From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “’A voice was heard, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’ It was the time of Jesus’ birth. After discovering that he had been betrayed by the wise men, Herod demanded that “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old and under” be killed. Herod was standing his ground of power. It is in speaking of the edict from Herod that the Matthean Gospel writer speaks of Rachel, who centuries earlier was weeping for her lost children…it is fitting that her weeping is recalled at the time of Jesus’ birth, not simply because Bethlehem is weeping over the loss of its children, but because the Christ child is born. Into the midst of a mother’s deepest pain and suffering God is present in the world bringing hope. One thing is made clear as Rachel’s weeping is juxtaposed with the birth of Jesus: there is no power that can stand its ground against God, not even the power of death.”
On January 10, the Session, upon the recommendation of the Church’s recently formed “Sanctuary Taskforce” agreed to join hundreds of other churches, many of them Presbyterian, in signing the following pledge:
As people of faith and people of conscience, we pledge to resist the newly elected administration’s policy proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities. We will open up our congregations and communities as sanctuary spaces for those targeted by hate, and work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.
This pledge affirms NYAPC’s place as a part of the larger “Sanctuary” movement, which the task force believes is consistent with the church’s mission to be an inclusive, justice-seeking presence in Washington, DC and the world. However, the signing of the pledge does not commit the church to physically housing individuals or families. The Taskforce recommended deferring any decision on a public grant of sanctuary to a particular individual/family until such an individual/family has been identified.
The Session also charged the Sanctuary Taskforce with developing and implementing specific steps through which NYAPC can fulfill its pledge to be a “Sanctuary congregation.” Initial ideas from the Taskforce include:
-Scheduling and publicizing an “immigration services day” on a weekend at the church to connect families in need to legal, social work, and other relevant service providers
-Identifying individual members interested in “Sanctuary”-related mission work, which could include individual volunteer work (e.g., pro bono legal, social work, or other services) or participation in larger “Sanctuary” efforts/activism led by the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, Washington Interfaith Network, or other organizations
-Informing immigration service providers of the church’s willingness to consider providing “sanctuary” to an individual or family, and developing a recommendation for way(s) in which the church might do so (e.g., physically housing a family vs. providing a family with resources or identifying external housing).
To learn more about the Sanctuary Movement and how you can help to support the efforts of the Sanctuary Taskforce, stop by our table at the Mission Fair on Sunday or email firstname.lastname@example.org
From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “This brings us to… [an] interrelated aspect of God’s resurrecting power. It is nonviolent. There is no doubt that the cross reflects the depth and scope of human violence. The cross in this respect represents the consuming violence of the world. It points to a world that is saturated with violence. This violence includes not simply the physical brutality meant to harm bodies, but also the systems, structures, narratives, and constructs that do harm. Anything that would devalue the life of another is violent. God enters into this world of violence, yet God does not take it into God’s self. Thus, God responds to the violence of the world not in an eye-for-an-eye manner. Instead, God responds in a way that negates and denounces the violence that perverts and demeans the integrity of human creation. Thus, through the resurrection, God responds to the violence of the cross—the violence of the world—in a nonviolent but forceful manner. It is important to understand that nonviolence is not the same as passivity or accommodation to violence. Rather, it is a forceful response that protects the integrity of life. Violence seeks to do another harm, while nonviolence seeks to rescue others from harm. It seeks to break the very cycle of violence itself. The forces of nonviolence actually reveal the impotence of violent power. Ironically, the nonviolent power of God is revealed through the violence of the cross. But this is essential. That God could defeat the unmitigated violence of the cross reveals the consummate power of the nonviolent, life-giving force that is God.”
Here are a few thank you that our guests who came for the Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington left behind:
We cried with joy when you said we could stay.
-Rev. Jamie Haskins, Director of the Center for Faith & Service, Chaplain, Instructor of Religious Studies at Westminster College, Fulton, MO
BIG SHOUT OUT to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in D.C. They opened their doors to tired, cold, hungry marchers with full bladders. Their message was love, love, love and inclusiveness. No proselytizing or choosing sides, just service and Christianity as it was meant to be. They are an “inclusive, justice-seeking church.” This marcher thanks you from the bottom of her heart and honors your commitment to service!
We received coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies, donations only. They also opened their door to overnight guests at no cost. Here is their message on the website:
We invite you to march-day hospitality: Members of the church will stay at the church to serve as hosts for those seeking to warm up, use the bathrooms, charge a cell phone (limited plugs), or join in conversation. We will have hot beverages and snacks available for our daytime and overnight guests. Our sanctuary will be open for prayer and meditation. All guests from any background or belief are most welcome inside the building! #newyorkavenuepresbyterian
Thank you so very much! You were all awesome and welcoming, upbeat and amazing. Thank you for providing food and sanctuary for all of here for the march!
