Posts Tagged ‘Franklin Square’

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

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.”

Soho Café & Market

Soho Café & Market

Because of taking time off from work for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at the end of November and December, I have not posted an end-of-the-month restaurant review since last October. So this month I’m getting back into my routine with this post about one of my favorite lunch on-the-go spots – the Soho Café & Market, which is located across the Street from Franklin Square at 1301 K Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.

Soho Café & Market is not a restaurant that focuses on one thing, like Horace and Dickie’s does with fish, or We, The Pizza does with pizza. Rather, Soho goes to the other extreme. They offer so many choices that it can sometimes make it difficult to make a decision of what to have. Soho offers a variety of grilled and deli sandwiches, gourmet pizza, an expansive fresh salad and fruit bar, fresh-rolled sushi served with complementary miso, and a Mongolian wok station, an espresso bar, and an insane selection of various desserts and beverages.

Lastly, they also have my go-to favorite for lunch – several buffet-style hot food bars. Although there are a number of these types of places downtown, Soho has the widest selection I’ve seen. And because Soho is almost always quite busy, the food doesn’t look or taste like it’s been sitting out all day, which can be a big problem with some of the other places like this downtown. The only problem with the hot food bar is that everything looks so good that my eyes can tend to be bigger than my stomach. And since it is priced by weight, I have to remind myself to be careful when I am serving myself.

Soho also opens at 6:00am for breakfast, for which they offer breakfast foods at the hot food bar, or omelets, breakfast sandwiches and other dishes cooked to order. There is also fresh fruit, yogurts, oatmeal, and a variety of doughnuts, pastries, biscuits and bagels as well.

Soho is a solid choice for a quick lunch or breakfast downtown, but has limited “workday” hours, open only Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, and closed on evenings and weekends. But what it lacks in hours of operation it makes up for in always being impeccably clean, keeping enough cash registers open to ensure you can get in and out fairly quickly, and serving good food at a reasonable price.

If I had to identify my biggest criticism of Soho, I would say that its biggest drawback is that there is very little ambiance, often making it seem more like a cafeteria than a restaurant. The inside has plenty of seating and is great for groups, but is merely functional at best. That is why I usually like to take my meal across the street to Franklin Square, where I can people watch while I enjoy what I’m eating.  I even have company when I share some of it with the local pigeons.

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

UPDATE:   Sadly, as of September 1, 2017, Soho Café & Market closed.

Commodore John Barry Statue

Commodore John Barry Statue

On today’s anniversary of his death in 1803 at the age of 58, I chose to write about my bike ride to Franklin Square, at 14th Street and K Street in northwest D.C., (MAP) to see the local monument commemorating Commodore John Barry.  The monument consists of a statute of Barry standing on top of a base of pink marble with steps of pink granite. The base is adorned by the carved figure of a woman standing on the bow of a ship, with her raised right hand holding out an olive branch. Her lowered left hand holds a shield and sword steady at her side. To her right, an eagle standing on a branch of oak leaves gazes up at her.

The bronze statue by American sculpture John Boyle is near the western border of the square.  It was dedicated on May 16, 1914, and is part of a group of fourteen statues in D.C. known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary.” These statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Commodore John Barry Statue is not the only attraction in D.C. with a connection to Barry. The USS Barry Museum Ship, which currently lies moored at Pier 2 in the Anacostia River at The Washington Navy Yard (MAP), was also named after Barry.  It is one of four Navy vessels which were named for the commander.

John Barry was born on March 25, 1745, at Ballysampson on Our Lady’s Island, which is part of Tacumshin Parish in County Wexford, Ireland. The place of his birth had two very strong influences on his life. First, Wexford, at the southeasternmost part of Ireland, has always had a strong maritime tradition. And this tradition was instilled in Barry. Also, Barry learned at a very young age of the massacre of some 3,000 Wexfordians under an invading English force led by Oliver Cromwell in 1649, which led to a lifelong opposition to both oppression in general and the British in particular.

Barrry was 10 years old when his family immigrated to the American colonies after they were forced out of their home and off their land by a British landlord.  And his loyalty to his newfound adopted homeland became evident early on. Late in 1776, after the colonies had declared their independence from England, Barry was approached by an acquaintance who sympathized with the British, and offered a monetary bribe along with a commission in the Royal Navy and his own ship under Royal authority if he would turn his American ship over to the British. He indignantly refused because, in his own words, he “spurned the eyedee of being a treater.”

Barry presented an imposing and commanding figure. He was a burly and in shape man of 6’4″, with a ruddy-complexion who spoke in a commanding tone. In an era when most men stood only about 5’5″, Barry’s physical presence served him well throughout a career which took him from humble cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet after becoming America’s first commissioned naval officer, at the rank of Commodore, receiving his commission from President George Washington in 1797.

Barry is widely credited as “The Father of the American Navy,” although it is moniker which is shared with one of his contemporaries, Commander John Paul Jones. As most naval historians note, Barry can be classed on a par with Jones for nautical skill and daring, but he exceeds him in the length of service to his adopted country and his fidelity to the nurturing of a permanent American Navy. Although frequently obscured by his Commander Jones, Barry is an unsung hero of the young American Republic and is indeed deserving of the byname, “Father of the American Navy.”

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Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square is a park in northwest D.C., which is bounded by K Street to the north, 13th Street on the east, I Street on the south, and 14th Street on the west (MAP).  The downtown park slopes uphill from I Street to K Street, and is partially terraced.  Franklin Square Park also contains sufficient old growth trees to provide ample shade to visitors, a geometric system of concrete pathways for traversing the park in almost any direction, and a flagstone plaza with a large fountain in its middle.

The 4.79-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is maintained by the National Park Service.  And while it is often assumed that it was named after Benjamin Franklin, there are no records or definitive proof to establish this.  However, Franklin Square is surrounded by a rich history, regardless of the origin of its name.  Across 13th Street on the east side of the square is the historic Franklin School, a National Historic Landmark, which was the scene of Alexander Graham Bell’s first wireless message.  On June 3, 1880, Bell sent a message over a beam of light to a window in a building at 1325 L Street using his newly invented Photophone.   Also, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross maintained a residence adjacent to the park at 1326 I Street, where she held the first official meeting of the relief organization in May of 1881.

Today the park is located in a lively and bustling area of downtown, and often hosts a nearly overflow crowd of employees taking a short break from their responsibilities, or enjoying a lunch obtained from one of the nearby eateries or the many food trucks that surround the park during the middle of the day.  The eclectic crowd utilizing the park can also include anyone or anything, from tourists who have strayed off their usual path, to older people practicing tai chi, and even a service for the homeless and others by the Church of the Epiphany every Tuesday.  There are also the many pigeons who will flock to anyone who purposefully, or sometimes unwillingly, feed them.  The entertainment value of the park makes it a good destination for a bike ride, and an ideal location for a mid-day respite.

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