Christmas Letter from Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

During this sacred season, it’s hard to not focus on all the things we cannot do—gather inside the sanctuary, feel the vibration of a festive organ prelude, sing together side by side, stand in line to take bread and wine, and hug and mingle after the service, watching kids race between the pews.

I’ve only had the privilege of spending one Christmas Eve in your midst, but I’m already missing those things, longing for the day when we can come together again, not bound by physical distancing rules.

And yet, like Mary and Joseph, who needed a landing place to birth a child, we work with what we have.

On Thursday evening at 5:30pm, we’ll gather on Zoom, where we can still see one another face to face, experience beautiful Christmas tunes, break bread together, light candles to shine light in the darkness, and linger afterwards with new and old friends. Our worship team has literally been working around the clock to curate meaning and beauty for Christmas Eve. We do hope that you will join us and invite others to as well.

Join us on Zoom at 5:30pm
Dial-in: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID: 817 4664 4053

Wherever you may be this week of Christ’s birth, stay safe, wear your mask, avoid large gatherings, and reach out if you need love or extra support.

And an Advent Credo from Allan Boesak, to nourish and challenge you this week:

It is not true that creation and the human family
are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil
who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted,
who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice,
of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak, Eerdmans, 2004.

Peace and Courage,


Warming Center Opening at NYAPC

by Jim Spearman

On behalf of the Trustees, I’m delighted to share that, in keeping with our strategic plan core value of radical hospitality, we’ve agreed to host a new Warming Center in the Radcliffe Room. 

The Warming Center is intended to provide respite from cold winter weather for a maximum of 30 people at one time.  It will operate Monday to Friday, 8:30-5:00pm, Monday through Friday, starting this weekend and ending 31 March 2020. 

The Warming Center is a project of the Downtown Day Services Center, and it is part of a citywide effort by the Mayor to be announced this Friday.  It will be managed by Day Services Center personnel. The Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) is paying a reasonable rent to cover NYAPC direct costs.

Radcliffe Room Ministry activities on Sundays will not be interrupted. Clothing closet overflow on the stage has been moved temporarily until it can be configured to moveable racks stored in the actual closet during the week.

This opportunity to use our building in a new way arose just recently. Please join me in thanking Trustees and staff, particularly outgoing Facilities Manager John O’Brien, for successfully responding to this opportunity to engage with this mission.

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Don’t miss worship this Sunday, December 20th at 10:00am. We will celebrate the season with a special Service of Lessons and Carols, lifting up the Advent story in word and song, heralded by carols with the NYAPC Sanctuary Choir, soloists, and festive brass/organ music. Special thanks to Will Timmons, Audio Video Production Coordinator, for helping organize the brass group from the US Military Bands as well as an extensive 4-camera video shoot that has been edited into special holiday anthems for the day. Following worship, we will celebrate the retirement of John O’Brien, our Interim Facility Manager.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial-in: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID: 150620342

And in keeping with our core value of radical hospitality, the church has entered into an agreement with the city to serve as a warming center. During regular day time hours (8:30am-5:00pm), the Downtown DC BID will be using our Radcliffe Room in order to provide respite from cold winter weather. This agreement was signed by our Trustees and is in place between now and March 31st. This week day warming center will not interrupt our regular Sunday Radcliffe Room Ministry.

A poem to nourish your spirit this week:

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

—Denise Levertov (1923–1997)

Hope to see you on Sunday,


Christmas Flower Dedications

To celebrate the birth of Christ, the Diaconal Ministers organize poinsettias for our sanctuary. The flowers are paid for by donors who request dedications in honor or memory of loved ones. While the sanctuary will remain empty this Christmas, you may still request a dedication this Christmas season.

Christmas Poinsettias in the Sanctuary. This year, Christmas flower dedications will support sending flower arrangements to members each week.

Your donation will help sustain the Flower Fund, which is currently being used to deliver flowers to members of the congregation every week until the sanctuary re-opens for worship services. The delivery of the three small arrangements costs the same as two large arrangements for our sanctuary.

This year’s dedications will be listed on the screen before the worship service on the Sundays before and after Epiphany, January 3 and January 10.

To dedicate your contribution, copy the form below into an email, complete it with your information, and email it to, or call Gwenn at 202-213-1657.

Name of Donor(s):
Phone or email:
A contribution is intended of $
In Memory of:
In Honor of:

Please send your contributions to the church online and select the Flower Fund. If you wish to send a check, please write “Flower Fund” on the memo line.

Any amount is welcome. The deadline is Sunday, Dec. 27, at 5pm.