-Janet from Garland, TX
Just wanted to say “Thank you” for your welcoming hospitality during the Women’s March on January 21st, 2017. My friends and I were tired and thirsty, and trying to find our way around the city before heading home after the march. Seeing your doors open, and smiling faces welcoming us to come inside, rest, use the facilities, and even get a snack was such a nice surprise for us. Your thoughtful kindness and generosity was inspiring, and just added to the whole wonderful experience that day!
– Regina Keller
I attended the awesome March in DC on Saturday. As we waited in the dusk for our bus pickup, out of nowhere appeared an angel from your church (can’t remember her name, sorry, but she knows who she is) with a pitcher of iced tea, cups , and a plate of cookies! As much as that was appreciated (and believe me it was greatly appreciated), the further offer of a clean restroom blew me away. I’m from NYC, and can think of only a handful of groups that would have done the same. Words cannot express the full scope of my gratitude, and I’m sure I speak for all who benefited from your incredible generosity when I offer my thanks. Please do me the favor of sharing this with all those involved.
Thank you to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church for opening its doors to marchers during the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017! Your offer of refreshments, and a sanctuary for prayer or reflection was welcome at this difficult time in our nation’s history. Thank you very much!
Dear New York Avenue Presbyterian Church Members, Friends and Staff,
I have never been so proud to be your Associate Pastor.In the last few weeks, particularly from January 15, Dr. King Sunday through January 22, the Sunday after the Inauguration/ Women’s March on Washington, I have experienced you as the church active in resistance, the church active in a radical welcome — and most importantly as the church showing up.
For a week solid, you showed up for everyone who came down the 1300 block of New York Avenue. You showed your faith in action proclaiming to Inauguration supporters, Women’s Marchers, protestors, police, vendors, and local neighbors — that we at NYAPC stand courageously as Christians seeking to follow God’s message to “Do Justice, Love Mercy and to Walk Humbly with Your God” (Micah 6:8).
One of our guests who was here last weekend said that she doesn’t go to church, but would come to a church like New York Avenue. She said that New York Avenue was living into what she thought a church should be. I agree with this guest that especially this past weekend, we lived into a vision of God’s kingdom here on earth, so this is my love letter to you. This is what our guests said about you.
It is my love letter to you because I want to celebrate the good work that we did together, and I want us to remember that as a churchwe can continue to do this work and seek after justice long into the future. In fact it is a our calling as Christians.
I got a bird’s eye view of it all, so I want to show you the process of how you engaged the whole body of the church to shine God’s light of hope and inclusive love into the city.
Not by ignoring the fears and injustices, but rather by embracing a posture of radical hospitality, you shone in places where many were only experiencing darkness and grief.
Women’s March on Washington.
It took some planning to figure out how to be open and present….so FOR TWO MONTHS you reflected on that the Bible says about a radical welcome. We discussed what justice, reconciliation and resistance means. Out of those deliberations, you voted to be open for guests visiting the city both for the Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington.
You figured out to how turn that decision into reality. We had a lot of meetings in person, on the phone, and over email. We made policies and spreadsheets. We vetted documents and waivers. We made sign up lists and got them filled in. We baked, cooked, and got organized as a church.
The whole staff pitched in. Custodial staff David and Raymond agreed to take on extra hours and extra work. Cook Evelyn agreed to make meals. Jasmine, Cheria, and Jan kept up with the office-tasks associated with organizing. Mary and Robin took extra calls. Darius and Johnny agreed to more clean ups. And all of this work was in the midst of the elevators being down for almost an entire week.
After careful study and deliberations, you voted to become a Sanctuary church where immigrants and refugees would be welcomed. You committed yourself toward prayer. You committed to being feisty Christians.
This was my favorite week that I have been with you.
SUNDAY, Jan 15: We worshiped God during a powerful Sunday morning Dr. King service, where Pastor Roger spoke prophetically as we prepared for the new administration. We concluded standing linked arm in arm singing “We Shall Overcome.” You showed up for two different Dr. King Services Sunday afternoons January 8 for a Annual Dr. King Interfaith Serviceand January 15 led by the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate.
MONDAY, Jan 16:You served together on Dr. King’s birthday for our 2nd Annual Day of Service. Along with 5 other local PCUSA and United Church of Christ churches, you taught our children and youth about Dr. King’s legacy and living out our faith through love toward our neighbors. You helped serve a good lunch and gave your skills to create a well organized clothing closet.You listened to the deep stories that each person brings. You committed to learn from those stories about how God shines in and through each one of our lives.
