Q & A: Meet Rev. Rachel Pacheco!

Last week, we “sat down” (via email) with Rev. Rachel Pacheco, our new stated supply associate pastor, for a quick interview. Watch for an expanded version in the next version of AveNews!

How did you decide to become a pastor?
I participated in the Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer program where I gained tools for vocational discernment. I thought about what gives me energy and what I would do with my time if I could do whatever I wanted. I realized I enjoy talking with people about big questions and difficult questions. This is part of being a pastor: creating space for questions, wondering, searching, and walking with people through difficulty.

What do you enjoy about working with children & youth?
I enjoy encouraging young people to make their own observations, to be curious, and to think of their own answers to questions. This is one way we build our faith and our individual voices which is vital for young people who are often told what to think or believe. I also enjoy learning to explicitly include children and youth in worship so that we can practice worshipping together as one body.

How do you cultivate your personal faith?
Ever since my family began attending church when I was five years old, I have participated in worship through music. So, playing and singing is a significant way that I cultivate my faith and center myself, both in worship and on my own. Not being able to gather in congregational song has been such a loss for all people of faith, in part because we are not able to join our voices together at the same time in the same space. Making music together reminds me that I am not alone in this life of discipleship. It also helps me to pray and connect with God’s presence among us. In light of the pandemic, I am very fortunate to live with another musician! My roommate, Abby Madden, is currently the Minister of Music at Arlington Presbyterian Church.

How are you planning to spend your first weeks with us?
My first weeks will be focused on meeting you all, learning about your congregational culture, and working with the dedicated Christian Learning leaders to prepare for a new Sunday School year. My first week has already been full of fun and collaborative conversations.

Are there other parts of your job that you’re especially looking forward to?
I have heard many times that this church is full of committed people. I have already started to experience this and to understand what that means. I am really looking forward to hearing your stories and being partners in the work of the church. I am also excited to work with the Communications team. Communicating well has an impact on the ministry of any congregation, so I am glad to invest in this work.

What can we do to help you as you get started in your work?
Contact me! I will be reaching out to you all, especially once Sunday School is underway, but don’t hesitate to reach out. Start thinking about what you want me to know about you and about this community.

You can contact Rachel at Rachel.Pacheco@nyapc.org

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us this Sunday for Zoom worship at 10:00am. I’m preaching from Acts 20:7-20, the peculiar and fun story of a teenager named Eutychus.

Join us for 10:00am Sunday Worship here
Dial-in#: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID 150 620 342

As always, we hope that Sunday’s music will continue to inspire and nourish you. This week, we are pleased to introduce Jacob Gagosian again as one of our featured young artists, now playing advanced repertoire while studying in this summer’s Interlochen Academy of the Arts. New York Avenue Presbyterian has always had a wealth of young talents in voice and instruments, so we are happy to hear him in Bach’s Concerto in A Minor for the prelude.

Sunday’s anthem is drawn from Dr. Engebretson’s gospel and spiritual book, “Hallelujah!” published in Germany. “I Stood on the Banks of Jordan” is set in a triplet, swinging style reminiscent of the water, while exploring jazz and expanded harmonies. It is set by John Høybe from Denmark, one of Europe’s leading popular music arrangers, and is very uplifting.

Pastor Rachel is in her second week of ministry with us, serving as our Associate Stated Supply Pastor. Rachel’s position is 30 hours per week and she will be working virtually on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Reach out to her through rachel.pacheco@nyapc.org.

And a prayer of blessing from John Philip Newell…

Peace where there is war
healing where there is hurt
memory where we have forgotten the other.
Vision where there is violence
light where there is madness
sight where we have blinded each other.
Comfort where there is sorrow
tears where there is hardness
laughter where we have missed life’s joy
laughter where we remember the joy.

Peace and Courage,
Heather

Listening and Belonging

Today we feature a devotion from member Rebecca Davis written in 2009 that seems especially relevant today. “We live in noisy times,” she writes. How do we listen for Jesus?

John 10:1-6

For me, the passage in John (like much of John) is a little difficult to swallow, especially given one of the traditional interpretations.

John’s Gospel, written last of our four, had at least two goals: to establish Jesus as the divine son of God, and to exalt him above other potential choices for the Gentiles. A tall order. The Greeks were living in a time of many religions and, in their own tradition, many gods. John used powerful metaphors to establish Jesus as the primary authority. Christianity was a fledgling entity, fighting for its very survival.

So John gives his readers many metaphors that explain how essential Jesus was to finding God. In this one, he describes thieves breaking into the sheepfold, a place where many flocks of sheep were kept. In the story, Jesus talks about people breaking in without going through the gate and calling to the sheep. These people are false prophets, distracting the sheep, and leading them astray.

