Stand Your Ground: Chapter 3 Discussion Guide


As we gather, on your own or with the person next to you, reflect on this block of text and the included questions from the beginning of chapter 3, found on page 9.

“Given the fact that America’s narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism has constructed the white body in extreme opposition to the black body, it is predicable that black bodies are disproportionately assaulted by this culture. What perhaps is not so predictable is the deadly force of this culture in relation to the black body. What has allowed this culture to become to acceptability deadly when it comes to the black body?  Why does this culture seemingly pursue black bodies with murderous intent?”

Small Group Part 1:

  1. Assign a moderator and a recorder for your group.
  2. Introduce yourself and share a 1-2 sentence summary of what you learned last week or learned earlier in our group introduction.

Small Group Part 2:  Discuss the following quotations from chapter 3: (Bold emphasis is Alice’s.)

I. On Manifest Destiny:

A.“Historian Reginald Horseman explains the underlying assumptions of American’s mission of Manifest Destiny this way, “By 1850 the emphasis was on the American Anglo-Saxons as a separate, innately superior people who were destined to bring good government, commercial prosperity, and Christianity to the American continents and to the world. This was a superior race and inferior races were doomed to subordinate status or extinction.  There was in face a relio-science to support the “extinction” presumption of Manifest Destiny.” (102)

B. “For while the phrase “melting pot” would become a metaphor for the expectation that all immigrants would be assimilated and thus transformed into “Americans,” until the early twentieth century, the usage of “melting away” suggested the expectation for the nonwhite bodies. If American was to become an Anglo-Saxon melting pot, then certain people would have to “melt away.” Nott and Glidon continue by saying that although missionaries claim to have bene successful in civilizing them, “it is in vain to talk about civilizing [the American Indian.] You might as well attempt to change the nature of the buffalo.” (103)

C. “As much as this exodus story is a story of moving out of bondage into freedom, it is also a story of invading an occupied land.  The exodus provides a theological paradigm for Manifest Destiny just as much it does for liberation….

The exodus story has traditionally provided the primary scriptural foundation for black people’s understanding of God’s movement in their own history.  This story is central to black faith.  It is the story that stirred the imagination of the enslaved and allowed them to affirmed, even as their enslavers said otherwise, that God did not choose them to chattel but to be free.  However, with the narrative of Manifest Destiny, the theological paradigm of black people as the Israelites is contested….

In the context of the Anglo-Saxon Manifest Destiny, the black body is not the chosen Israelite body.  Rather, it is more like the scorned Canaanite body. This is not the body that God frees.  It is instead a body that God allows to be destroyed.  Again, the God of the exodus becomes a God of Manifest Destiny. Such a God sanctions the “extinction” of a people.  At the least, this God subjects people to conquering violence.”( 105-106)

D. “The narrative of Manifest Destiny inevitably flows from America’s exceptionalist identity. As earlier mentioned, if a race of people believes itself to be chosen by God because it and its way of life is superior to others, then a sense of Manifest Destiny becomes inevitable. It is only right, in other words, to make the world “better” by investing it with a superior way of living, especially if that way is considered a reflection of eternal law. This is what is in the “best interest” of the world. Manifest destiny presumes to be a way to “serve the common good.” In many respects, then, the narrative of Manifest Destiny is the culmination of the numerous discourses and productions of knowledge generated by America’s grand narrative of exceptionalism. It reflects the Anglo-Saxon natural law theo-ideology that sanctions white supremacy. In fact, Manifest Destiny is an expression of that ideology as it assumes both the supremacy of whiteness, the shelter for Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism, and the inferiority of non-whiteness, a threat to Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism. This narrative further exonerates white people from taking moral responsibility for certain immoral, dehumanizing, and even deadly actions they might perpetrate against nonwhite bodies, all in the name of Manifest Destiny. Extermination, for instance, is read as a natural process of extinction, rather than the result of a violent imposition upon a people’s life. True to the constructions of the narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism, the nonwhite body becomes responsible for its own fate, even when it is a deadly fate. In effect, the narrative of Manifest Destiny is that which ultimately legitimates the deadly use of subjugating power. The narrative of Manifest Destiny is a declaration of war.” 107

