From Rev. Sarah Johnson – The Fruit of Kindness

Dear Friends,

Join us this Sunday, August 14th, for worship onsite and online at 10:00 am. I will preach from Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, Galatians 5:22-23. 

This section of Galatians is another place in scripture that focuses on the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christian disciples. Paul shares a list of nine characteristics that come to fruition in our lives when we are full of the Spirit of God: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We will focus specifically on the fruit of kindness–how it connects to our understanding of God, why it matters, and how we can practice it in the world around us. 

We will also have a chance to celebrate and offer a prayer of gratitude and blessing for NYAPC member and friend Mark Zaineddin. Mark has spent many years recruiting and equipping members of our congregation to serve as liturgists in worship each Sunday. Mark’s faithfulness to this ministry has blessed our faith community and continues to enrich our corporate worship. Around ten years ago, Mark moved from Washington D.C. to Raleigh, North Carolina, while continuing to serve and grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ through NYAPC. As he puts down deeper roots in North Carolina, it is time for Mark to “pass the baton,” handing this ministry off to Worship Committee and Session Elder Matthew Weitz. I hope you will join me in thanking Mark for his meaningful contributions to our church. 

And a word of inspiration from theologian and preacher Diana Butler Bass’s book Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution: 

“If we understand that we are dirt, that God is the ground of all that is, well, then, we might think twice about how we treat soil. If water is the river of spiritual and physical life, we will care about what we are doing to watersheds. If air sustains us and we are made of stardust, then the sky and what happens to it matters. Knowing our own roots is the first step in knowing ourselves and recognizing our common humanity. Making a home is a radical act of claiming a place in the world. Being neighborly is the path to empathy, of enacting the Golden Rule. Building the commons, the ‘we’ of our world house, is to pull the vision of heaven out of the clouds to earth here and now. We are constantly creating a sacred architecture of dwelling — of God’s dwelling and ours — as we weave nature and the built environment into a web of meaning. Awe and action are of a piece.”

Grace and Peace,

Sarah  

From Rev. Rachel Pacheco

Dear Friends, 

Immediately after worship on July 10, I headed down to Montreat Camp and Conference Center in western North Carolina to experience their summer Youth Conference. For decades, Presbyterian churches from around the country have been bringing their youth to Montreat for a week of worship, reflection, building relationships, growing deeper in faith, and having fun. Montreat Youth Conferences are legendary and it was a joy to finally experience it for myself, even as an adult. 

One striking part of the week is experiencing keynotes, worship, and a variety show with about 800 people, most of whom are high school students. Even though you hear throughout the week what and who they don’t like, when the whole body was together, the tone was one of affirmation, celebration, and encouragement for those leading. And no matter how the performances went in the variety show, there was always plenty of cheering and affirmation for those who braved the stage. As the tensions and conflicts of the world swirl around us, it was restorative to witness so many young people uplifting others.

I also had the opportunity to enjoy the liturgical work of a cohort of youth who chose to participate in the Jeremiah Project.  The Jeremiah Project is for young people who have an interest in worship leadership as well as a hunger to explore God’s call on their lives. Rising juniors and seniors who have participated in a Montreat Youth Conference before may apply to be part of a special small group that prepares for worship leadership, participates in Keynote sessions, and discusses vocation. The liturgy for worship throughout the week was beautifully prepared and led by these youth, which was a gift to witness.

Some of the adults in our congregation went to Montreat as youth themselves and can testify to the meaningful experiences that can be had there. I also had the opportunity to connect with other churches from our presbytery who were there the same week with their youth. I hope to share the Montreat experience with our youth next year so they can meet and be uplifted by other young people engaged in the wider church who are as wonderful as they are.

As you continue to savor summer, enjoy this beautifully peaceful view of the mountains and Lake Susan at Montreat.

Peace,

From Rev. Sarah Johnson

Dear Friends, 

Join us this Sunday, July 31, for worship onsite and online at 10:00 am. I’ll conclude our summer sermon series from the book of Acts, Surprised by the Spirit, and will preach from Acts 17:22-31. 

At this point in the story, Silas and Paul depart company and Paul continues his missionary journey alone, traveling to the intellectual and cosmopolitan city of Athens. While there, he is invited to speak at the Areopagus, an area used as a forum for the rulers of Athens to hold trials, debate, and discuss important philosophical and spiritual matters. The Athenians are curious about this “new” idea of the good news of Jesus Christ that Paul is speaking about in the city. Paul uses this opportunity before the Areopagus to deliver one of the New Testament’s more dynamic moments of evangelism. 

