Sunday Worship & Election Week Plans

Dear Friends,

Join us this Sunday November 1st at 10:00am for Zoom worship. We will be celebrating All Saints, honoring the members of our community who have died in the past year as well as the 228,000 Americans who have perished from Covid-19. We’ll celebrate the sacrament of communion, so please prepare your table and elements in advance. During a pandemic, whatever bread and drink you have on hand will be blessed by God.

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

Please keep our church and the city in your prayers as we head into next week. NYAPC is tentatively planning on being open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to provide post-election/protest hospitality. We will make a decision each day as to whether or not our building will be open for physically distanced, Covid-19 safe hospitality. Please stay tuned to our social media accounts (@nyapcdc) for the most up-to-date information.

If you are healthy and able, we need onsite volunteers for two-hour shifts. Sign up here and direct any questions about volunteering to Madison Neimer mneimer26@gmail.com. We are also in need of supplies—bottled drinks, non-perishable snacks, hand sanitizer/wipes, masks, small flash lights, and handwarmers. Donations can be dropped off at the church on Monday from 5:30-7:30pm or shipped directly from our Amazon Wish List. Please direct all donation questions to Aryn Myers aryn.myers@gmail.com.

If you are feeling anxious about the upcoming election, here is an at home liturgy that can be used for prayer, reflection, and meditation in the days ahead. Link Here.

And there is an in-person, non-partisan Election Eve Prayer Vigil scheduled for Monday November 2nd from 5:30-6:30pm – see this Facebook Events page .

Finally, a Mary Oliver poem, “When Death Comes” to nourish you this week:

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Peace and Courage, Heather

What’s Going On: The McClendon Center

by Dennis Hobbs, Executive Director

The McClendon Center, one of our long-term tenants, usually provides day services to clients recovering from mental illnesses in Peter Marshall Hall.  

It’s been extremely difficult to be out of the church building. Our clients love coming to the day program, and it is like a second home to them.  As such, we’ve had some sad outcomes because people weren’t being seen. 

One client died of a PCP overdose in May.  Another died from a heart attack in June.  Both of these clients had been monitored daily by our nurse at the day program, but that just wasn’t possible when we were closed.  Another client with whom I met weekly has had such a disruption in her routine that she stopped taking her medication and has now lost 30 pounds. I’ve gone to her house numerous times but can’t get her to change her mind.  Also, the deaf clients we had in the afternoon miss us terribly.  The staff are having monthly video calls with them that wind up in tears on both sides of the screen.

Providing Virtual Services. On the positive side, we’ve developed a pretty robust “virtual” service in a lot of group homes.  Some of these homes depend on their residents leaving during the day and, thus, weren’t providing lunch.  Now that we’re “in” the homes, we have lunch dropped off for everyone in the house (so no more scrounging for food on the street). 

We’ve also been able to reach a lot of people this way whom we had never seen before. One day we actually served 73 people virtually!  But this effort takes a lot more staff, so we’ve diverted three staff members into the day program to handle this. 

A big success story is that we gave a scholarship to a client who was at St. Elizabeth’s for 11 years.  That was last fall. (The Department of Behavioral Health will no longer allow St. E patients to attend outpatient programs before they leave the hospital: we basically gave away around $15,000 of services for him, but it was worth it.) He finally got released from St. E with the requirement that he continue in our virtual day program, and luckily he was going to one of the houses where we’re set up to provide this service.  So we are still helping people, and seemingly re-inventing ourselves every day.

For FY2021 the McClendon Center is projecting an overall loss of over $1 million. So we’ve cut back on the amount of space we’re renting from NYAPC, since we’re not even there. That will help a little, but I’m hopeful that things will turn around soon and that the loss will be far less than anticipated. Thank God we had some good years to act as a cushion for this coming bad year!

Finally, I’m retiring on January 4th!  The Board is conducting a search now for the new CEO and I’m sure they’ll find someone who will continue the good work I’ve been privileged to continue–that started with Jack McClendon 40 years ago.