And here is where the tough part comes in: one traditional interpretation of the passage suggests that Jesus is the gate, and that the only way for the sheep to get to the shepherd (God, the creator) is by going through the gate. John’s metaphor and this interpretation trouble us, living in multi-cultural families and our multi-cultural world.

I choose to focus on what I think is the most important part of this metaphor: the sheep, miraculously, know the voice of their shepherd. They know because they listen in a way that is bigger than hearing; it is about belonging. The shepherd calls them by name.

I’ve seen it happen in my friends’ houses, when my friends who are mothers hear their babies crying long before I do from four rooms away. It is a different kind of listening they do. It is IN these mothers; they never stop listening. Listening for their babies becomes a part of who they are.

These sheep hear in that way, and follow. This is something we can do, with practice. We can listen with the part of us at the center of us, the part of us that Jesus marks as his own when we are baptized. This may require us to take time every day to be quiet. We live in noisy times.

And this noise, after all, is what Peter of warns against in 1 Peter. It turns out that we are pretty good at creating our own noise with fear and excess and self-absorption. His list of distractions is long, and he is saying to his readers that the time for these things is past. These practices need to be put away, so that we can spend time listening for the one who is always ready to call to us and guide us to the things he wants us to do. Our time is short, Peter says. Pay attention.


My God, help me listen for your guidance in the difficult questions I face. In this day, open me to all the ways you speak to me: through scripture; friends, family & strangers; and your creation. Amen.

Rebecca Davis (2009)

From Rev. Rachel Pacheco

Hello, New York Avenue Community! 

I look forward to meeting and working alongside you being church together and in the world. I have lived in the DC area for 10 years and have come to love and care about this city. I still feel privileged to live and work in ministry here. 

I am excited to learn your stories and the story of this congregation. I hope to build relationships with you so that we can participate together in fulfilling the baptismal vows made as a congregation to support families in the spiritual formation of our children and youth. As we continue to adapt to the pandemic, I look forward to being creative together to try new ways of connecting and being community.

I enjoy listening and learning about people, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am coming from a congregation that has been through a lot of difficult change in the past few years, so I know that times of transition can take quite a toll. For however long we are in ministry together, I am committed to holding these challenges with you. I trust that the Holy One has been at work among you and remains with us as we walk forward together.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you this day!

Rev. Rachel Pacheco 

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us for online worship this Sunday, August 23rd, at 10:00 am. I’m preaching from Acts 16:11-15, 40 the story of Lydia, a business woman who helped provide hospitality to Paul and Silas.

Join us for 10:00am Sunday Worship here
Dial-in#: 1-929-436-2866
Meeting ID 150 620 342

Sunday’s worship music features…

A contemporary hymn favorite, “You are Mine,” written by David Haas in 1991, and performed in a duet by Molly Johnson with her daughter Penny. Mr. Haas is an active church musician living in Minneapolis, who is part of the “Minnesota School” of liturgical musicians, named for three outstanding composers who all graduated from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

The piano talents of Samantha Scheff, our former organ scholar, are on display in the prelude. She is currently the associate organist at St. John’s Lafayette Square, so it’s great to welcome her back to the neighborhood after receiving her Master’s in Organ at Rutgers University!

Our new ¾ time Associate Stated Supply Pastor, Rev. Rachel Pacheco, started on Tuesday. Rachel will be focused primarily on children, youth, and family ministry as well as communications and worship leadership. She’s working remotely from her home in Alexandria on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. She can be reached at rachel.pacheco@nyapc.org or (267) 981-1373. There will be a Meet & Greet with Rachel after worship on Sunday. In order to attend, please register in advance by emailing nicole.johnson@nyapc.org no later than Saturday at noon.

Volunteers will be providing Protestor Hospitality next Friday, August 28th for the March on Washington. If you would like to contribute to this important ministry, donations of individually wrapped snacks, sports drinks, and water are needed. Volunteers will be accepting donation drop off’s next Wednesday, August 26th from 6:00-8:00pm. Please email aryn_m@yahoo.com with any questions.

Finally, we have decided to close the building again. As many of you know, we softly reopened the church building in early July to prepare to accommodate our tenants. We had front desk and custodial staff working inside the building Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm, and Sunday, 10am-2pm. For the next three weeks, we are closing the building and all staff will be working remotely. We make this decision with the following information:

  1. Our tenants are not yet ready to return to the building. The Downtown Day Services Center is providing limited, appointment-based services, and is self-sufficient in locking and unlocking their designated entrance.
  2. Two of our staff members have contracted COVID-19 since returning to work inside the building, and the remaining staff, many who are considered high risk, are scared to return to in-person work.
  3. Except for Radcliffe Room Ministries and Protest Hospitality (which can continue with volunteers), worship and programs remain online until at least the beginning of Lent, which begins February 17, 2021.
    We will reevaluate this decision every three weeks, beginning Wednesday September 9, 2020. If you have any questions or concerns, please direct them my way.