This upcoming week, August 1-5, I also ask for your flexibility and to “pardon our dust” as we close the reception desk for a few days, taking advantage of the slower summer rhythm for our reception staff to take vacation and to continue cleaning and organizing our reception area to make it more welcoming for our staff and guests. Please contact our Administrative Assistant, Tammi McCoy or Office Manager Maila Cardoso, if you need to access the building during that time. You can read additional details below. 

And finally, a few words of encouragement from pastor and poet, Jan Richardson and German theologian Karl Barth: 

“For all things rising out of the hiddenness of shadows, out of the weight of despair, out of the brokenness of pain, out of the constrictions of compliance, out of the rigidity of stereotypes, out of the prison of prejudice; for all things rising into life, into hope, into healing, into power, into freedom, into justice; we pray, O God, for all things rising. Amen.”

– Jan L. Richardson, “Prayer for All Things Rising,” 
Sacred Journeys: A Woman’s Book of Daily Prayer

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”                

–Karl Barth

Grace and Peace, 

Sarah

Summer Scholar in Residence

Saturday, Aug 13, 10 am
Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams will join us again on Saturday, Aug. 13. We’ll gather in the sanctuary and online for her lecture sharing her recent work.

At her July webinar, she explored how applying family systems theory to the story of Abraham provides new insights to the narrative. She will close her time with us with a sermon during worship on Sept. 4. Professor Judy Fentress-Williams is professor of Old Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary and assistant to the pastors at Alfred Street Baptist Church.

Thank you to Dr. Fentress-Williams and the McClendon Scholar in Residence program for these wonderful opportunities! 

Watch the Weekly for details

Report from July 23 Hosting of Asylum Seekers

by Courtney Spearman

Background: Migrants have been arriving almost every day since April 6 with a variety of needs. These asylum seekers have been processed by ICE and have appointments in the northeast region or elsewhere. The Congregation Action Network, Sanctuary DMV, and others are offering mutual aid to the migrants, and local houses of worship are providing space so that migrants can sit down, have water, access bathrooms, and meet with people about their needs and next steps. So far this work is 100% volunteer and donated support. DC government has not stepped up, and more support is needed.

On July 23, NYAPC hosted about 45 migrants who arrived on the Union Station buses early in the morning, plus another several who just showed up (including a family of five from El Salvador who have been sleeping on the street by MLK Library for a month). Most guests were young men. There were also two couples, and one family of six headed to Miami, who had arrived a day or two earlier. There was a steady flow of arrivals through the day, but the morning definitely was busier.

We cooked about six dozen eggs and two huge bags of tater tots, plus we offered coffee, water, juice, watermelon, bananas, and oranges, along with some pretzels and goldfish snacks throughout the day. A group of nuns brought lunch around 12:30 so we did not need to cook again. We were also able to offer a shower to about 12 people using the bathroom outside Pastor Sarah’s office.

Fourteen volunteers served in shifts, roughly half of whom were from St Thomas Episcopal and the Sanctuary DMV. We also had three or four people doing direct planning and communication with the migrants. Most volunteers were busy most of the time, particularly in the morning, though there was some intermittent quiet time.

A few things that would be nice to have for next time: a map of the United States (many migrants don’t actually know where they are geographically), and Spanish books and magazines for adults or children. If you have access to these things please let Courtney Spearman know!

Please reach out with other questions or thoughts. If you want to sign up for future shifts, here’s the link (and thanks to those who have already signed up!)

From Rev. Sarah Johnson – Faith and Freedom

Dear Friends, 

Join us this Sunday, July 24, for worship onsite and online at 10:00 am. I’ll continue the final weeks of our sermon series from the book of Acts, Surprised by the Spirit, and will preach from Acts 16:16-34. The Apostles Paul and Silas travel to the Roman colony of Philippi and find themselves in a sticky situation, ultimately arrested and imprisoned by Roman authorities. We will wonder why Paul’s faith lands him in prison so frequently and how following Jesus is bound up in freedom. 

