From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday June 28th at 10:00am via Zoom. I’m preaching the story of Jonah, a satire that gives us a hero who does his very best to run and fails. Jonah struggles to make sense of God’s actions, a story that can speak to our current times. I encourage you to read the entire book of Jonah prior to Sunday—it’s only four short chapters.

Immediately following worship, the Session has called a Congregational Meeting to elect officers and a Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC). Click here for detailed instructions on Sunday’s congregational meeting and vote. Click here for the names and bios of the nine-member slate being proposed by the Nominating Committee.

***Please note that if you join Sunday worship through Facebook, YouTube, or by calling into Zoom on your phone, you will not be able to vote via those platforms. For anyone in this category, we have set up a phone bank so that you can call in your vote. To vote by phone, please call (571) 221-7805 or (571) 221-7804.***

We still need members and friends to turn out for the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) Virtual Action on Thursday July 2 at 6:45pm. If you are stuck at home, but still care about justice in our city, this is an easy way for you to invest in systemic change. WIN is asking the DC Council to redirect $300 million in public funds from gentrification projects, corporate subsidies and the police department (DC has more police per capita in the country), and reinvest it into affordable housing, good paying jobs, and community-based violence prevention programs. You can read more about the budget demands here: windc-iaf.org/2021budget. Please let us know you’re coming by emailing Martha Davis (marthagdavis1@gmail.com). I promised to turn out 75 people. As of this morning, that means we need another 33 people to attend. I hope that one of them will be you!

Finally, the NYAPC Reopening Team has been working toward a limited reopening of our building for tenants, now that the District has moved into Stage Two of its reopening plan. Click here for a letter from the Reopening Team, outlining new building protocols and an update.

And a prayer from Nadia Bolz Weber to nourish your spirit this week:


I do not know when we can gather
together again in worship, Lord.
So, for now I just ask that:
When I sing along in my kitchen
to each song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in
The Key of Life Album,
that it be counted as praise. And that when I read the news
and my heart tightens in my chest,
may it be counted as a Kyrie. And that when my eyes brighten
in a smile behind my mask
as I thank the cashier
may it be counted as passing the peace.
And that when I water my plants
and wash my dishes and take a shower
may it be counted as remembering my baptism.
And that when the tears come
and my shoulders shake and my
breathing falters, may it be counted as prayer.
And that when I stumble upon
a Tabitha Brown video
and hear her grace and love of you
may it be counted as a hearing a homily.
And that as I sit at that table in my apartment,
and eat one more homemade meal, slowly, joyfully,
with nothing else demanding my time or attention,
may it be counted as communion.
Amen.

Peace and Courage,
Heatther

What’s Going On: Njoro Orphan and Vulnerable Children Program

This week, Rev. Billy Kluttz interviews NYAPC member Morgan Brown, who coordinates NYAPC’s partnership with the Orphan and Vulnerable Children Program in Njoro, Kenya, to find out how they are coping with the pandemic.

For those who might be new to The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, can you briefly describe the Njoro Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program and the history of our involvement with it? — NYAPC, along with  Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, have partnered with the Njoro Presbyterian Church of East Africa (P.C.E.A.) to support a Njoro Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program since 2007.  The program currently supports 35 students from elementary school to university.  On Saturdays, the children in the program gather for meals, devotionals lead my the committee from the Njoro church, tutoring sessions with teachers, and recreation.  This time helps to strengthen their academic skills and gives them a community of support.  The program’s social worker also checks on them by making visits to their schools and homes. In addition to this support, the program provides all of the students with school uniforms, school tuition, and a weekly supply of maize to take to home to their families.  

As usual, the OVC program’s children gather for a morning prayer on Saturday; however, things look a little different from usual, as they practice social distancing and stay outdoors.  Since this time, the program has moved to serving the children two times as week in groups of 10 to help maintain social distancing practices.

How is The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church continuing to support the Njoro Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) during the pandemic? — The NYAPC OVC committee has been in communication with the Njoro OVC committee members.  Through email and WhatApps, we have been able to provide updates, encouragement, some fun brain teasers, and many prayers.  We are going to try our first cross-continental joint board meeting via Zoom during the first week of June!  We have also been able to provided additional funds for maize so that the children can take home twice as much maize each week to support their families’ increased food needs. 

Rev. Tony Matiko of Njoro P.C.E.A. and Njoro OVC committee member provide the OVC program’s children with bread and extra supplies to take home to their families. These items are some of the many that have been donated to help meet the increased food needs of the OVC children’s families during the pandemic.

What has changed because of the novel coronavirus? What has remained the same within the program? — Like in the United States, schools and businesses in Kenya have closed.  The OVC program is now encouraging the children to come twice a week (once on Wednesdays and once on Saturdays) in groups of 10 to help maintain social distancing.  They are still served meals and pray together, but the other program activities have been eliminated for now.  The children’s families have increased food needs as children are home from school all day and extended family members have had to return home due to closed businesses.  Through NYAPC’s support, the program is able to provide twice as much maize as usual for the children to take home, and through the generous contributions of Njoro P.C.E.A. members and friends, the children have taken home vegetables, meat, and some other food items.   The program’s dedicated social worker, Susan, has continued her home visits so families are still feeling supported and encouraged through these difficult times. 

