From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Much has shifted following last week’s CDC updated guidance on masking and distancing. As we begin to re-emerge from fifteen months of restrictions, I look forward to a more relaxed summer. Worship will still continue online, however, there will be several opportunities to physically gather together throughout the summer months. Stay tuned for updated events and a summary of the recent congregational survey.

For the time being, masks will still be required inside the church. While it is true that many people are getting vaccinated, it is also true that many are not – including children and those at risk, all of whom are important parts of our community. Continuing to wear a mask indoors is a way we can honor and respect the community as a whole.

Currently, our Facilities Staff is working inside the building, managing the HVAC construction project and readying the 5th floor for our tenant, the McClendon Center, to return in a couple of weeks. The rest of the NYAPC church staff, including your pastors, continue to work remotely with occasional trips to the building.

In worship this Sunday May 23rd, we’ll celebrate Pentecost, the day the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, which came with wind and flame, empowering the disciples to proclaim the good news of the risen Lord to all people. Worshippers are encouraged to wear red as part of Sunday’s celebration. Guest preacher, Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, currently serves as the pastor at Hillsborough Presbyterian Church in New Jersey and works as a consultant with Vandersall Collective. Previously she served as the Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly. This Sunday’s worship is one of our simplified summer services, still live on Zoom, but with a more streamlined liturgy, recorded guest preacher, and a few less bells and whistles.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Finally, a Pentecost blessing from Jan Richardson to nourish your spirit this week:

This Grace That Scorches Us
A Blessing for Pentecost Day

Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this.
Do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.

Bring your sorrow.
Bring your grief.
Bring your fear.
Bring your weariness,
your pain,
your disgust at how broken
the world is,
how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting,
its wars,
its hungers,
its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.
See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom

or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones,
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you

this is the reason
we were made:
for this ache
that finally opens us,

for this struggle,
this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us for Zoom Worship this Sunday, May 2nd at 10:00am. I’m preaching from John 15:1-8, and we will celebrate the sacrament of communion. Immediately following worship, there will be an introduction and training for our new church database, Breeze, conducted by Elder Meg House.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Yesterday, in a separate email, you should have received a brief survey about worship and programs for this summer and early fall. Your session and staff are working together to help create meaningful in person gatherings this summer and in person worship this fall. In order to plan, we want to hear from you. Please take a few minutes to provide your feedback before Sunday May 9th. You can access the survey here.

And some words about prayer to nourish you this week:

Every day I want to speak with you.
And every day something more important
calls for my attention—
the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing,
the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

-“Prayer” by Marie Howe

Peace and Courage,


Peace and Courage on This Good Friday

Dear Friends,

It’s been a holy week for the record books—with suffering, rejection, and violence all around us:

Watching an Asian American elder, 65-year-old Vilma Kari, shoved to the ground and beaten while on her way to church, as security guards do nothing to intervene

The trial of Officer Derek Chauvin who kneeled upon the neck of George Floyd, refusing to move even as Mr. Floyd repeatedly begged for breath and for his life.

The release of Lil Nas X’s explicit music video, narrating a journey from the Garden of Eden to the pits of Hell, a wrenching commentary on how the church has rejected him because he is gay.

Two shootings in the Woodland neighborhood of Southeast D.C., where Black residents continually tell us they are being starved out and priced out of their neighborhoods.

I believe these acts of violence, rejection, and exclusion cause God to weep. And that they should cause us to weep. We will get to Easter morning, the empty tomb, and all the joyful music and enthusiastic alleluias. But on this Good Friday, I invite you to reflect upon all the ways we continue to exclude, reject, and violate our siblings made in the image of God. For we cannot get to resurrection without bearing witness to suffering and crucifixion.

A poem, “Can You Drink the Cup?” by Brother Scott Surrency, O.F.M., that both stings and soothes:

Can you drink the cup?
Drink, not survey or analyze,
ponder or scrutinize –
from a distance.
But drink – imbibe, ingest,
take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.
And not with cautious sips
that barely moisten your lips,
but with audacious drafts
that spill down your chin and onto your chest.
(Forget decorum – reserve would give offense.)

Can you drink the cup?
The cup of rejection and opposition,
betrayal and regret.
Like vinegar and gall,
pungent and tart,
making you wince and recoil.
But not only that – for the cup is deceptively deep –
there are hopes and joys in there, too,
like thrilling champagne with bubbles
that tickle your nose on New Year’s Eve,
and fleeting moments of almost – almost – sheer ecstasy
that last as long as an eye-blink, or a champagne bubble,
but mysteriously satisfy and sustain.

