that time.  Although he was never seen in the series, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover actually served as series consultant. Mr. Hoover requested technical accuracy for the show, and that Agents be portrayed in the best possible light. Actors who played F.B.I. employees were required by Hoover to undergo a background check. Mr. Zimbalist passed his background check with ease. He subsequently spent a week in D.C., where he was interviewed by Hoover, and at the F.B.I. academy in Quantico, Virginia. Hoover and Zimbalist remained mutual admirers for the rest of Hoover’s life. Hoover would later hold Zimbalist up as an image role model for FBI employees to emulate in their personal appearance.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, Inc. honored the character of Lewis Erskine in 1985 with a set of retired credentials. On June 8, 2009, then FBI Director Robert Mueller, presented Mr. Zimbalist with a plaque AS an honorary Special Agent for his work on the TV series.

Other notable people with a connection to the FBI and also share today’s birthday with Mr. Zimbalist are: G. Gordon Liddy (former FBI Agent and Watergate conspirator), who turned 87 today; Dick Clark (host of American Bandstand known as America’s oldest teenager, on whom the FBI maintained a file and conducted investigations in 1962 and 1985 into threats of violence against him), who would have turned 87 today; Abbie Hoffman (political activist who was investigated by the FBI), who would have been 81 today; Richard Crenna (actor who performed on the “This Is Your FBI” radio program) would have turned 90 today, and; Mandy Patinkin (actor who played FBI Agent Jason Gideon on the TV series “Criminal Minds”), who turned 65 today.

         

         
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The Georgetown University Grilling Society

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I rode across town to Georgetown University. I had seen a show recently on PBS entitled Neighborhood Eats, about a campus club that cooks out every Friday.  So I rode over there, and then rode around campus until I smelled the aroma of meat grilling. Then I just followed the smell and blended in with the eclectic crowd.

The GUGS (the first “G” is soft, as in genius) started out in December of 2002 with just four guys “with one mysteriously-acquired grill.  It has now become one of the university’s most popular social collectives.  The society’s creed  sums up the group.  It reads, “Beneath the trees which line the grounds of Georgetown, the Georgetown University Grilling Society strives to maintain the fundamental values of mankind through bonds and friendships forged in the very fires upon which we cook.”

The members of GUGS grill burgers and hot dogs between about 11:00am and 2:00pm every Friday in the campus’ Red Square.  And the burgers are quite unusual. Round like a giant meatball and grilled to perfection, the half-pound burgers are as delicious as they are unusual.  It might just be the best burger in town. And at just three bucks, it is almost definitely the best deal in town too.

It was a great bike ride today, and an even better lunch. What a way to end the workweek!  And I think I may have just begun a new weekly tradition as well.

         

         

         
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Christ, The Light of the World”

During this lunchtime bike ride I found myself in the Edgewood neighborhood in northeast D.C., near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.  And as I was riding I saw a statue in a garden that to me looked vaguely like a different pose of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  So I stopped to get a closer look and find out more about it.

It turns out that the 17-foot-tall, 10-ton brass statue is entitled “Christ, the Light of the World.”  Located 3211 4th Street (MAP), it is in a garden in front of the headquarters for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  It was originally the idea of a woman named Marjorie Lambert Russell, who lived in Topeka, Kansas.  In 1936 she wrote a letter to Bishop John F. Noll, who was the founder of a publication entitled “Our Sunday Visitor.”  Bishop Noll frequently used the pages of the newspaper to advocate for important Catholic causes in the United States, and she suggested that that the publication begin a drive to erect a statue of Christ in our nation’s capital.  Russell pointed out that since D.C. had many statues of famous people, one should be erected to represent the greatest person who had ever walked the earth.  Along with the letter she enclosed a dollar bill, which was to serve as the first donation to fund the statue.

The idea appealed to Bishop Noll, who published her letter in the newspaper. The idea caught on with its readers, who soon began sending in donations for the project which would eventually total more than $150,000.  Bishop Noll later arranged for the statue, designed and created by University of Notre Dame art professor Eugene Kormendi, to be placed outside the National Catholic Welfare Conference headquarters, which at that time was located at 1312 Massachusetts Avenue in downtown D.C.