  1. Speaking more broadly before digging into the quotation: From your time in school, what have been your impressions about Manifest Destiny?  Have you learned about this term/ movement in different ways? How do you interpret land, life and race woven into the narrative of Manifest Destiny?
  2. Reflect on the above quotations. What would you draw out?  What questions do you have?  What surprises you? What do you see anew?  What do you disagree with?
  3. How have you experienced the idea of “white supremacy?”
  4. Do you interpret Manifest Destiny as a declaration of war? Why or why not?

II.Stand Your Ground the Black Body

A. “It is no accident that stand-your-ground culture has been most aggressively if not fatally executed after every period in which certain “rights” are extended to black people, ostensibly bringing them closer to enjoying the “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This pattern of “white backlash” began with the emancipation. After emancipation, Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and the heinous “punishment” of lynching was enforced. The “law and order” mandates of the post–civil rights era continued this pattern. White backlash surely is reflected in the virulent stand-your-ground reality that has followed the election of the first black president. In each instance, stand-your-ground culture has asserted itself in an effort to “seize” the rights of whiteness and to return the black body to its chattel space. Essentially, the more the black body is free, the more intense the war against its body. We will now look to see how this is the case.” 117

B. “The moon doesn’t run.

Neither does the sun.

In Chicago

They’ve got covenant

Restricting me—

Hemmed in

On the South Side,

Can’t breath free.” – Langston Hughes’s 1949 poem “Restrictive Convenants” (123)

  1. Reflect on the above quotation. What would you draw out?  What questions do you have?  What surprises you? What do you see anew?  What do you disagree with?
  2. How do you see Manifest Destiny affecting black codes, Jim Crow laws, Lynching, and the War on Drugs?
  3. How would you compare the death of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin? (121)
  4. “Essentially, the more the black body is free, the more intense the war against its body.” How would you apply this quotation to today’s context?

C. “Today, the Manifest Destiny stand-your-ground-culture war is fueled by the presence of a black man living in the White House. There is no greater challenge to America’s grand narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism than a black president. This represents a complete encroachment upon the space reserved for cherished white property. It is no surprise, therefore, that stand-your-ground culture has asserted itself in an aggressive and unrelenting manner. All of the weapons that have been used over time have been brought to bear in the current climate of stand-your-ground culture. The “Stop and Frisk laws,” which are disproportionately applied to black and brown bodies, harken back to the Black Code vagrancy laws. Once again, you can be stopped and arrested for living black. The dismantling of the 1965 Voter’s Rights Act, as well as racialized gerrymandering, is reminiscent of the white backlash that followed Reconstruction, the first time that black people ascended into white political space. And most troubling of all, the Stand Your Ground laws, in conjunction with the Conceal and Carry gun laws, have made legal a murderous act that was extralegal, that is, lynching. Our black children are falling victims to the twenty-first-century version of stand-your-ground-culture lynching.” (130-1)

  1. Reflect on the above quotation. What would you draw out?  What questions do you have?  What surprises you? What do you see anew? What do you disagree with?
  2. Kelly Brown’s Douglas asks us this question to end the chapter. How do you respond? “What is the meaning of God’s help in the context of stand-your-ground culture that would deprive the black body of a home?”
  3. What is the role of the church in this war against the black body? How does the role of the church change depend on who attends the church? Or, does the role of the church change?

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, Discussion Guide, Chapters 1 and 2

In February, as an intergenerational Sunday School Class, we are reading Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by Kelly Brown Douglas.  Here is part 1 of our small group discussion guide for Chapter 1 (American’s Exceptionalism) and Chapter 2 (The Black Body: A Guilty Body.)