This Sunday’s Worship Service; ‘Pocket-Sized Moments’

Dear Friends,

Join us this Sunday for Zoom Worship at 10:00am. Our guest preacher, Rev. Sara Varnado, is preaching about loving neighbors from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. Sara graduated from Columbia Seminary in 2007 and was ordained in 2009. Since moving to D.C. in 2016 with her husband, Rev. Matthew Schlageter (Parish Associate and Chaplain at Children’s National), Sara has worked as a Homeless Services Advocate at Community Connections, a Behavioral Health Agency, ministering is in the streets of D.C.
The music this week “Old American Songs” features Whitney McColley in Aaron Copland’s setting of Simple Gifts, with a complete set of arrangements by Copland.

Immediately following worship, there will be a virtual coffee hour. For those who would like to stay, you’ll be invited to grab some caffeine and sugar, and then join others in a break out room for conversation and connection.

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

And some poetry, “Pocket-Sized Moments” from Rev. Sarah Are to nourish your spirit this week: 

I wonder if we will know when restoration comes.
Will it feel big and dramatic like a summer rain?
Joyful and overwhelming, like an end-of-war parade?
Maybe.

Or will it be small?
Will it be pocket-sized moments, like wishing on stars,
The sun through the curtains, or lightning bugs in the yard?
Maybe.

I don’t know how God will restore this world,
Just like I don’t know how to make the summer rain.
But I do know how to say I’m sorry.
And I do know how to love with all of me.
And I know how to say, “This cup is for you,”
And I know how to taste grace in grape juice.

So on the off-chance that restoration will be small,
Pocket-sized moments of love for all,
I will bake bread and save a seat for you.
I will say I’m sorry and say I love you too.
I will plant gardens and look for fireflies.
I will say prayers on shooting stars at night.

And when the sun shines through my curtain windows,
Remind me to open them wide.
I would hate to miss God’s parade,
These holy ordinary days.

Peace and Courage,

Heather

A Surprise Gift

by Rev. Beth Braxton

Barry Tindall was a beloved member of the Sunday morning Radcliffe Room team in preparing food for our guests experiencing homelessness. Barry’s specialty was cutting the large blocks of cream cheese into small cubes for spreading on bagels. He also worked endless hours to scour and clean the large metal serving trays.

In addition, Barry was on the Triangle Park team, planting daffodil bulbs and caring for plants next to the church building adjacent to the park.

Together, Barry and I kept the planters on either side of the 1313 entrance.
Over the most recent six months, those planters were neglected as one of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. In May, sadly, Barry died. In honor of all that Barry gave to the church, some Radcliffe Room members decided to refresh the contents of the two planters.

I went to the Merrifield Garden Center because not only did they have a large selection of plants but also it is where Barry in retirement worked Fridays and Saturdays. The people I encountered at the Center were most helpful; and they all had wonderful things to say about Barry: he was a much loved co-worker.

I had arranged for the Garden Center to come on the day designated. Barry’s cremains were scheduled to be interred at the NYAPC columbarium – and removal of the original plants and setting replacement plants would be done concurrently.

When I called Merrifield to confirm the arrangement, the co-worker told me they shredded my credit card charges and that Merrifield wanted to donate the plants, the labor, and the transport – as a gift – in honor of Barry!

P.S. Because of COVID-19 complications, the small service to place Barry’s cremains has not yet happened – but the planters at the entrance look lovely.

Final Webinar on Criminal Justice Reform with James Forman Focuses on the Practical

In the last of a series of three webinars, Yale Law Professor James Forman Jr. focused on practical, community-based solutions for improving policing, reforming the criminal justice system, and helping those who are currently or formerly incarcerated.

Throughout his conversation with the McClendon Scholar Program’s Theo Brown and with three members of congregations active in the Returning Citizens Assistance Network, Forman looked toward building alternatives to our current criminal justice system. While the answers to changing our current system will vary community by community, he emphasized that local community action has the power to make significant change.