Bishop Noll presented the statue to the conference, and was present at its dedication ceremony in April of 1949, where it was dedicated by The Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, and accepted by The Most Reverend John T. McNicholas, Chairman of the National Catholic Welfare Conference Administrative Board.  Half a century later, in 1989, the statue was moved to its current home in front of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offices, where I saw it today.

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Capital Bikeshare Program

Over the past few years I’ve found out first hand that biking around D.C. is a great way to get to know the city and explore all that it has to offer.  It’s also a fun way to exercise and stay healthy.  I go for a ride everyday.  And I have a convenient and secure place to store my bikes.  So I chose to own my bikes.  But another alternative to owning a bike, especially if you’re only an occasional rider or don’t have anywhere to keep one, is to rent a bike.

Renting a bike in D.C. has been something that has been possible for quite a long time.  Dating back to the early 1940’s, bike rentals were available through bike shops and gas stations at different independent locations in the city.  But today the Capital Bikeshare Program provides a network of stations that makes renting a bike easy, convenient and affordable.

Capital Bikeshare, which first began in 2010, makes over 3,500 bicycles available for rent at over 400 stations across D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.  Whether it’s for a short trip, a commute to work, to get to the Metro, running errands, going shopping, visiting friends and family, or for any other reason, you can simply rent a bike at any nearby station.  And then when you’re done, you can return it to the same station where you started, or to any other station near your destination.

You can join Capital Bikeshare online or at one of their convenient a commuter store locations.  Membership options include a day, 3 days, a month, a year or try their new Day Key option.  This gives you access to their fleet of bikes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free. Each additional 30 minutes incurs an additional fee.

The city’s increasing amount of bike lanes and biking infrastructure combined with the convenient availability of bikes makes it easier than ever to get out there and explore our nation’s capital.

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Left – A bicycle rental shop on 22nd Street, near Virginia Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C., on a Sunday. (Library of Congress Control Number fsa2000056770/PP.  Contributor:  Marjory Collins.  Circa June/July 1942.)
Right – Bicycles for Rent, Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress Control Number fsa1998024089/PP.  Contributor:  Martha McMillan Roberts. Circa 1941.)
Center – Washington, D.C. Renting bicycles at a gas station on East Potomac Park. Notice the “no gas” sign on the nearest gasoline pump. (Library of Congress Control Number fsa2000056780/PP.  Contributor:  Marjory Collins. Circa June/July 1942.)

Note:  Historic photos obtained from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and used with the permission of the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information/Office of Emergency Management/Resettlement Administration.

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Red Cross Memorial Memorial to Workers Killed in Service in Vietnam

The first American Red Cross Field Directors were sent to South Vietnam in February of 1962.  The last Red Cross staff members to serve in country departed just over 11 years later, in March of 1973.  During the intervening years there were five men and women of the American Red Cross who died in Vietnam in service to the Armed Forces.  And on today’s bike ride, I went to see a small memorial to them, which is located on the grounds of The American National Red Cross Headquarters, which is located at 430 17th Street (MAP), just a few blocks from the White House.

The five Red Cross workers killed while serving in Vietnam were Vernon M. Lyons, Paul E. Samuels, Hannah E. Crews, Virginia E. Kirsch and Lucinda J. Richter.  But other than their names and the dates of their deaths which are inscribed on the memorial, there was no information  about who they were or how they were killed.  So I looked into it later, and this is what I found out.

Of  the five Red Cross workers killed, Vernon Lyons was the first.  One of 300 American Red Cross field directors, hospital personnel and recreation workers serving in the war zone at that time, he on August 29, 1967, when his jeep exploded a mine near Danang.  The 48-year old Lyons, who was from Wichita Falls, Texas, was serving as an assistant field director attached to the 1st Marine Division.

Paul Samuels was killed on January 25, 1968, at the Khe Sanh Combat base, in northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam, during the initial stages of the Tet Offensive.  At the time of his death, the 44-year old was serving as an American Red Cross field director.