PART 1:  First off, to get discussion started in your groups, please discuss the following questions:

  • “If Trayvon was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” –President Barack Obama
  • How did you feel when you read this book or heard others talking about it?
  • If you consider yourself to be white, how often do you think about your own whiteness/ race/ construction of race? If you consider yourself to be a person of color, how often do you think about your skin color/ race/ construction of race? 
  • Where do you most commonly talk with others about the construct of race?
  • What role do you think the church has in the discussion of the construct of race? 

PART 2:  After that discussion, drawing on your faith, your personal experiences and your reading, please respond to these excerpted quotations.

How to you respond to the phrase and idea  America’s narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism?” How do you see the idea of American exceptionalism as part of the religious narrative? How to you respond to the phrase and idea of “whiteness as cherished property?” How would you respond to the phrase “white space?” (p.42-43)

How would you respond to this quotation?

It is important to recall once again that the narrative of Ango-Saxon exceptionalism is a religious narrative……Not only did the early America Anglo-Saxons believer their mission to be on of erecting God’s “city on a hill” but they also come to believe that they essentially have divinity running through their veins….Whiteness in this respect is not simply cherished property, but also sacred property.  It is virtually the gateway to divinity, the key to salvation.  As the evangelical Protestant hymns suggests, salvation requires one to be made “white as snow.” (p.42)

How do you respond this excerpt from the first quotation?

Cheryl Harris puts it this way: “Whiteness and property share a common premise—a conceptual nucleus—of a right to exclude.”  This right to exclude inexorably gives way to other fundamental rights—the right to claim land and the right to stake out space. (p.42-43)

Respond to this quotation from your sheet.  How would you respond as the parent of Dr. Douglas’s son or the best friend, James?

“I remember it like it was yesterday. My son was seven or eight years old. He and his best friend, who was white (I will call him James), were sitting in the backseat of the car as I was driving them home from school. It was during black history month, so they were learning about “famous” black people. That day, Arthur Ashe was the focus of their black history lesson. As my son and James were discussing Ashe, James said, “Good thing we [meaning white people] decided to share our stuff with you guys [meaning black people] or Arthur Ashe would have never been a champion.” Already implanted within James’s young consciousness was the awareness that with his white skin came certain rights that were not given to black people. The only way for black people to attain these things was for white people to decide to share them.”  (p.44)

Respond to these quotations:

“Why are black murder victims put on trial?” (p.48) “Why is it reasonable to believe, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that a black murder victim is culpable in his own or her own slaying?  Why is she/ he be viewed as threat even while asking for help?  Why is self-defense so easily granted as the justification for killing an unarmed black person, especially when the killer is white?” Respond to this quotation from L.Z. Grandson “there is a subconscious element of our culture that looks at a black corpse and quiet puts it, instead of the perpetrator, on trial.” (p.49)

Respond to this quotation:

“The sacred connection between the radicalized American nomos and the sacred cosmos is disrupted by the advent of the free black body.  In the end, a free black body poses an ontological danger to an Anglo-Saxon exceptionalist social order.  It also presents an existential danger.” (p.70)

How do you react to this quotation?  How do you respond to the term chattel? What role does the church have in dismantling this idea?

“The black body that was once marked as chattel is now marked as criminal. This construct serves the same purpose as the construct of chattel. It relegates the black body to an “unfree” space. It preserves the free space as a white space. This transformation began shortly after emancipation.” (p.77)

Respond to this experience ending with this quotation. If you were Dr. Douglas, how would you respond? If you were the parent of the little boy, how would you respond? If you were looking on to this scene not knowing either boy, how would you respond?  If this was an interaction between adults and not little children, how do you think things would have changed?

“This little boy was angry. My son had intruded into his space. My son was guilty of being black, in the park, and looking.” (p. 86)

PART 3:  How would you describe the first two chapters of this book and this discussion to someone that is not here today?