How should we be praying for the program and its leadership? — We can pray for the continued health and well being of all of the program’s children and their families.  We can thank God for the generosity and blessings of the Njoro committee members as they have risen to the challenge of meeting the needs of the children in these difficult times.  We can pray for their continued flexibility, faithfulness, and wisdom as they continue to adapt to serve the programs as conditions change.

Faces of Faith: Shiprah and Puah

Dear Friends,
Join us for worship this Sunday June 14th at 10:00am to hear our second sermon in the Faces of Faith Summer Sermon Series. I’m preaching from Exodus 1:8-20, the wonderful story of the Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah, who blatantly disobey the Pharaoh’s genocidal plan to kill all newborn males. As always, there will be beautiful music and great joy in seeing one another’s faces. In the midst of so much bad news in the world, we gather each week to be reminded of God’s good news and what that means for us, trying to live faithfully in a broken world.

Last week, the church was open for six days of protest hospitality, providing water, clean bathrooms, and a resting place for approximately 2100 people. Half of our volunteers were non-church members who heard about us from Twitter and Dcist. NYAPC also received a $10,000 donation from a local resident who asked, “how much will it cost to keep your building open for protestors?” Thank you to everyone who showed up to help or who supported the efforts with their prayers. Take note that the city has asked all protestors to get tested for COVID-19. Here are all the testing sites in D.C.

NYAPC will be OPEN for Protest Hospitality on Saturday June 13 from 5:00-9:00pm. Please check our social media channels for up to date details.
Some exciting news! The Session has called a Congregational Meeting for Sunday June 28th to elect the Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC). The meeting will immediately follow the 10:00 am Zoom Worship Service. The Nominating Committee has worked diligently this spring to nominate a balanced slate of members who will do the work of seeking NYAPC’s next lead pastor. The nine-person slate will be announced next Friday June 19th. There will be “voter training” and a practice vote on Sunday June 21st following the worship service.

Finally, a powerful poem by Claudia Rankine to ponder this week:

On a scrap of paper in the archive is written
I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out
in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher,
is without. We scramble in the drought of
information held back by inside traders. Drop by
drop. Face covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six
feet under for underlying conditions. Black.
Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck
with the full weight of a man in blue.
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
In extremis, I can’t breathe gives way
to asphyxiation, to giving up this world,
and then mama, called to, a call
to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say
their names, white silence equals violence,
the violence of again, a militarized police
force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil
unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever
contracts keep us social compel us now
to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out
to repair the future. There’s an umbrella
by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather
that’s here. I say weather but I mean
a form of governing that deals our death
and names it living. I say weather but I mean
a November that won’t be held off. This time
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the
storm that’s storming because what’s taken matters.
Weather by Claudia Rankine

Peace and Courage, Heather

A Confessing Nation

Today we feature a devotion from the past that seems particularly thought-provoking for today. This meditation by Paul Dornan comes from our library of devotions that our members write each year during Advent and Lent.

“Now on the twenty-fourth day of the month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth and with earth on their heads.  Then those with Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors.  They stood up in their place and read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth part of the day, and for another fourth they made confession and worshipped the Lord their God.” – Nehemiah 9: 1-3

Nehemiah, with Ezra, recounts the restoration of Israel after the trauma of exile.  Exile and its aftermath deepened the sense of an entire people that they were dependent upon their God for past, present, future.  And so they confessed. 

Just picture the whole gathered nation of Israel, standing as a people, confessing their sins as a nation before God.  Then picture the Mall on Inauguration Day.  Imagine that joyful throng standing quietly – for three hours – and confessing our common transgressions as a people. 

What would we say?  Might we say something about our wanton use and abuse of our abundance?  Of how we too often confuse that abundance with righteousness?  Or how we have become addicted to things whether we need them or not?  Or how we try to impose democracy on some peoples while propping up cruel dictators elsewhere, all in the name of our national interest?  Would we mention Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib?

I have thought recently that we would do better as a nation if we sang the second and third verses of our national hymns, the humbler ones, than the cocksure first verses.  Just as examples:

America!  America!  God mend thy every flaw.  Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee; Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.

We are not afraid; we are not afraid; we are not afraid today – O, deep in my heart, I do believe that we are not afraid today.

Come gather round people wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone, for the old world is rapidly aging….

America!  America!  May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine!

What runs through all these words is something that Reinhold Niebuhr affirms in nearly every page of his work, that is, nations, as well as groups and individuals, stand under the sovereignty of the Creator God; under the judgment of the Moral Ordering God; and under the grace of the God of New Possibilities.  That affirmation crosses nations and administrations. 

To close, I would cite from the best example I know of a national confession: 

With malice toward none; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

– Paul B. Dornan

“Faces of Faith”

Dear Friends,

What a week. Windows boarded up. Streets closed. Fired up protestors. Graffiti laments. Every law enforcement agency under the sun. Curfews. Eye wash solution to treat the tear gassed. 24,000 bottles of water from our friends at Foundry United Methodist Church. Church bells tolling. Helicopters buzzing. And the stories—young men lifting up their pant legs to show their wounds from rubber bullets, older folks saying enough is enough, everyone insistent and hungry for change.