TUESDAY, Jan 17 (and the many days before):You did the final organizing in preparing to host 70 overnight guests and hosts staying for the women’s march.You baked.You baked a lot. You bought lots of food. You made trips to Costco in the rain. You dropped off homemade soup.You told your friends to come to us if they needed shelter or a safe place to be. You advertised our work on social media.We in the office updated a lot of spreadsheets and answered a lot of emails.
WEDNESDAY, Jan 18:You showed up on Wednesday January 18 worshiping alongside dozens of local communities of faith: churches, synagogues and mosques standing up for Justice as a pre-Inauguration service of commitment against the proposed policies of the new Administration. You were amazed at the organizing job of Theo Brown.
You showed up praying that we will stand up firm and fast on behalf of the vulnerable and the oppressed, on behalf of those who have been threatened, on behalf of those who have already faced violence,and on behalf of the so many who live in deep fear and anxiety.You prayed for all of God’s beloved creation especially for our sisters and brothers of color too often the targeted and victims of violence. You prayed for women who fear violence and feel a threat to their bodies, for faith communities who have been targeted especially our Muslim brothers and sisters, and for immigrants and refugees already living in fear of being ripped from their families and loved ones.
For those on custodial and front desk staff, you worked a lot of extra hours.
THURSDAY, Jan 19:You kept organizing.You keep advertising.You prayed. And then together we rested as the church was closed for one day.It was a our Sabbath.
FRIDAY-SUNDAY, Jan 20-22:You showed up for a continuous block from 8 am on January 20 until 3 pm on January 22 providing radical inclusive hospitality for all guests coming to town. You were open for those celebrating the Inauguration, for those protesting the new administration, for vendors, for the police, for overnight guests for the Women’s March on Washington, and for as it turns out thousands of guests on the march day itself.
Over the three day period you welcomed thousands* (no chip reader, so this is a guess) of guests who came in throughout the weekend in to use our restrooms, enjoy a beverage and a cookie, charge a cell phone, take a tour of our sanctuary, listen to the Inauguration streamed live in the Radcliffe Room, to pray and meditate, to engage in conversation, or simply time to sit and regroup before heading out.
FRIDAY, Jan 20:You were church for locals and for those who came in from across the country. You were church both to those who came celebrating the Inauguration and those who came protesting the rhetoric and proposed actions of the Trump administration. You were church to our regular guests to the Radcliffe Room, our guests who experience homeless as a daily life here in DC, and to church members who needed a place to be and reflect. To this vast diversity of people, you extended the warmth and welcome of the kingdom of God.
I saw you showing up as church for a group of older females headed to the Inauguration who delighted sitting in the Lincoln pew and hearing the history tour of the church.
I saw you being the light of sanctuary for two younger women in their early 20’s headed to the Inauguration — coming in visibly shaking and frightened from the more violent protests happening a few blocks away.
I saw you showing up as a place of warmth and comfort for guests checking in overnight — some who had traveled alone for the first time, some taking harrowing journeys, and for some who had never set foot in a church before.
I saw you showing up as the light of hospitality for vendors selling “Make America Great Again” hats and pins outside — welcoming them in for warm hospitality and watching their cart outside.
I saw you showing up as a place of safety for a group of protesters who had been tear gassed and came into the bathrooms to clean up.
I saw you show up as a place of welcome for a group of police to come in and use the bathrooms and enjoy a drink of cold water.
I saw you being a non-anxious presence to all who walked through our doors.
And then people didn’t come to the church doors, you went out into the streets, offering cookies and hospitality to just about every person who passed us by.
You saw all of our neighbors in the street and you did not turn away.You said hello, and you offered a radical sanctuary – where everyone was welcomed — where everyone needed to share — where everyone was considered a beloved part of God’s creation.
You spent the night overnight at the church so that we could host guests. A few of you even stayed for 3 days straight without a shower and without even a quick trip home.
SATURDAY, Jan 21: You continued showing up as church for thousands on Saturday. Many of us who stayed overnight met in front of the church to walk together to the Women’s March on Washington. We came from so many different places, and we marched for different reasons. But we were committed to the rights of women and to a conviction that all people should be loved and treated with respect and dignity.
We gave each other high fives.We prayed for each other and for a peaceful the march. I like to think that God heard and answered our prayers.
As many of us marched stuck in the thickest and most beautiful crowds I have ever seen, many of you — maybe 30 — maybe more — showed up a the church to continue to offer hospitality.
As the crowds increased and as it seemed as the Women’s March route ended on our doorsteps, you opened up literally every bathroom from the basement to the 5th floor; you served everything that many of you had so wonderfully cooked and baked — and then because the crowds were so heavy and in need of comfort, you looked through every extra cupboard to serve every cookie that we had. At one point you served cereal because that is what we had left. Then one of you ran out to CVS to buy dozens more cookies.