On Sunday at 3:30 pm, our Nurture Committee is hosting a “Bring Your Own Picnic” Church Picnic at Rock Creek Park (Shelter #13). All are invited! We hope you’ll come out and enjoy a good summer cookout and time spent relaxing with familiar friends and meeting new ones.

And finally, a word of encouragement from Rachel Held Evan’s book Wholehearted Faith:

“Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life. But the truth is–heh–I’ve found people to be much more receptive to the Gospel when they know that becoming a Christian and being a Christian doesn’t require becoming a know-it-all. That is a form of faithful freedom too. There is liberation in not knowing everything and not having to impress everyone with that boundless knowledge. 

That liberation is rooted in profound humility, the ability to say that God is God and I am not. Humans have made some enormous mistakes when failing to distinguish between God’s perfection and our fallible selves. And many of us have found renewed possibility when we have realized how much of God’s beauty remains to be explored–and that a life of faith is also a life of holy curiosity. 

Anyway, most of the openhearted wanderers I have encountered are looking not for a bulletproof belief system but for a community of friends, not for a spiritual encyclopedia that contains every answer but for a gathering of loved ones in which they can ask hard questions.” 

Grace and Peace, 

Sarah

Summer Reading – From Rev. Sarah Johnson

Dear Friends, 

I have always loved to read. As a young girl, I was frequently exhausted during the school day because I had stayed up well into the night reading by flashlight under the covers of my bed. I remember tearing through books such as Ann of Green Gables, Number the Stars, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Giver. Book series such as the entire Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Hardy Boys, and The Boxcar Children were also especially beloved. As an adult, my love of reading has continued both for enjoyment and as a crucial part of leadership in general and pastoral ministry in particular.

As we lean into the summer season, I am again picking up my love of reading and would be delighted for any of you to join me! Here are a few of the books on my list for July and August: 

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
This novel was recommended to me by several friends and tells the story of a woman named Esme whose father is a part of the group that worked on the Oxford English Dictionary. Inspired by actual events, Esme discovers that, in determining which words get an entry in the dictionary, those words and definitions that pertain to women’s experiences are often left out. As a result, she begins collecting these words and experiences of women in her community to create her own dictionary, the Dictionary of Lost Words. The book takes place around the time of the women’s suffrage movement and the impending First World War. Therefore, I find this novel’s reflections on power and the power of words to shape our communities’ imaginations and inclusiveness ( or lack thereof it) fascinating and timely. 

WholeHearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans and Jeff Chu
At the time of her shocking death at age 37, Rachel Held Evans was one of the finest and most important Christian voices in the United States. Her writing repeatedly charted a vision for a more inclusive and dynamic faith in Christ for herself and many others after being wounded in conservative evangelical churches. Her reflections in WholeHearted Faith speak to the healing of those wounds and the gift of an evolving faith that welcomes doubts, questions, and re-thinking, all while cultivating love, hope and embodying the resurrection for the sake of the world– all markers of faith that we continually seek to lean into at NYAPC. 

My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit by Yolanda Peirce
Dr. Yolanda Pierce is a teacher and scholar whose writing and academic work have inspired me in more recent years. Before serving in her current post as Dean of Howard University Divinity School here in Washington, D.C., Dr. Pierce served as the Founding Director of the Center for Black Church Studies and Associate Professor of Religion and Literature at my seminary alma mater Princeton Theological Seminary. My Grandmother’s House is her newest book, reflecting on the faith and influence of the church mothers who raised her in a world that is hostile to black women’s bodies and spirits. Dr. Pierce teases out themes of race, spirituality, trauma, freedom, resistance, and memory using her own story and the stories of the women around her.  

Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation by Tom Rainer
As we move into a more endemic phase of the pandemic, Tom Rainer identifies and reflects on six opportunities and challenges that emerged from the time of the quarantine. He explores how pastors and church leaders can cultivate space to intentionally and strategically reflect on this wisdom in light of the church’s mission and ministry in the present. An incredibly hopeful book grounded in God’s enduring faithfulness, I am looking forward to engaging many of the topics in this book with our leadership this fall. 

What about you? What books are on your summer reading list? What books would you recommend to me and others? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as the summer upholds; happy reading! 

Grace and Peace,

Sarah

From Rev. Rachel Pacheco

Dear Friends, 

We continue this Sunday with surprising stories from the book of Acts. This week, we will spend time with a vision of Peter’s and the council’s response. The story of the early church is ultimately one of commitment and strength and courage as they continued in ministry and sharing the way of Jesus despite persecution and opposition. May we be upheld by their example and witness as we also continue in ministry and walk through our own challenging time.