Can you drink the cup?
Yes, you — with your insecurities,
visible and invisible.
You with the doubts that nibble around the edges
and the ones that devour in one great big gulp.
You with your impetuous starts and youth-like bursts of love and devotion.
You with your giving up too soon – or too late –

and being tyrannically hard on yourself.
You with your Yes, but’s and I’m sorry’s – again.
Yes, you – but with my grace.

Can you drink the cup?

Can I drink the cup?


Peace and Courage on this Good Friday,



Good Friday Service
April 2, 12:30 pm

Please join us for a reflective, quiet service of scripture and Taizé chanting.

Go to Zoom Meeting ID: 854 6792 8674

Easter Sunday Gathering and Worship Service
April 4

9:00 am – Intergenerational Gathering
We’ll gather on Zoom before worship to sing, hear an Easter story, and have a virtual scavenger hunt. People of all ages are welcome! If you are not on the family distribution list and would like to participate, email Pastor Rachel,

10:00 am – Worship Service
We’ll celebrate Easter with music and joyful Alleluias! We will also celebrate virtual communion, so bring your communion elements to your screen. In a pandemic, God blesses whatever communion elements you have on hand.

Go to Zoom Meeting ID: 150 620 342

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Through the Palms by Lisle Gwynn Garrity | A Sanctified Art |

Join us for worship this Sunday, March 28th, to celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. I’m preaching from John 12:1-19. As we continue to worship virtually, we do not have our usual palm branches or bulletins to wave, however, I do invite you to get creative and have something to wave as part of our service on Sunday—a branch, a piece of fabric, a soft book or magazine.

Sunday’s music includes the beautiful “Festival Hymn on Ellacombe,” that includes brass, organ, the NYAPC choir and youth, and guests from Bethesda Presbyterian Church.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00 am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Immediately following worship, there will be a second conversation with the Session to hear more about our nimbler governing structure, a new staff position, and our developing partnership with the BID.

A poem, “Peaceful Protest,” to nourish you as we approach Palm Sunday:

I wonder if Jesus could feel his heartbeat
In his throat, the way I do when I’m afraid.
I wonder if he had to take deep breaths,
In through his nose, out through his mouth,
Tricking his body into a state of calm.
I wonder if he was nauseous, like I am
When I’m headed into a hard conversation.
I wonder if he had to summon his courage,
Tucking fear away so that he could hold onto
What mattered most with both hands.
I wonder, because time has taught us
That it is not uncommon
For a peaceful protest
To start or end
With an unjust death.
So I wonder,
Did he know?
Was he afraid?
Did anyone see it?
I want to hold what matters most with both hands.

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Image inspired by John 12:20-33 by Hannah Garrity | Sanctified Art |

It has been another violent week in America, as we watched in horror the news of a gunman opening fire on Tuesday, killing eight people, six of Asian descent. Violent people exist in every country in the world, but what’s unique about America is that we allow them access to guns.

To those reeling, especially our Asian American siblings, we pray for an end to white supremacy and hate-filled rhetoric, and commit to doing the work to stand against any form of diminishment of our Asian American and Pacific Islander siblings. We stand with you and beside you, and even more importantly, God stands with you and beside you.

One way we begin to learn and grow and reform our ways is through worship. Join us this Sunday, March 21st for the fifth Sunday of Lent. The service has been crafted around Scripture readings from Jeremiah 31: 31-34 and John 12:20-33, and will continue our Again & Again theme, this week focusing on “we are reformed.” Our time together will include prayers of lament for the discriminatory laws, violence, and hatred that have plagued Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Koreans, Vietnamese, and all Asian immigrants.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Immediately following worship, you are invited into a conversation with the Session about recent actions they have taken to create a nimbler governing structure and to continue refining the church’s staff structure. Click here for a written update from the Session and then join us after worship to talk further. If you are unable to make it this Sunday, a duplicate conversation will also be held next Sunday, March 28th.

Finally, a poem, “Keep Digging” by Rev. Sarah Are, to nourish your spirit this week:

I can feel change inside of me.
It’s a slow burn.
Change usually starts out hot—
Defensive and angry,
A self-righteous blanket
Of, “I am right and here’s why . . .”
I wrap it around my shoulders
Like a barricade.
I fight the temptation to lean forward,
To play the challenger,
To argue with confidence.
But in time,
Almost always,
The heat fades.
The air leaves the balloon.
The audacity of it all
Starts to wear off.
And eventually,
What I am left with
Is myself
And a big, open sky.
It’s colder here.
It’s quieter.
I can hear my thoughts.
And in this big, wide openness
I am able to say out loud,
“Maybe I wasn’t right.
Maybe I need to learn.
Maybe it’s time for change.
Maybe that’s okay.”
And if I’m quiet, and if I’m paying attention,
I can usually hear God whisper inside of me,
“Good work, my child. Now keep digging.”