Little information is available about Hannah Crews other than that she died in a jeep accident in Bien Hoa on October 2,1969.  Similarly,  the only information I could find on Lucinda Richter was that she died of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder,  in Cam Ranh Bay on February 9, 1971.

Virginia Kirsch, or Ginny as she was known to her friends, was perhaps one of the most tragic stories because she murdered by someone she went there to serve.  The 22-year old from Brookfield, Ohio, had been in Vietnam for only two weeks serving as one of 627 in-country recreation workers, affectionately referred to as Donut Dollies, when she was stabbed to death on August 16, 1970 in her billet at the headquarters of the 25th Infantry in Cu Chi, 20 miles northwest of Saigon.

An investigation determined that she was murdered by an Army soldier named Gregory W. Kozlowski, who was arrested and charged.  However, an Army Medical Review Board eventually issued a finding that Kozlowski was unable to determine right and wrong at the time of Ginny’s murder and that he was unable to cooperate intelligently in his own defense.  As a result, charges against him were dismissed and he was never prosecuted for Ginny’s murder, the first in the history of American Red Cross service overseas.

Because Lyons, Samuels, Crews, Richter and Kirsch were not in the military at the time of their deaths, their names are not inscribed on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  But their service and their lives are not forgotten.

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Note:  After the charges for killing Ginny Kirsch were dismissed, Kozlowski was discharged and placed on the Temporary Disabled Retired List and his medical records were transferred to the Veterans hospital at Wood, Wisconsin.  Twelve years later Kozlowski was arrested for the murder of a man in Milwaukee.  He was ultimately found, again, to be mentally ill and remanded to a series of mental health institutions within the State of Wisconsin.  However, after years of treatment and therapy, the psychiatric doctors deemed Kozlowski to no longer be a threat to either himself or others . In January of 2008, the Circuit Court granted Kozlowski a conditional release to a group home in Milwaukee. There has been no further information regarding his whereabouts since that date.

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David’s Tent

Over the years as I have been riding a bike during my lunch breaks at work, I have periodically seen a large white tent erected in different parts of the downtown area of the city.  On it’s side there has been a sign which reads, “davidstent.dc.org“.  I first saw it about four years ago in President’s Park on The Ellipse near the White House.  Since that time I have intermittently seen it near John Marshal Place Park just off Constitution Avenue, as well as various other sites.  It is currently located on the National Mall just east of the pond in Constitution Gardens and about 100 yards due north of the National World War II Memorial (MAP), and within view of the White House.  On this ride I stopped in to learn more about it.

Jason Hershey founded David’s Tent DC in 2012 as a non-denominational Christian non-profit organization dedicated to performing public worship services.  That first year a service was to be held in the park at McPherson Square, but at the suggestion of the National Park Service it was moved to The Ellipse instead.  And although the Park Service had never given a permit for more than 14 days in that area, they granted David’s Tent a 45-day permit.  So it was that David’s Tent began with 40 days of continuous worship and praise.

When the organization decided to hold another event the following year, it again was located on The Ellipse.  However, that year the Federal government shut down due to the fact that no budget had been passed.  And in addition to closing most Federal departments and agencies, the first things to close were the National Parks, including the National Mall and The Ellipse.  I vividly remember during that time the news stories of attempts to keep World War II veterans from being allowed to visit the closed memorial that had been made to honor them.  Amazingly though, David’s Tent was allowed to continue uninterrupted.  That year they did it again for 42 days, which equates to being 1,000 hours long.

David’s Tent has continued ever year, and gotten bigger and longer in each consecutive year.  In 2014, the service was extended to 50 days, during which they prayed for each state for one day.

This time is the organization’s most ambitious event to date.  The tent was pitched in its current location last September 11th, and David’s Tent is committed to performing nonstop worship music on the National Mall for 14 months straight, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, until Election Day this November.  This weekend, they will reach the one year mark on their way to the goal of a 422-day worship service.  Hershey, the founder of David’s Tent, says there’s no political agenda behind the vigil despite its significant start and end dates, and its notable location in the heart of our nation’s capital.

