Posts Tagged ‘Church of the Epiphany’

Getting “Ashes to Go” During Today’s Ride

For today’s bike ride I went out early instead of waiting for lunchtime.  It was unseasonable cold today.  And it was even colder because I went out early in the morning instead of waiting until mid-day.  But I intentionally went for an early ride so I could participate in “Ashes To Go.”

An outreach of The Church of The Epiphany, the same church that conducts the Street Church services I occasionally attend, Ashes to Go occurs annually on Ash Wednesday, which is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, and repentance.  It falls on the first day of Lent, a period of 46 days of penitence directly preceeding Easter.  This is done in a symbolic imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert, less the six Sundays during this period that are not considered part of the Lenten fast.  Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and some Baptists.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the imposition of repentance ashes, often prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations, in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of participants, or sprinkled on the crown of the recipient’s head.  As the ashes are imposed, the pastor states, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or the dictum  “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” (“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”)

Since 2007 some members of major Christian Churches, including Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics and Methodists, have participated in the Ashes to Go program, in which clergy go outside of their churches to public places, such as downtowns, sidewalks and train stations, even to people waiting in their cars for a stoplight to change, to distribute ashes to passersby.  An Anglican priest named Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard, Illinois, took up the idea and turned it into a movement, stating that the practice was also an act of evangelism.

As part of this movement, the Church of the Epiphany’s pastoral staff sets up in an area just outside the 13th Street exit of the Metro Center subway station (MAP), as well as on the steps of the church, to provide the ceremonial imposition of ashes to arriving commuters, believers whose schedules make it difficult to attend a scheduled service at the church, and anyone else who so desires to receive ashes as an external sign of repentance.  Again this year, this included me.  And although I can’t be certain, I think I was one of the few, if not the only participant riding a bike.

 

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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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Walking a Labyrinth for World Labyrinth Day

Starting in 2009, The Labyrinth Society designated the first Saturday in May, which this year falls on May 5th, as World Labyrinth Day.  And although that is not until tomorrow, during today’s bike ride I decided to stop and walk the labyrinth located in the sanctuary of The Church of The Epiphany, which is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00am until 3:00pm.

At different times, the practice of walking a labyrinth has been associated with pilgrimages and pagan rituals.  More recently however, labyrinths have popped up in modern spirituality for contemplation and as prayer.  People walk a labyrinth for as many reasons as the number of people who walk one, including centering, feeling grounded, as prayer, as meditation, or as a great way to just unwind and clear your mind.

If you would like to walk a labyrinth tomorrow to celebrate World Labyrinth Day, there are nine labyrinths here in D.C., and more than a dozen more now exist within a ten-mile radius of the city.  Of these, there are at least a half a dozen outdoor labyrinths that are open to the public, and most are open daily from sunrise to sunset or shortly thereafter.

One of a few local labyrinths located outdoors and available to the public, the Georgetown Waterfront Park Labyrinth provides a means to walk a labyrinth in a scenic location.  It is located at the southern end of 33rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.

The American Psychological Association also has a labyrinth on the green rooftop of their building at 10 G Street (MAP), near Union Station in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood.  The 42-foot labyrinth features trellises, plantings, tables, a journal, and a finger labyrinth that you can “walk” with your fingers—a good option for those with ambulatory issues. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 7:00pm.  You can sign in at the building’s security desk to go up to the roof, or call Holly Siprelle (202-336-5519) to arrange a guided walk.

There is also an outdoor labyrinth that is available to the public at Barton Park, located across the river at the corner of North Barton and 10th Streets (MAP) in Arlington, Virginia.  Originally part of the former Northern Virginia Whitman-Walker Clinic’s healing garden, the 37-foot labyrinth of precast stone and pavers went into storage when that branch of the clinic closed.  It was later moved to Barton Park in late 2013.

Set among old pines and other trees, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, also has a public labyrinth.  Located at 8531 Riverside Road (MAP), the 40-foot labyrinth is made of rubber mulch with white stones outlining the path and is set near a memorial garden with benches. At the nearby Art at the Center, parishioner Kathryn Horn Coneway offers workshops on making finger labyrinths from clay.

The city of Bethesda’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 6030 Grosvenor Lane (MAP), has a 62-foot labyrinth made from turf and pavers, as well as a 36-by-36-inch Plexiglas finger labyrinth, available to the public.  At this labyrinth, a journal to record your thoughts is available, and is located under the bench.

The University of Maryland’s Garden of Reflection and Remembrance, located at 7600 Baltimore Avenue in College Park (MAP), also has a labyrinth adjacent to the campus chapel. Guided walks, yoga sessions, and special events are regularly scheduled. Benches, trees, and water elements help visitors connect with nature.

If you want to walk a labyrinth, but these options are not readily available to you, I encourage you to find one that is.  To find others labyrinths here in the D.C. area, or anywhere else in the world, just use the Labyrinth Society’s online worldwide labyrinth locater.  And if there is not a labyrinth near you, there are also finger labyrinths now available as a smartphone app.  Just check the Google Store or iTunes.

         
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Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

I recently had a craving for a doughnut. But I was not looking for the kind of generic, mass-produced doughnut that you usually get in a supermarket, a convenience store, or even one of the national doughnut shop chains. I wanted a fresh specialty gourmet doughnut. The kind you can only get in a local bakery or restaurant. During its recent “Dozen Weeks of Doughnuts Contest,” The Washington Post named the Crème Brûlée doughnut, the signature treat at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, the best in the city.  Astro actually had two of the top three doughnuts in D.C., with its Peanut Butter and Jelly version coming in third place. So with two of the top three doughnuts in the city, Astro seemed like the place to go to satisfy my craving. It also seemed like a good choice for my traditional end-of-the-month restaurant review for the month of October.