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, March 7, we will join other siblings in Christ in the closing worship service of the Next Church Annual Gathering. I’ve had a chance to preview this service, and you’ll not want to miss it. The music, the liturgy, and the preaching are fantastic!

The worship service is pre-recorded and will be available here at any time on Sunday (if you try and watch the service prior to Sunday, you won’t be successful. The link will not go live until early Sunday morning). If you are registered and participating in the Next Church Annual Gathering, you can also watch the service on their platforms with other conference attendees at 11:00am. We look forward to returning to live Zoom worship on Sunday March 14, at which we will celebrate the sacrament of communion.

If you’d like to attend the March 5-7 Next Church Annual Gathering, Breaking. Blessing. Building, it’s not too late to register. The entire event is free, but you must register. All of our church officers have been strongly encouraged to attend as a way to stay connected with the larger church. Here are step by step instructions on how to register.

As people begin to receive their vaccines, the Worship & Music committee wants to update you on online worship. At its January meeting, the Session re-evaluated online worship and approved the following motion:

“Barring definitive scientific developments that would safely allow groups to gather without physical distancing and safety precautions, The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church worship services will remain outside the sanctuary through at least June 30th. The Session shall reassess a return date at the May 2021 Session meeting, considering the medical consensus of post-vaccine safe gathering in groups and the completion of the HVAC project.”

So, worship will continue online for at least several more months. In the meantime, the one-year anniversary of online worship is quickly approaching. In order to mark this milestone, we’re asking people to record a favorite moment or memory of worshipping online, in order to compile a video to use in worship on Sunday March 14th. Let us know what online worship has meant to you here:

Finally, some poetry by Rev. Diana Carroll, the Rector of St. Luke’s Eastport, to nourish your spirit this week:

“But Lent”

I would love to become
the kind of person
who makes sure the dishes
are done
every night
so she can wake up
in the morning
to the peaceful welcome
of a clean kitchen.
I would love to become
the kind of person
who replies to every email
the same day it arrives
and keeps a neat,
nearly empty
I would love to become
the kind of person
who never picks
at her cuticles
or bites
at her lips
or chews
at the insides
of her cheeks
until the dentist
gives her a lecture about it.
But Lent
is not for trying
to become someone
I am not.
It is for honoring
the person
I already am.
My wholeness.
My integrity.
My belovedness.
And so,
in this holy season,
I will not strive
for self-improvement.
I will not seek
to create new habits
or to break
the old ones.
I will not squeeze myself
into impossible expectations
guaranteed to leave me angry
and disappointed
when I fail.
I will do nothing
but breathe,
receiving the quiet gift
of every inhale
and every exhale,
receiving it even
when I am too busy
or distracted
to notice.
God is present
in the breath,
in the breathing.
And from time to time,
if I simply
I may be given
the grace
of knowing it.

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Image from A Sanctified Art |

Join us for worship Sunday, February 28th, the second Sunday of Lent. I’m preaching from Mark 8:31-38, the story of Peter being rebuked by Jesus for not listening. Again and again, we are called to listen—to God and to others. We’ll be joined by the new Director of Homeless Services at the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, Debra Byrd, to meet her and hear an update on the Day Services Center operating out of the lower level of the church. And there will be virtual Coffee Fellowship after the service, so plan on sticking around if you’d like some community and connection.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Here’s a poem by Rev. Sarah Are, “Truth that Ricochets” to nourish you this week:

I went to a lecture once—
An interfaith conversation with
interfaith leaders.
Whispers bounced off the church’s
tile floors
As people shuffled into place,
Carrying hope alongside assumptions—
Mixed into pockets like loose change.

About halfway through the evening,
A young woman in a blue hijab
began speaking.
She was the youngest person on the panel,
Seated far to the left. You might almost
miss her
If you weren’t paying attention;
But not here, not when she spoke.

In quiet determination she told us of fear
and persecution.
She told us of hatred and racial slurs,
Thrown at her people from car windows
like bombs.
It was a truth I did not know,
And that truth ricocheted like sunlight
through the cathedral windows,
Touching almost everyone that day.

Then a man in the back, who could
have been me—
Who has been me—
Approached the microphone and said,
“Your people are persecuted. You live in
fear. You are battered by hate.
If that is true, then why am I just now
hearing about it?
Why is your story not on the news?
Why have you not spoken up about it?”

And the air was still, partly because we held
our breath in anticipation,
And partly because the Spirit slows her
dance when we stand at the edge
of truth.
The woman in the blue hijab leaned into
the microphone
And whispered with a quiet strength that
can only come from years of practice:
“We are screaming.”