In the midst of it all, The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has been the church. Offering safe space, clean restrooms, a drink of water, and a listening ear. Thank you to all who have volunteered. And thank you to all who remain at home, wrapping us in your prayers.

On Sunday morning, we are launching a new summer sermon series “Faces of Faith: Bold and Untold Stories,” focusing on the ordinary, often overlooked people in the Bible who make a difference.

This week, I’m preaching the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego from Daniel 3:1-30. I encourage you to read the story in advance. There’s also a summer spiritual journal to accompany this series. You’re invited to download it here (or request a mailed copy from the church office). It’s one small way to practice good spiritual hygiene this summer—taking a few moments each week to check in with the state of your soul.

A prayer, “I Lay Before You” by Howard Thurman to continue to stir your soul:

The concern which I lay bare before You today is:

Whatever disaffection there is between me and those who are or have been very close to me— I would seek the root or cause of such disaffection, and with the illumination of Your mind, O God, to understand it.

I give myself to Your scrutiny that, whatever there may be in me that is responsible for what has happened, I will acknowledge.

Where I have wronged or given offense deliberately or without intention, I seek a face-to-face forgiveness.

What I can undo I am willing to try; what I cannot undo, with that I seek to make my peace.

How to do these things, what techniques to use, with what spirit— for these I need and seek Your wisdom and strength, O God.

Whatever disaffection there is between me and those who are or have been very close to me, I lay bare before You.

Grace and Peace,
Heather

Protest Hospitality – Friday Update

Dear Members and Friends,

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church continues to be open for protest hospitality (with strict physical distancing and safety precautions in place).

Yesterday, Friday June 5th, we were open from 3:00-9:00pm. Today, Saturday June 6th, we will be open from 10:00am-9:00pm. On Saturday, we will also be serving as a designated cooling center for the city, in case there are emergency cases.

The city is expecting record numbers of protestors on Saturday, so we’d like to be prepared as possible. Click here to sign up to volunteer for a two-hour shift.

Contact Phil Telfeyan, Donation Coordinator, if you would like to drop off Gatorade, ponchos, face masks, hand sanitizer, snacks, sunscreen, or zip lock bags (ptelfeyan@post.harvard.edu). As you can see in the photo. We have enough water. You can also donate financially here.

If you have questions about volunteering, contact Madison Neimer, Volunteer Coordinator (mneimer26@gmail.com).

Moving forward, we are making a daily decision about hours by 11:00am. Please check our social media accounts for the most updated information and spread the word that all protestors are welcome at NYAPC.

Finally, the church is dedicated to long term organizing of a more just and equitable city. To that end, we’ve committed to turn out 75 people on Thursday July 2 for a Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) virtual public action, held online from 6:45-8:00pm. WIN aims to have 1000 people together to begin organizing around a broad, bold Reimagine DC agenda centered around equity. This is the perfect opportunity for those who are still at home, but itching to be present. Let Martha Davis know if we can count on you to show up for this important virtual action (marthagdavis1@gmail.com).

Peace and Grace,

Heather

P.S. Remember to prepare your communion elements for Sunday morning worship. Bread and liquid of your choice—whatever you have on hand. God will be present despite our elements. 

Protest Hospitality – Thursday Update

Dear Church Community,

We had about 75 guests come through for water, restrooms, and cell phone charging Wednesday. I’ve never seen people so grateful for a bathroom! I’m really glad we were open. Evangelism at its finest.

Many thanks to the on-the-ground volunteers who helped make it possible: Erica Morgan, Grace Morgan, Talia Lewis, Matthew Schlageter, Courtney Spearman, Madison Neimer, Sarah Heilman (who saw the volunteer opportunity on Twitter), and Phil Telfeyan. Placing sandwich board signs advertising protest hospitality at both 13th and 14th street corners helped people in need find us. Many also said they heard about us via Twitter. 

We continue to evaluate this on a day-by-day basis, but are planning to be open for the rest of the week. If you want to volunteer, please sign up here.

It is very difficult to get to the church in a car. The streets are blockaded. Walking, biking, or metro is best. If driving, leave lots of extra time and be prepared to not be able to get close to the church.

Grace and courage,

Heather

Protest Hospitality and Call for Volunteers

Dear Members and Friends,

As the protests and pain across our city continue, our church building will be open to protesters this week, though we will re-evaluate this decision daily. 

In order to do this, we need four volunteers present at all times:
You can sign up for a volunteer slot here. We are also circulating this across the Presbytery and to other area churches.

There are also several important ways you can help remotely.

  • Serve as volunteer coordinator, monitoring the volunteer sign up and communicating with volunteers.
  • Serve as donation coordinator, letting those who are contributing water, masks, hand sanitizer, and snacks know when and where to drop off their donations.* (Update, we have found a donation coordinator!)

If you can serve in either of these roles, please contact our church administrator at nicole.johnson@nyapc.org

Grace and Courage,
Heather