I encourage you to explore the announcements in this week’s Weekly. There are multiple opportunities this summer for fellowship, learning, and service. This is all part of our communal life together, and all are part of being church. These opportunities are ways that we show that God’s love is alive and at work, despite the violence and conflict that often surrounds us. 

And if you are on vacation, know that rest is also a way that we stand against cultural pressures and narratives that try to tell us that our worth is tied to our productivity. Sabbath is an important and radical way that we proclaim that our worth rests solely in our identity as God’s beloved creations.

After worship on Sunday, I will be going to Montreat’s Youth Conference for the week and then I will be on vacation, returning Monday, August 1. Sarah returns from vacation this week, but she will be working on worship planning for the coming year, so she will not be available like she usually is until Sunday July 17.

Go forth into the world in peace.
Be of good courage.
Hold fast that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the fainthearted.
Support the weak.
Help the afflicted.
Honor all persons.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And may the blessing of almighty God,
be among you and remain with you always.

Peace,

 Rachel

From Rev. Rachel Pacheco – A Prayer for Independence Day

Dear Friends, 

We continue to take steps in emerging from the pandemic. This is a messy time when we are all still at different stages of caution. I encourage you to read Pastor Sarah’s letter that was emailed to the congregation yesterday sharing the updated mask policy that the Session voted on at its May meeting. This week, the Covid Community Level in the District fell to low levels. As a result, effective Sunday, July 10, face masks will be optional and will not be required for activities or worship services at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church as long as the Covid level remains low in DC. This is welcome news for some and difficult for others. We will practice mutual respect for one another’s mask-wearing decisions.

On this Independence Day weekend, a prayer by Jill Duffield, published in the Presbyterian Outlook in 2018, still speaks to this moment. May it accompany our honoring of this holiday, reminding us that our freedom first comes from God and challenging us to continuing working for the freedom of all that comes from country. 

Peace,

Rachel

Lord of all, we recognize that true freedom comes through you, that our ultimate loyalty belongs to you and that our real identity is bestowed upon us by you. Every day is a gift, every breath a moment to give you praise, every hour one in which to live what you command.

Knowing that you are Alpha and Omega, we ask for the wisdom to properly order all else. On this day when we celebrate our country’s independence, we give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy in this land: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the ability to speak what is on our minds, even when what we have to say is contrary to popular opinion or public policy; and the freedom to worship (or not). Help us to recognize that such marks of human dignity are for all people and that you, O Lord, love and value every person and place you have made.

May our patriotism be subject to your law, our loyalty to country never higher than our obedience to your will, our pride of nation always secondary to our humble attempts to follow Jesus Christ. As we commemorate this Independence Day, we remember that all people are created equal, because you Lord created us all and called us good. May our actions, laws and hearts reflect the character of our Creator. 

Amen.

Covid Masking Update

Effective Sunday, July 10, face masks will be optional for activities and worship services in the church building, in accordance with our Session-adopted policy that masks are not required when Covid community levels are low. If at any point the Covid community level changes to medium or high, masking will once again be required in the church.

At their regularly scheduled May 2022 meeting, the NYAPC Session, in partnership with the Covid-19 Task Force, adopted an updated Covid-19 and masking policy. 

Using the current COVID Community Levels established and monitored by DC Health, NYAPC’s policy is: Masks are required indoors when the community level is identified as medium or high.Masks are optional indoors when the community level is low.

While many people have waited anxiously for this day to arrive, it may come with a deep sense of apprehension for others. We fully support anyone who still chooses to wear a face mask or keep their distance.

Whether a person chooses to wear a mask or not is entirely up to them. A person who decides to continue masking may have an underlying health condition or be caring for a vulnerable relative, among a variety of other reasons. Whatever decision each person makes, and whenever they choose to make it, is entirely their own and should be respected.

This community has been a model of resilience and compassion these past two-plus years. Thank you for that. I ask that you continue to care for each other with that same measure of compassion and devotion. As we enter the summer season, I give thanks for the opportunity to walk alongside you as we trust in God’s continued presence with us. 

Grace and Peace, 
Sarah Johnson
Senior Pastor