Some nourishment for your soul this week—a poem, “Wait” by Galway Kinnell:

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

Grace and Courage, Heather

Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Lunches in Triangle Park

by Phil Telfeyan

For 152 days, volunteers at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church have helped feed Washingtonians who live without a home. More than 35 volunteers have participated in our lunch program over the past five months. Our volunteers have come from our longstanding Radcliffe Room ministry, our deacons, and many newcomers wanting to help in a time a great need.

In total, we have put in over 1400 hours of volunteer time. We have received over 24,000 donated meals from World Central Kitchen and over 13,000 meals from the Downtown Business Improvement District. Now, after five months, our program is coming to an end because the donated food from World Central Kitchen is stopping (although the BID will continue to distribute daily).

Our model was improvised: We set up a line of tables in Triangle Park, seven days a week. Guests enter at one side, where they wash their hands at a portable hand-washing station with soap and water. They get a towel to dry, a mask if they don’t have one, and hand-sanitizer as well. Then guests pick up water, juice, and a bag of lunch. On Sundays, we also have coffee, lemonade, bagels, sandwiches, underwear, clothes, and toiletries.

Our mission is decades old: For over 45 years, volunteers in the Radcliffe Room has offered food, coffee, clothing, and fellowship for more than 100 homeless guests every Sunday.

Generations of volunteers have shown us that radical hospitality requires offering love and compassion not just to those we know well, but to those we have yet to know. In our society, people experiencing homelessness lack more than housing; they often lack social connections, family, and — most important of all — friendship.

Choosing between love and fear: Coronavirus has caused great fear in many, and fear can often direct us inward, causing us only to think about ourselves and those closest to us. People who live on the streets in Washington know the feeling of being ignored; we didn’t want them to feel ignored this time.

The choice between love and fear is a daily choice. It’s a choice we each make for ourselves, but its stakes are often higher in times of great difficulty. So while we helped give food to thousands of people, we got something even more valuable in return.

This Sunday: The Story of the Ethiopian Eunuch

Dear Friends,

Join us for online worship this Sunday August 16th at 10:00am. Our summer sermon series, Faces of Faith: Bold and Untold Stories of the Bible, continues with the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, a black queer bureaucrat who crosses paths with Philip, resulting in a joint bible study and a baptism. It’s quite a story—found in Acts 8:26-40, in case you want to read ahead.

Join us for 10:00am Sunday Worship here
Dial-in#: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID 150 620 342

The Online Worship Team is looking for families and individuals to pre-record a joyful Call to Worship, that we’ll begin showcasing this fall. We hope this will help the congregation stay better connected to one another and give even more members and friends a chance to actively participate in worship. We’re specifically looking for people who have not already served as liturgists. Email me if you’d like to help and I’ll get you all the details on what we need for these brief one-minute videos.

Rev. Rachel Pacheco, our Associate Stated Supply Pastor, begins next Tuesday, August 18th. Rev. Pacheco will be focused on Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, specifically working on online spiritual formation opportunities for young ones. We look forward to welcoming Rachel next week.

And a poem from poet laureate, Joy Harjo, from her book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings to nourish you this week:

This Morning I Pray for My Enemies

And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The doors to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.

Peace and Courage,
Heather

What’s Going On: Our Church Building

by John O’Brien, Facilities Manager and Tom Dunlap, Board of Trustees

Wonder what’s been happening in the church building since last we were there? Trustees, staff and volunteers have all worked to improve the facility and continue to serve our community.

Getting Ready for Our Tenants’ Return: Pre-pandemic, the church had become a very busy office building during the weekdays as various mission-driven services brought more clients with special needs into the building. These tenant organizations require that we continue to make the building safe.

We have installed security locks on the elevators that require key cards to access the upper floors. Various plumbing repairs and improvements have been made, including “touchless” faucets in all restrooms. Holding your hands under the nozzle automatically activates the flow. Not only will this conserve water, it will also prevent contact infections.

In addition, we now have signage that reminds visitors of infection prevention measures and floor dots that show six feet intervals for physical distancing. A security and sneeze shield system will soon be installed at the front entrance reception desk.