Church Getting Political: Seeking Mispat

Seeking Mispat, Sermon for February 5, 2017 on Matthew 5:13-20 and Isaiah 58:1-12

(We don’t normally post sermons, but this one was all written out, and because I tend to drop by voice at points, a few of you asked for a written copy.  Here is to trying something new! Plus, I get to add pictures. -Alice)

Over the last several months, many of us have become fully engaged activists.  In the last month I have stood up at 5 protests.  If I look back at the last two decades, I can count maybe two.

Like many of you, this life of political demonstration is a new normal for me.  When I first met Roger a few years ago right after you decided to call me as your Associate Pastor, Roger told me about the good work this church did standing up during the Iraq war.  Instead of offering to join in, I over-confidently told Roger “I don’t protest.” Then I added something to the effect that “It’s because I’m not very interested in politics— I just want to help where the church can.”   

In my defense, I was breast-feeding mama at the time, and didn’t think I could risk getting arrested.  But the babe is now a little more grown up and things have changed. 

Thinking back to this conversation with Roger a few years ago, I realized two things: First, Roger is very forgiving.  Second, I don’t think I had a very well thought out understanding of the intersection of politics and faith. When Roger asked me about politics, I was thinking of pastors endorsing or defiling political leaders by name from the pulpit. I was thinking of a church becoming totally partisan where the church in my mind becomes the mouth piece of the state — and not preaching the work of God.   That kind of politics in church really does bother me as it does for many of you.  Roger too.

What I didn’t think about is when we see and experience policies that directly hurt God’s people, it is at the very core of our faith to get involved.   It is at the core of who we are as a church.  

As a church, it our job to support each other in all that we are feeling, going through, and all the ways we seek God’s justice in this world. It is our job to say that you are supported. It is our job to say  you are loved  because God has loved each and everyone one of us first.  It is our job to share God’s deep and vulnerable love for all of humanity goes to the core of who God is.

I have become political in the last month because our Christian faith says that is what we are called to do.

Coming out of God’s deep love for us, we hear God’s call to care for the marginalized, the vulnerable, the foreigner. We hear this call ringing loudly throughout the Bible, and in particular in these scripture passages from Matthew and Isaiah. Both passages are addressed to communities of faith struggling to figure out how their faith can be best lived out in the public sphere.

From Matthew — we hear the call on to the whole community to be salt and light.   You are the salt of the earth — not the salt for yourselves, but for the whole earth. You are the light of the world, not for for a closed fellowship — but for everyone. 

What is the point of salt if it does not flavor food?  What is the point of light if it does not shine? What is the point of the church if it does not seek in every way seek to live into the goodness and justice that comes only from God?

From Isaiah we hear those deep penetrating questions addressed to a community living in conflict arising out the experience of deep hardship. 

The problem isn’t that they aren’t showing up for worship or concerned with their piety. The problem is that they are just going through the motions. Isaiah says that they fast but oppress the worker.   They seek out theological study, but they ignore those in most need.  As Scholar Paul Hanson puts it — “Their faith is faith in a subjunctive mood.” Their faith is lived as if.  There faith is lived as if they  were worshiping God.  Their faith is lived as if was to suit their needs — not the needs of the community.

Quoting verse 2:  “Day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, As if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.” 

Ordinance is important word here.  It comes from the hebrew word mispat.  In some places mispat is translated instead as judgement as in God’s righteous judgement for the nations.  That application may apply.

But I go with the translation of Hanson and other scholars translating mispat for the people as “compassionate justice.”  Compassionate justice goes to God’s very nature. Compassionate justice is God reordering the world.  Isaiah urges the people to seek this mispat — and to become reordered.  To get refocused. 

I’m not saying that we as a church have been going through the motions or that our worship doesn’t reflect our faith.  But I do see that we are in a time of re-awakening for our church here, our Presbyterian denomination, and Christians across this country. 

We are at time when we are being called out of zones of comfort, called out of what we would consider normal, called to apply all the skills we use to regular things of the church  —  to be ready and alive to do God’s justice work out in the world.