Retribution, Rehabilitation, Restoration
In response to an informal survey, many participants had called for a reformed system guided by rehabilitation, versus retribution. Forman affirmed that perspective – and took it further.

“Retribution is one of the theories that underlies our system,” he said, “And we all have retributive impulses. I know I do.” He noted that these impulses have “overwhelmed our justice system.” Instead, he said, he likes to focus on a vision of restoration. “What does it take so people thrive … so people feel safe? At the end of the day that’s what we want: Flourishing, the ability to dream.”

Participants also called for eliminating the bias in our current system. Forman again affirmed the concern. US history has included a bias against people of color, he said, “since even before there was what we could call a system,” and that it “touches and pollutes every aspect” of our current criminal justice system.

Promising Ideas
Forman said that he sees the most promising action happening at the community level, where communities and cities come together to ask “What can we do to reduce police contact with citizens?” While there is bias in every part of the criminal justice system, he said, contact with the system begins with the police. How can that contact be reduced? For example, he asked, “what if we sent mental health workers to respond to people wo are in crisis?”

“We’ve been trained as a nation that if there’s a problem, if the music is loud … if you have someone in your community or your family that’s having a mental health breakdown, we’ve been trained to call 911 over and over again.” Forman is most excited these days about initiatives to build up alternatives: “Those are the things that will make us safe and make us free with less policing and less racial bias.”

Defunding versus Building
Forman says he stays away from the term “defund” when talking about policing. Instead, he likes to focus on what we can build. He agreed with moderator Theo Brown that imagination is crucial for these initiatives, and he once again also emphasized the practical. Currently, criminal justice is one of the most popular college majors. But we need universities to train people for new systems: “Where’s the training program for the people who are going to work in this alternative to 911 system that I’m describing?”

This emphasis on building also addresses the potential fear in communities. “Always start with what we’re building, creating, doing” he said, encouraging everyone to look for the programs and projects that currently exist. “It might be a program with a staff of one, it might be operating out of a church basement … but it’s there.” Lead with that program, tell a story of success as you work for systemic change, he advised, adding “Black communities right now … they don’t want to have less, they want to have more. … You cannot start with what they’re going to lose on the public safety front. You have to start with what you’re going to build.”

The Moral and the Practical
The second part of the one-hour webinar included questions from members of congregations in the city who work with the Returning Citizens Assistance Network (RCAN). Questions ranged from concerns about mental health services, to how we treat children and youth in the justice system, to educational opportunities within the system. In his responses, Forman pointed to how our law and policy and culture in the 1980s and 1990s led to problems on all these fronts. “We did a whole bunch of aggressive things. We now know they aren’t good for young people and not good for communities.”

“We have an obligation to help people reach their potential as a moral matter, he said, “but it helps all of us. For every dollar we invest in education for someone who’s locked up, as a society we get $5 in return. … If we allow people to be human, then they’re more likely to succeed when they get out.”

Several organizations that work toward reform were mentioned, including the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (now known as Break Free Education), Duante Betz’ Million Book Project, and the Free Minds Book Club. You can also find lists of local and national organizations featured in the first two James Forman Jr. presentations in the recent programs section of the McClendon Scholar webpage.

The problems can be overwhelming, Forman acknowledged, but over and over again he emphasized the power of community-based solutions. In talking with a member of Emory Fellowship about writing letters to people in prison, he said:

“Please do not underestimate the power that comes from the one letter you write, those three Black Panther magazines you just sent. … One of the hardest things is believing that everyone forgot about you.”

You can access James Forman’s full presentations on our website here.

Our Money Story: Restoration

Dear Friends,

Join us this Sunday for Zoom Worship at 10:00am. We’ll be finishing up Our Money Story sermon series, focusing this week on restoration. This Sunday’s anthem, “Kumbayah” is a spiritual pleading for divine intervention— for God to come by here (Kumbaya) and help a people in great need. The prelude ties in to this theme with a gospel rendition of the Southern Folk Hymn, “Wayfaring Stranger.”