Part of Metro Center in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is conveniently located at 1308 G Street (MAP), across the street from the Church of the Epiphany, and just a little over a block away from The White House. Opened just last year by longtime friends and native Washingtonians Elliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern, they were inspired to open the shop by their longstanding tradition of enjoying a doughnut after playing hockey together.

Halpern went on to become a professional hockey player, and was the first native Washingtonian to play for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL). Currently an unrestricted free agent, Halpern has also played in the NHL for the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and most recently, the Phoenix Coyotes. However, despite a successful career in sports, he may be better known in the long run for doughnuts if the ones I’ve tried are an indicator.

The creative force behind the doughnuts at Astro is Chef Jason Gehring, who has cooked in kitchens ranging from D.C.’s own Fiola and Poste to Baltimore’s Charleston and New York City’s famous Payard Bakery. Utilizing seasonal fruit and produce from local farmers, and high-end ingredients, the standard flavors each day include the Crème Brûlée and PB&J, along with Maple Bacon and Vanilla Bean Glaze. There are also various flavors that rotate onto the menu, depending on the season and availability of fresh ingredients. They include Piña Colada, Carrot Cake, Pink Grapefruit, Creamsicle, Banana Nut, Applesauce, Coconut Cake, Passionfruit Berry, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Pumpkin Latte, and one called Brooklyn Blackout, which is devil’s food cake with chocolate glaze and cookie crumbs.

My favorite by far, however, is the one I had on this bike ride, the Key Lime Pie doughnut. It was actually the best doughnut I’ve ever eaten. Dense and moist, it was deliciously tart, with a strip of candied lime to top it off. The taste was spot on to the legendary dessert, making it easy to imagine being transported to southern Florida and having breakfast with the Key West locals, or as they’re called there, “conchs.”

And the chicken at Astro is almost as good as the doughnuts, which is saying a lot. The classic fried chicken is tender, succulent and flavorful, with just the right amount of crunchiness and seasoning.  They also offer a variety of flavors and different kinds of chicken, from the Sriracha or spicy garlic chicken wings, to the Old Bay or Buffalo chicken sandwiches, they are all good enough to cause making a decision to be difficult.

Like several other restaurants I have reviewed here on this blog in the past, Astro has no seating and are a business only. And if I had to come up with a criticism of Astro, it would be that different doughnuts and kinds of chicken are only available on certain days.  Also, there is a potential for them to run out of certain menu items, particularly the most popular choices. But these are first-world problems which are easily remedied if you follow my advice, which is, “Definitely go there, know what you want, and the earlier you get there the better.”

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Church of the Epiphany

Church of the Epiphany

Dating back to January of 1842 when an organizational meeting was held, and when the first service was conducted later that same month, the Church of the Epiphany has been steeped in history.  Construction of the church’s Gothic Revival building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, began with the laying of the cornerstone the follow year, and was completed in 1844, the same year parish status was achieved.  One of the only remaining pre-Civil War churches in the city, people have been worshipping and praying there every day for over a century and a half.  And the building has stayed much the same over those years, although the surrounding downtown neighborhood has developed considerably from the quiet, tree shaded, and residential neighborhood it was when the church began.  Today, the church’s slim shape and stone façade stand out amongst the towering, modern downtown office buildings which surround it.

Throughout its history, prominent people have always attended and been a part of the Church of the Epiphany.  Before the Civil War, a number of prominent politicians, including future Confederate President Jefferson Davis, were members of the congregation.  After the war broke out, President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edward Stanton began attending, along with Union service members.   And in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln attended a funeral for Union Army General Frederick Lander at Epiphany.  But the Church of the Epiphany has always had ties to the common man as well.  Between July and December of1862, the building was a temporary hospital, with wooden boards laid across the tops of pews to create beds for the wounded.

During the time since the Civil War, other presidents have come to Epiphany Church as well.  A memorial services was held for slain President William McKinley in 1901, and since 1925, the church has rung its bells in honor of each newly inaugurated president.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt also attended a service at Epiphany, at Christmas in 1942.

On today’s bike ride, I stopped by the historic Episcopal church, which is located at 1317 G Street in northwest D.C. (MAP), just two blocks from The White House.  And I was please to discover that the church is as relevant today as it has been throughout its history.  Today, the Church of the Epiphany remains an active, urban church that continues to adapt to the ever changing needs of the place where it was planted, with its small parish of about 350 diverse worshipers focused largely on serving, helping and supporting the surrounding homeless community.

Through its brightly colored and welcoming doors, the church houses “The Welcome Table” ministry to feed the hungry.  It also hosts weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and has a licensed addiction counselor and an outreach ministry to assist downtown poor in obtaining information about housing, medical aid, employment and treatment facilities.  The church also operates the Epiphany Mission Center, where meetings and retreats are held.  But the church also ventures out from the building it calls home, with a “Street Church’ ministry that gathers at Franklin Square Park for worship and lunch with around 40-60 downtown poor and visitors every Tuesday.  Through these and other programs, the Church of the Epiphany ensures that it is not just part of history, but will continue to make history as well.

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