For what seemed like thousands between 2 and 6 pm, you were a face of warmth, a face of generosity, and a face of hope and courage.You were lights for the city.You were lights for the church, and for the family of God.
SUNDAY, Jan 22: After all of that you showed for Sunday worship. You showed up to teach Sunday School. You showed up excited about all of the signs that that the Women’s Marchers left behind.
You listened to the college students from Westminster College in Missouri come in and talk about why they marched. You showed up for students from the rural mid-west, for a student who is a refugee from Syria and for students who are immigrants from Nepal and Guatemala. You showed up for a young woman of color discerning her call into ministry from a background who tells her that women can’t be pastors. You showed showing that this is church. You showed up saying church where everyone is welcome.
You showed people what church is and what church can be. It was really thrilling to be part of it all. Thank you.
In the days and weeks and months ahead, I know we will continue to show up. I know this because we already have. We will be a light of justice and courage — a light of hope and resistance — a light that lives into the two greatest commandments that the Jesus Christ taught us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
We love God.We love our neighbors as we love ourselves.We will continue to be church standing up, showing up, and living into the light of God’s kingdom on Earth.
From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “This brings us to perhaps the most significant aspect of King’s dream and the black prophetic tradition. It is not bound by the past, or even by the present. It is driven by the future. In the midst of the harshest realities of a stand-your-ground culture, King spoke of a dream for a different world. He did not surrender to the crucifying realities of the world. He did not permit it to have the last word. This was the power of his black faith. It enabled him to live into the resurrection promise of new life. In this regard, the future was that which shaped his life, and hence his vision for America. King’s dream was not born from the possibilities that the past offered but rather from the promise of God’s future. Recognizing the nation’s religious identity, King called the nation to this future. King often proclaimed that the “arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” King’s dream was a testament to this arc. Therefore, though the past was significant in shaping the present reality, because it was a crucifying past, King did not allow it to have authority over his future dreams, or his present actions for that matter. As the cross took seriously the harsh and brutal realities of human evil, so too did King. However, a new history had to be written. The only way for that to occur was from the vantage point of the future, not the past. King’s dream reflected the in-breaking of God’s future into the present. It was about a moral imagination.”
From Pema Chodron’s The Places and Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times: “We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate this steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are. One aspect of steadfastness is simply being in your body.…When you sit down it’s important to relax into your body and to get in touch with what is going on. Starting with the top of your head, you can spend a few minutes bringing awareness to every part of your body. When you come to places that are hurting or tense you can breathe in and out three or four times, keeping your awareness on that area. When you get to the soles of your feet you can stop, or if you feel like it, you can repeat this body sweep by going from bottom to top. Then at any time during your meditation period, you can quickly tune back in to the overall sense of being in your body…. You can reconnect with your body like this when it occurs to you—maybe once or twice during a sitting session. Then return to the technique.”
From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society: “Imagine there was no suffering. This is like trying to imagine a lotus growing without the mud that nurtures it. You can’t plant lotus on marble. If there’s no mud, there’s no lotus. So if you want to have lotus flowers, you have to get some mud. If you look deeply into the nature of the lotus, you will see the mud in it. You don’t need to look at the mud, you only need to look at the lotus and you will see the mud in it. You can’t remove the mud from the lotus. If you tried to do so, the lotus would cease to be a lotus. Lotus flowers are made of non-lotus elements, including mud. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements, including suffering.”
From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “The resurrecting power of God is made fully manifest in the defeat of the ultimate power of evil represented by the cross. The resurrection is God’s definitive response to the crucifying realities. It clarifies the essential character of God’s power—a power that values life. The resurrection of the one who died such a hideous and ignominious death firmly establishes that God does not in any way sanction the suffering of human beings. The resurrection asserts the sanctity of human life as it overcomes all the forces that would deny it. The resurrection in effect makes plain the “wrongness” of the crucifixion, and thus of all crucifying realities. It shows that death does not have the last word. It is in understanding the crucifixion–resurrection event in relation to each other that allowed black people to sing, “He arose, he arose from the dead, An’ de Lord shall bear my spirit home.”
From Michael Gorman’s Becoming the Gospel: “Evangelism – sharing the good news – will be a message about liberation from all sorts of sin, including hatred and violence and injustice, and into a new life. Centrifugal activity, or outreach embodying the good news in the public square will mean siding with those who are neglected and mistreated, whether in the neighborhood or in another part of the world. In fact, the differences between terms like “evangelism” and “outreach” will in part collapse, not because Jesus is being replaced with justice, understood in some generic, secular way, but because Jesus is justice, the justice of God incarnate. The result will be a deeper spirituality, not a lesser one, a closer walk with God (the God of justice), not a more distant one. In fact, the result will be a passion for Jesus and for justice.”