If there is one truth in my life
That unfolds again and again,
It is the need to listen.

For again and again, I will try,
with good intentions,
To act and walk with love.
But again and again, I will make mistakes.
Again and again, I will say the wrong thing.
Again and again, they will call me Peter,
And again and again, they will be right.

So again and again,
I will pray for a truth that ricochets,
For ears that will listen,
And for space to hold truth.

If people are screaming,
And to be clear—people are screaming—
I do not want to miss it.

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday, January 31st at 10:00am. We’ll gather on Zoom to sing and pray, lament and listen, connect with our community, and hear ancient words of scripture applied to our lives today. I’m preaching from Mark 1:21-28, the story of Jesus encountering an unclean spirit.

The music this week features Taisha Estrada in a beautiful spiritual, Give Me Jesus, arranged by Moses Hogan. This poignant spiritual is an “evergreen” that resonates so well during the cold of January.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial-in: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID: 150 620 342

A prayer from Ted Loder to nourish your spirit this week:

Give Me Hope

O God,
this is a hard time
a season of confusion,
a frantic rush
to fill my closets,
my schedule,
and my mind,
only to find myself empty.

Give me hope, Lord,
and remind me
of your steady power
and gracious purposes
that I may live fully.

Renew my faith
that the earth is not destined
for dust and darkness,
but for frolicking life
and deep joy
that, being set free
from my anxiety for the future,

I may take the risks of love

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday January 24th at 10:00am on Zoom. I’m preaching from Mark 1:14-20, in which Jesus calls the disciples to repent and believe, for the kin-dom of God has come near. Immediately following worship, you won’t want to miss an update from the Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC) and a deeper look at the results of the congregational study (CAT) that was completed in fall 2020.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial-in: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID: 150 620 342

A prayer from Howard Thurman, African American theologian and civil rights leader to nourish your spirit this week:

I Need You

I need your sense of time.
Always I have an underlying anxiety about things.
Sometimes I am in a hurry to achieve my ends
and am completely without patience.
It is hard for me to realize that some growth is slow;
that all processes are not swift.
I cannot always discriminate between
what takes time to develop and what can be rushed,
because my sense of time is dulled.
I measure things in terms of happenings.
O to understand the meaning of perspective
that I may do all things
with a profound sense of leisure of time.

I need your sense of order.
The confusion of the details of living is sometimes overwhelming.
The little things keep getting in my way
providing ready-made excuses for failure
to do and be what I know I ought to do and be.
Much time is spent on things that are not very important
while significant things are put into an insignificant place in my scheme of order.
I must unscramble my affairs
so that my life will become order.

I need your sense of the future.
Teach me to know that life is ever on the side of the future.
Keep alive in me the forward look,
the high hope, the onward surge.
Let me be not frozen either by the past or the present.
Grant me your sense of the future,
without which all life would sicken and die.

Peace and Courage,


From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Members and Friends,

Join us this Sunday January 17th at 10:00am for worship—our weekly ritual of coming together, attuning our ears, bolstering our spirits, and remembering our call as people of faith. I’m preaching from Mark 12:41-44, the story of the widow’s small gift to the treasury and how so often we ask those with the least to give up the most. The liturgy and prayers will be in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including a stunning choral anthem that intersperses songs and readings, written by U2’s Bono.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial-in: 1-929-436-2866 Meeting ID: 150 620 342

It is an anxious time in our city, as security significantly tightens in the downtown area. In order to keep our staff, volunteers, and guests as safe as possible, the Trustees have decided to close the building from today through next Thursday, January 21st. The Downtown Day Services Center will also close next Monday through Wednesday. As of today, the Radcliffe Room will operate on Sunday, however, plans are subject to change as the situation unfolds. If you have any questions about our building, please contact Facility Manager, Elias Bazezew ( With prayer and discernment, the Session has also made the difficult decision to not provide hospitality on the day of the inauguration. Read their detailed statement here.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to Pastor Rachel for holding down the fort, so that I could finish out my vacation last week. It’s never easy to juggle all the things when the Head of Staff is away, essentially doing two jobs at once, but last week was particularly challenging. Rachel’s leadership and pastoral care are a gift and I am grateful to have her as a colleague. In order that she might rest and process last week’s events, she will be off this weekend.

I leave you with Dr. King’s own words to the white moderate, an excerpt from “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…

…You spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist… But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some, like Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, and James Dabbs, have written about our struggle in eloquent, prophetic, and understanding terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They sat in with us at lunch counters and rode in with us on the freedom rides. They have languished in filthy roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of angry policemen who see them as “dirty nigger lovers.” They, unlike many of their moderate brothers, have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Peace and Courage,