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

There are some unique things coming up in worship this fall. Next Sunday, October 25th, we’ll have a guest preacher, Rev. Sara Varnado, who works as a Homeless Services Advocate at Community Connections, a Behavioral Health Agency. Her ministry is in the streets of DC, helping folks get basic needs and move towards finding housing. On Sunday November 1st, we’ll celebrate All Saints, memorializing all those in our midst who have died in the past year, including the 217,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19. Finally, we’ll be having a joint virtual worship service with Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore on Sunday November 8th. Their pastor, Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, and I will be preaching a dialogue sermon and both our choirs are participating in a joint anthem. It will be an exciting morning to join with other siblings of faith.

I’ve been hearing from many of our members, the real struggles of making it through virtual work, online schooling, caring for ageing parents who can’t be visited in person, and all the other complexities that this pandemic has presented. So, a prayer from the great artists at A Sanctified Art to restore your spirit this week and remind you that you are enough:

Giving and loving God,
I am made of stories—
stories of heartbreak and triumph,
stories of love and tragedy,
stories of families who belong and families who break,
stories of loose ends and new beginnings.
I have absorbed stories that live in me like an internal compass,
and many that I do not wish to carry at all.
But your story remains steadfast:
I am loved. I am enough. There is enough for all.
Enough. Enough. Enough.
May this become my constant refrain.
May I believe this is who I am.
May I live trusting your holy design.
Enough. Enough. Enough.
Amen.

Peace and Courage,

Heather

Job Opening: Call for Facility Manager

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church seeks to fill the position of Facility Manager by December 2020. The following job description provides applicants with the scope of this position and the qualifications required. Compensation is commensurate with experience. Applications are encouraged from candidates of any religious background; membership in this or any congregation is not a prerequisite for this position. We do not discriminate based on religion, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Please send your resume and a letter describing how your experience makes you suitable for this position to personnel@nyapc.org

Click below to download the job description.

What’s Going On? The Parents’ Group

by Kristin Ford

Every other Friday night since mid-April, parents at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church have been gathering virtually for fellowship, and it has been a delight.

We offer and receive moral support and deepen our connections to one another as we weather the uncertainty and challenge of the pandemic, whether with infants or high schoolers or kids in between.

Some weeks we have six or seven families represented, other times there are just two or three of us, but the time together is a chance to step back from the day-to-day grind of parenting in the face of so much intensity in the world. We’ve shared tips and ideas with each other, commiserated around bedtime battles, and learned how each other’s lives are unfolding as we juggle new routines and demands…and also find pockets of joy amidst the chaos.

It has been a blessing to strengthen existing friendships and cultivate new ones.

If you’re a parent who is grappling with distance learning or figuring out what childcare might work for your situation, or thinking through how to keep having important conversations about Black Lives Matters with your kids but not comfortable heading to a protest, or just looking for a warm and welcoming rotating group of NYAPC parents, come join us every other Friday by Zoom.

Our next meeting is Friday, Oct. 23, at 8:30. Come once in a while, come every time; we’d love to see you. You can find the link at the bottom of the “Recurring Events” section on our website’s events page.

This Sunday: Reimagining and the Widow’s Mite

Dear Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday October 11th at 10:00am via Zoom. This week I’m preaching the third of four sermons in the series Our Money Story, with Sunday’s focus on reimagining. We’ll revisit the story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:38-44), a scripture that begs for reimagination and reinterpretation from the harmful ways it has been used. Instead of commending the widow’s giving practices, perhaps Jesus is condemning the economic system that created her poverty.

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

Stan Engebretson, Director of Music, is off this Sunday, so hymns and service music has been recorded in advance, including an eloquent Renaissance anthem, “If Ye Love Me,” first published in 1565 by the English composer Thomas Tallis.

Please extend a warm welcome to Maila Cardoso, our new temporary Office Manager, who will be filling in for the next ten weeks while Nicole Johnson is on Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) leave. Maila can be reached at maila.cardoso@nyapc.org or by calling (202) 393-3700.