Christmas Pageant This Sunday – A Sunday of Joy

Dear Friends,

I hope you are finding ways to lavishly take care of yourself, as someone told me this week. The virus confronts us with realities that are impossible to escape, which takes a toll on our energy and well-being. Actively practicing grace and care with ourselves now will have a lasting impact.

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. Joy will abound in worship! We will light the Advent candle of joy, the children and youth will offer a live virtual Christmas pageant, and Heather will preach on the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Mary’s song of joy and praise. If you have been needing help in experiencing and noticing joy lately, come and enjoy worship this week.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial-in: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID: 150620342.

There will be special music offered, beginning with a string duet of the hymn “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” by Mika and Akira Inoue. Taisha Estrada led a collaborative children’s choir in preparing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and Jenete St. Clair led the youth choir in preparing “All Good Gifts” from Godspell Jr. Immediately following worship, there will be a10 minute coffee fellowship in the breakout room and then the Trustees will host the second Q&A session about the church building improvements. Just stay on zoom!
May the first and fourth verses of this familiar hymn of joy, encourage you throughout your week.

Joyful, joyful, we adore You,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before You,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

Mortals, join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
God’s own love is reigning o’er us,
Joining people hand in hand.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Peace and Joy,

Trustees Q&A: New HVAC Project to Begin Soon

At the first of two Q&A sessions, members of the Board of Trustees reported on current and coming improvements to our church building: security enhancements, Covid-related projects, and a $2 million HVAC project, slated to begin in January. Trustees Jim Spearman, Hal Hiemstra and Aryn Myers summarized the projects, and Karl Hoffman provided information on financing. Elder David Gillies also answered questions, especially related to a possible 2021 Capital Campaign.

All these building projects  provide significant improvements, and symbolize our continued commitment to the future of NYAPC, Hal Hiemstra said in introducing the session.

Security Improvements
Our elevator and stairways now have a security and keycard system, an improvement made necessary by having the Downtown Day Services Center, serving 150-200 clients per day in non-Covid times, in our basement. This will ensure that the clients don’t enter our office space or other tenants’ spaces, such as the McClendon Center on the fifth floor. These systems are programmable, meaning that they can be adjusted on a Sunday morning, for example, to give the congregation freer access to the building.

Covid-Related Updates
With the pandemic’s arrival, the Trustees realized how difficult it is to come into our building and not touch multiple surfaces. So, we now have touchless faucets and touchless soap and hand-towel dispensers in all bathrooms. In addition, the Trustees installed floor, wall and elevator Covid signage, and will soon install plexiglass at the front desk to minimize direct air exchange.

HVAC Replacement
This work would replace the HVAC on the first through fourth floors, completing what has been a years-long multi-phase effort to upgrade our building’s HVAC system. The first phase replaced the HVAC system on the fifth floor in 2015. A second phase replaced the Park level HVAC system in 2018 with the renovation of the basement for the Day Services Center.  This final phase should begin in January and end in May, perhaps coinciding with our congregation and tenants’ possible return to the building.

Historically low interest rates and a largely vacant building due to the pandemic have combined for a unique opportunity to do the whole job for what is a lower cost than the previously planned stage by stage plan. Workers won’t need to plan their work around building occupants, e.g. working at night, and the low interest rates mean that the line of credit payments  can be managed in our annual operating budget. 

Benefits of the Replacement. The Trustees noted that the current HVAC situation is unsustainable. Repair costs and remediation of mold caused by the malfunction of the system have cost an average of $70,000 a year. In addition, the new system will reduce effort of staff and volunteers and lower utility costs, especially water consumption, as the new system will no longer use a cooling tower. More definite estimates of energy savings will be part of the final project proposal, coming in December. Finally, stabilized temperatures and humidity control should eliminate the warm weather mold problem and air filtration will improve air quality.

Financing. This new line of credit is a continuation of how we have been paying for building improvements since 2014, when urgent exterior repairs needed to be made. We have mostly paid off debt from that project, along with other capital priorities such as the fifth floor HVAC, due to a previous capital campaign and several special gifts and bequests.

Currently, the church has a fixed interest term loan for $700,000, the cost of the basement HVAC system, which the Business Improvement District is paying off over time as part of their lease for the Downtown Day Services Center. In addition, approximately $200 – $300 thousand remains from the previous capital projects. The $700,000 term loan will remain separate, and a new $2.6 million line of credit will combine the rest of our existing debt with the cost of the new HVAC. It is collateralized by our current investments.

A New Capital Campaign
A small team is looking at the contours of a new capital campaign to pay for this new system, in addition to other capital needs. The new line of credit is a variable rate loan. Current rates are extraordinarily low, but could rise in the next few years; a capital campaign would help us to pay it down in a timely manner.

The Trustees will hold another Q&A after worship on Dec. 13.