But before I go any further — I want to make an important distinction. I believe we seek justice together. We are not justice ourselves.   We are far from it in fact.   In our call to refocus and take up the call of justice, we need to be very well aware of the third part of Micah 6:8 that we have on our banners outside:  that we are to walk humbly with our God.

To walk humbly, it is likely that we need to begin with confession.  About a week and a half ago on the steps of this church I heard lots of faith leaders speak out against then proposed EO.   All of the leaders spoke boldly — but the one that stuck with me was from the Catholic Sister.

1/25/17:  Faith Leaders on the Steps of NYAPC Protesting the then EO banning refugees from 7 majority Muslim countries.  Organized by Church World Service, Presbyterian Office in Washington and Faith in the Public Life.    One of the ways we can show up for justice is by hosting events!

She challenged us to our need to look deep into our own culpability. Here is how I interpreted her statements:

  • In what ways have we been party to systems of oppression that have inspired violence in Syria? 
  • For how long have we been well aware of the flood of refugees around the world and have looked up but not been fully moved into action?
  • How often have we said we cared — and yet — how often have we in the past engaged in calling, in protests, and in other acts of political engagement standing up for those escaping violence?

As a church, seeking compassionate justice means that we need to wrestle deeply looking within ourselves to those places of comfort where we have each retreated saying that “This isn’t my issueI’m not directly affected.” That place of comfort and ease — blindness and distraction — that is where our confession lies. 

That may be where our action lies as well.  Out of that work of confession, our community based work of atonement is some real honest conversations about where we are at. 

This kind of resistance as God’s work is new or perhaps newish to many of us. We need to acknowledge that this is new territory to many of us. We need to say loudly that there is much that we need to learn— and that we need to learn in places we have not looked before.

We need to remind reach other to pace ourselvesMany of us are following the news so closely that we have jumbled up our insides, forgotten at times to eat or shower, ignored our loved ones, snapped at a friend — and basically haven’t attended well to our mental and spiritual health. 

In these hyper engaged political times, we need to be attentive to ourselves and our community.  We need to dive deeper into spiritual practicesI find the breath prayer so helpful — to breath all of the goodness of God and to breath out everything that brings the world harm. 

We need to talk to each other directly about our new level of anger and frustration — a new level of feeling scared — a new level of courage perhaps. The protests take many of us beyond what we previously thought as comfortable. Those of us who don’t really like using the phone are starting to call our representatives. 

Many of us have started reaching out more intentionally across the boundaries of religion and background to see how we can act in more collaborative and supportive solidarity with one another. 

Here is what you were doing this past week:  The petition against the Executive Order banning refugees from those 7 majority Muslim countries, that Kathy started last week here in church was mailed out this week.  Then, Taylor adapted it to a google form, and all of your pastors including all of your Pastors including Parish Associates signed on.  Yesterday at 7:50 pm, we had signatures of 895 Presbyterians around the country representing churches in DC, Virginia, Maryland,   Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Nevada, California – the list goes on.  You are becoming organizers. 

The paper petitions from members of NYAPC to Presbyterian members in Congress against the EO banning refugees from the 7 majority Muslim countries.  On-line petition version to be sent out soon!

Because of where we are positioned both physically and theologically,  it our calling as this church on New York Avenue to be a leader on how we respond with God’s justice, how we respond with resistance, and to help  discern where we can enter into reconciliation.  We are called to be prophetic, to be risk takers, and to be feisty. 

And when we have doubt (don’t we all have doubt, sometimes?), we can know that those who have sat in the pew here have done it beforeMany of you well know that The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke from the pulpit to warn about the consequences of the war in Vietnam.  The pastors went to Selma to march for civil rights. During the Vietnam war, the church served as a haven for protesters and was the center for publicity and public information for the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington in the spring of 1968.  You marched against the war in Iraq.  Some of you got arrested. 