David’s Tent is inspired by the biblical story of King David, who pitched a tent near his palace and hired more than 4,000 musicians and 288 singers to worship there continually throughout his 33-year reign. David made worship central for his nation, and it is said to have brought blessing on the whole nation. David’s Tent DC is attempting to do the same here in America.  So if you’re in downtown D.C. during the next few months, I encourage you to stop in, learn more, and participate.

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Giraffes Petroglyph

A petroglyph is defined as “a carving or inscription on a rock that is created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.”  They are found world-wide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples.  So aside from possibly the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, you might not expect to find a petroglyph in D.C.  But on this lunchtime bike ride, that’s exactly what I did.

As I was riding on a driveway through the courtyard of a building located at 1145 17th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, I saw a petroglyph depicting a couple of giraffes.   Hiding in some bushes and ivy and partially obscured by a tree, the giraffes seemed to be peeking out at me from behind the foliage.  So naturally I had to stop to get a better look and find out more about it. 

It turns out that the building with the petroglyph in the courtyard is the National Geographic Society’s headquarters.  One of the most well-known and largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world, the Society’s interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history.

The Society’s headquarters building also contains a museum that features a wide range of changing exhibitions, from interactive experiences to photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers, and scientists.  The museum is centrally located in downtown D.C., just a few blocks from the White House.  And admission tickets can be purchased in person at the museum ticket booth or online.

I’ll have to go back to the museum on another day when I have more time to spend so that I can more thoroughly enjoy it.  But for today, happening upon the giraffes petroglyph and finding out about the museum was enough.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

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The Florida Embassy

There are a total of 178 embassies and diplomatic missions in the national capital city, and 177 of them belong to foreign countries.  The remaining one belongs to the state of Florida, which is the only one of the 50 states to have an embassy in D.C.  Other states, specifically California and Texas, have tried but have not met with success.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I visited The Florida Embassy, which is located at 1 2nd Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  It is at the corner of East Capitol and Second Street, directly behind the Supreme Court building.  And it offers an excellent view of the dome and the Statue of Freedom on top of  the nearby United States Capitol Building.

Also known as “Florida House,” this unique embassy is located in a restored 1891 Victorian house, and since 1973 it has been a privately-owned and funded education and information center that provides meeting, classroom and reception space for visiting Floridians, students, dignitaries, elected officials and those doing business in the nation’s capital.

On today’s visit I was greeted by a very friendly summer intern, who gave me a tour of the embassy building, as well as the art and antique furnishings it contains.  The embassy also provides information about Florida’s congressional delegation, and other famous Floridians, as well as many other programs and partnerships that support and showcase the Sunshine State’s education, business, arts and culture, and of course, hospitality.  And I was able to learn about all of this while enjoying a complimentary glass of cold Florida orange juice.

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Honor Flight Veterans

On this Pre-Memorial Day weekend bike ride, as I was riding through the plaza in front of the The Lincoln Memorial (MAP), I noticed a number of people who were all wearing matching yellow T-shirts gathered on the steps of the memorial.  It turns out they were all U.S. military veterans, and they were brought to D.C. by the Honor Flight Network.

The Honor Flight Network is a coalition of non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many military veterans as possible to D.C., at no cost to the veterans, to visit and reflect at the national memorials to the respective wars in which they fought.   Top priority is given to bringing veterans of World War II to The National World War II Memorial, as well as any veteran with a terminal illness.  The veterans are generally escorted by volunteer guardians, who assist them on their flights and while they are here in D.C.

Some of the veterans I saw today were World War II veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, like the ones I saw a couple of years ago at an impromptu parade.  Others served during the Korean and Vietnam wars.  The veterans had just been dropped off by buses, and were conducting a brief prayer service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before visiting The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and The Korean War Veterans Memorial, and then moving on to the World War II Memorial.

Although the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is for remembering the military members who died while serving in our country’s armed forces, witnessing this inspiring and moving event involving surviving veterans was a good beginning to the holiday weekend.

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