Finally, more poetry by Rev. Sarah Are, “Love, By Another Way” to nourish you this week:

I used to think that love was simple.
You would know when you know,
What was meant, would be.
But I fell in love
And it’s not that easy.
It’s compromise and identity,
Mountains and valleys,
Apologies and memories,
Imbalance, recentering.
It turns out,
Love took reimagining.

I used to think that Church
was simple.
Church was community, not
the walls,
Faith and hope mixed with call.
But then the world grew
violently sick
And the way to be Church
Was to keep distance.
So doors were closed,
And people sent home.
It was all love, by another way.
And yet it was not how we
imagined Sunday.

I used to think that justice
was simple,
That I could make a difference,
all by myself.
There was a clear right and
wrong, a way I could help.
But then I learned of privilege
and bias,
Of white savior complex and our
Church’s silence.
And all at once, it wasn’t so easy.
I needed to learn. I needed to listen.
I needed to reframe my
original vision.

I guess what I’m trying to say is
Life will throw first drafts
our way.

The chance to dream,
To lead, to sing,
To love, and give,
To pray, and be.
But in order to grow,
To follow God’s lead,
We have to do the work—
Reimagining.

And despite our best efforts,
Love will fail.
Churches will close.
Justice will leave the
vulnerable exposed.
And when that happens,
We must own our part,
Say we’re sorry
And try to restart.

So write it all down.
And write it again.
A first draft,
A second,
An epilogue, and then
Share it with me
And we will pray.

And the spirit will move,
And maybe one day,
We can write this world
inside heaven’s gate.

For I am
Starting to believe
That what matters in life
Will never be easy.
So we must imagine and
imagine again.
We must dream and try, die and rise.
And in our rising, may we see
The next right reimagined thing
Until step by step we are home.

Love, by another way.

Peace and Courage,
Heather

Telling Our Faith Stories

The Adult Education Program is now in full swing – we recently completed a Faith Stories class, and a group of over 20 is participating in Rev. Shortlidge’s Enneagram Class. Soon to come is a class on discipleship in the gospels, led by Paul Dornan. You can find the schedule in NYAPC emails and on our website events page.

Telling Our Faith Stories

We in the PCUSA aren’t accustomed to telling faith stories – what might be called testimony in other traditions – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have stories worth telling.

“Many of us don’t consider ourselves having a story worth telling, but nothing could be further from the truth. We carry within our hearts and souls compelling stories, and it is in the telling of these stories and describing where, when, and how we came to know Jesus that we establish the platform from which we engage in the life and ministry of the church.” *

We share our faith in many ways – through action, through music and art, for example – but in this class Hillary Webster offered us a chance and a structure to tell our stories in words, out loud and in writing.

In our first class, small breakout groups shared brief stories of our faith, using guiding questions about how/why we believe in God, how we experience God, and how we nurture our faith. In the second class, we each wrote a story.

Want to try this on your own? Here are some guidelines:

Think about a significant faith experience in your life (e.g. the first time you realized your faith was important, a moment you felt close to God, a moment that might be described as a crisis of faith. etc.

  • Where are you?
  • What are the key events in your story?
  • Who else is a part of your experience?
  • •How is this experience significant for your faith and your relationship with God?
  • What did you learn about God through this experience?

Write your story – being as descriptive and personal as possible. Create a title for your story using seven words – what seven words best summarize your experience? And end your story with the same seven-word title you created.

Tips: There is no right or wrong length – but ½ to 1 page works well (or 250-500 words). If a story doesn’t come to mind, you can also write about struggles or questions you have about your faith. Don’t overthink as you write – invite a stream of consciousness into your words.

Once you’re done, ask yourself – is there someone I can share this story with? As Hillary shared:

Every day, God moves through our lives, touching us in ways that we notice and ways that sometimes seem less obvious. Sometimes we share our faith stories with those around us, but many times we keep them to ourselves. When we share the ways that God has moved in our lives, we deepen our connections with others in a way that helps us experience God’s true community as we are meant to experience it.

* Source: https://www.pcusa.org/news/2015/1/15/regarding-ruling-elders-sharing-your-faith/