Air Conditioning Plans: Problems with the air-conditioning system have been fixed while the Trustees plan for a very necessary replacement of our nearly 40-year-old system. Several repairs have been made to keep the current system working. The plan is to replace the sanctuary system. This project should be completed by the winter. Temperature and humidity control are important for the comfort of our tenants, staff, and visitors, as well as to protect our church organ.

Food for our Neighbors & Protest Hospitality: Through our building, we have supported outdoor food service and hospitality for various protest events. Chef Jose Andrés’ World Central Kitchen and the Downtown BID have made 175 daily lunches available to our neighbors in need since the pandemic started. Now that contribution support is winding down and the days of service are being reduced.

Meanwhile, our Radcliffe Room volunteers have continued our Sunday program but with new hours, a lunch service from 11-1 pm. Refreshments and restrooms have been available for all Black Lives Matter events. We will also serve the March on Washington commemoration on August 28.

Modifying Services: The coronavirus epidemic has forced us to modify all of our services. This includes the NYAPC programs of Community Club and 7 to 9. Even our tenant programs are all trying to redefine their service models so that we can safely provide what clients need without putting anyone at unnecessary risk. Please be patient as our volunteer leaders work to change these important programs to comply with the new infection prevention reality.

The Downtown Center serving the homeless from our building has also redefined its model. BID clients are no longer freely coming and going through the day. Instead, there are scheduled appointments for showers and laundry. Four clients per hour are escorted into and out of the building, maintaining masks and distancing. City services have been expanded at Vermont Avenue and H Street to serve those displaced by the renovation project at Franklin Square. No expansion of services are planned for our facility.

Grant Means New Security Systems. Finally, other major changes will be occurring this fall as we are able to improve the security systems protecting the church and our people. Thanks to the work of Paul Dornan and Courtney Spearman, the church has been awarded a grant of $100,000 from the DC Dept of Homeland Security. This will allow us to replace many worn internal doors, and add security lighting, sensors. and cameras, and replacement of our manual door locks with a modern computer assisted system. That plan will be implemented by the end of 2020.

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

160,000 Covid-19 deaths. Isaias pummeling the East Coast. An administration making blatant noises about undermining the upcoming election. Black mothers with children terrorized at gunpoint. Double digit unemployment and an economic recession. Schools in limbo. The news keeps getting harder and harder to stomach. And many of you, rightfully so, are tired and ready for some good news.

So tune into online worship this Sunday, August 9th at 10:00am for prayer, beautiful music, community, and the Word of God for the people of God. I’m preaching on Judas and his infamous betrayal of Jesus from Mark 14:41-50 and we have a wonderful anthem, “Ella’s Song,” from Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Join us for 10:00am Sunday Worship here
Dial-in#: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID 150 620 342

Tomorrow (Saturday August 8th), I’m hosting the fourth Summer Justice Film Series at 4:00pm. We’ll be discussing the film Dark Waters, the 2019 legal thriller that dramatizes Robert Bilott’s case against the chemical corporation, DuPont, after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals. The film is excellent. If you haven’t yet joined us for one of these discussions, I highly encourage you to watch the film and join us tomorrow. Here’s the study guide including more details about where to find the film.

And a blessing from Jan Richardson to nourish you this week:

To all that is chaotic in you
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamoring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
cease.
Let what divides you
cease.
Let there come to an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
possible
and see what shimmers
within the storm.

“Blessing in the Chaos” from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief by Jan Richardson

Peace and Courage, Heather

What’s Going On: Session Begins 2021 Budget Process

“Budgets are policy documents; they are statements that say what we intend to do in the world.” Former Finance Chair Brian Dewhurst used to say this before leading the Session through its annual budget process. What if drafting a budget is a spiritual process too?

At its July meeting, our session adopted direction for the 2021 budget: When committees/boards/programs submit budget requests to finance, they should highlight how their requests align with our Strategic Plan (you can see the second quarter report on our plan here).

in addition, Session asks each group to respond to two questions:

  1. How can your committee, board or program cultivate deeper faith?
  2. How can your committee, board or program cultivate deeper connections and relationships?

Holy Gatherings. Both questions come from our Strategic Plan’s first goal: “Cultivate faith in our individual lives and our community,” which grew out of the Strategic Planning Team’s vision that every gathering of the NYAPC community is a faith gathering, whether the group is discussing finance, building needs, worship, or simply having dinner or coffee. How can we feel nurtured in community and in faith in every gathering?

We hope these two questions will stir holy discussion and holy action, but the specific acts can be mundane. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, says Jesus. How can all of us sow those seeds?

The full Strategic Plan is available on our website. In addition, the Session has released its second quarterly status report on the plan.  

And looking back can inform how we look forward. Our 2019 Annual Report is now available!