You now serve the city here through the Radcliffe Room ministry, through tutoring and through mental health ministries. You serve through the “regular” ministries of this church that keep us running, keep us learning, and keep us holding worship as our center.  You serve each other by showing up and being church.

Here is one more: One of you on the sanctuary task force emailed me this story that you learned at a recent interfaith meeting of how we can live into s new calling to be a place of sanctuary in the city.   The article is from the Smithsonian at the Anacostia Community Museum.  It was about Adam Frances Plumber born a slave in 1819.  It talked about Ms. Plumber being an incredible and resilient man suffering under horrors of slavery.   Not excusing slavery at all — this is the worst sustained offense of humanity — there was a glimmer of hope in his story. 

In 1841, Adam Francis Plummer married Emily Saunders who was also called slave. Their wedding was held at one of the two churches that merged as the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.  “The marriage was considered legal and they were granted a marriage license. Both of these things were unusual because slave marriages generally occurred on plantations and they were not legal in the eyes of the law.”

NYAVE in 1841 did a radical thing standing up for justice.  Twenty years later in 1861, President Lincoln and his family became pew holders here.

Isaiah is very clear — If we choose the fast to loose the bonds of injustice — if we live into a life as a church community standing up for those most in need, then — the words and reality are beautiful:

You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.  Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

May we seek this future of compassionate justice together.  

PCUSA Invitation to PCUSA Members to Sign on to Petition against EO Barring Refugees and Against Muslims. Please sign if you haven’t yet

Dear fellow Presbyterian Church USA members, ruling elders and teaching elders,

In the midst of so much national turmoil, we have been heartened this week that we have seen so many of you fighting for the cause of justice in our churches on behalf of immigrants and refugees around world.   We write to you today as members of the PCUSA with a request for you to sign onto a petition from members of our denomination to stand up in one voice against the Executive Order suspending refugee resettlement.

It is our conviction that Jesus stood with the most vulnerable in his midst on account of his belief that God is alive in the world seeking to transform the situation. In our present circumstance as Christians it our calling and duty to stand up with the immigrant and the refugee.  We believe the executive action issued this week titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” is unconscionable and goes against all that we stand for as Christians and as citizens of the United States of America.

Kathy Doan, a ruling elder at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and Executive Director of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, wrote the linked petition to our fellow Presbyterians in Congress to oppose the Executive order suspending refugee resettlement program and discriminating against Muslims.  On Sunday morning January 29 many members of The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church signed onto the petition.  It is being mailed on January 31.

However loud our members’ voices may be, as proud members, ruling elders, and teaching elders of the PCUSA, we believe we are the most effective when we speak together united as one body of Christ. We believe that it would be most impactful if members of the PCUSA around the country would also sign on to the petition.

Would you sign onto this petition?  Would you share it with your friends and networks who are part of the PCUSA?

After you sign onto the petition, will you also contact your Congressional representative?  To be connected to your representative in Congress or the Senate, call this number (202) 224-3121.  You will need to call the line three times to be connected to your representative and two Senators.

Many thanks and blessings,

Roger J. Gench, Senior Pastor

Alice Tewell, Associate Pastor

Kathy Doan, Ruling Elder

Miriam Dewhurst, Clerk of Session

Ann Rose Davie, Parish Associate

Frances Taylor Gench, Parish Associate

Emily Rhodes Hunter, Parish Associate

Linda LeSourd Lader, Parish Associate

Matthew Schlageter, Parish Associate

Taylor Allison, NYAPC Member

NYAPC Joins Sanctuary Movement

Photo taken in front of the church on 1.25.17

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.

See the pledge here.

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


(Ruling Elder on Session)

Thank You Notes from Our Weekend Guests (Jan 20-22)

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

-Lynelle Morgenthaler

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.

-Sincerely,  Brigid Scott

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! 

Susan Robinson
Ithaca, NY

A love letter to my church: Church Showing Up


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 church we 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.  

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 Service and 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. 

Thank you.  You showed as church for me too.



Photo taken in front of the church on 1.25.17