A Poem and Prayer to Start Your Day

Blessed are the humble
for they are close to the sacred earth.
(Matthew 5:5)

PRAYER OF AWARENESS

It is in the depths of life that we find you
at the heart of this moment
at the center of our soul
deep in the earth and its eternal stirrings.
You are the Ground of all being
the Well-Spring of time
Womb of the earth
the Seed-Force of stars.
And so at the opening of this day
we wait
not for blessings from afar but for You
the very Soil of our soul
the early Freshness of morning
the first Breath of day.

SCRIPTURE AND MEDITATION

God lifts up those who are bowed down.
(Psalm 146:8)

Pause

Whoever wishes to be great among you
must be a servant among you.
(Matthew 20:26)

Pause

Be Still and Aware

From Praying with the Earth, by John Philip Newell

From Rev. Rachel Pacheco

Dear Friends,

Join us this Sunday, September 20th, for online worship at 10:00am. I (Pastor Rachel) am preaching about Bartimaeus, a man on the side of the road on the outskirts of Jericho.

This week’s music features the New York Avenue Sanctuary Choir appearing virtually in the famous Renaissance motet, “If Ye Love Me” by Thomas Tallis. The words are from the Gospel of John, where Jesus talks to his disciples and says that God will send the Holy Spirit to be with them. Text Summary: “If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father…and the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will abide with you forever in truth.”

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

Sunday School classes for pre-K and 2nd graders will be at 9:15am, and classes for middle and high school students will be at 11:30am, all via Zoom. You can register until just before the class, but registering now is helpful for planning purposes. Registration links are listed below.

As we enter this weekend, anticipating Karenna Gore’s conversation about climate change tomorrow, here is a poem by Langston Hughes.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older
than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Peace,
Rachel

Listening and Belonging

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

John 10:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Rebecca Davis (2009)

What’s Going On: Our Church Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Going On: Session Begins 2021 Budget Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“From Lament to Hope:” GA Calls for Action on Racism

Responding to racism wasn’t on the agenda. Plans for the first-ever virtual General Assembly pared the agenda down to the minimum required to keep the PC(USA) going for another two years, until the next GA. But commissioners (including our own Miriam Dewhurst) made sure that what was originally “out of order” would be very much “in order,” in the form of a resolution adopted by the 2020 General Assembly:

This 224th General Assembly of the PC(USA) declares that Black lives matter. … We pledge to join hands and hearts with our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) siblings to actively confront and dismantle systemic racism in our church and in society at large, and to work for a more just, merciful, and peaceful country that allows all of God’s children to flourish.

So begins “On the Church in This Moment in History – Responding to the Sin of Racism.” The resolution confesses complicity with systemic racism and white privilege and calls for the PC(USA) at all levels, from General Assembly offices to congregations, to study task force reports that were postponed to the 2022 GA, and to develop and adopt antiracism policies. “This work can be done now at all levels, even in advance of the 225th General Assembly, at which time that General Assembly can act on setting a constitutional requirement to do so if it chooses.”

The motion passed 407-72, and some critiqued it for not going far enough. For more details on the process, talk to our own Miriam Dewhurst, a commissioner to the General Assembly who was actively involved in getting this motion to a vote. Read an article about the motion in Presbyterian Outlook here and download the full text of the resolution below.

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge – Anna’s Story

Dear Members and Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday July 19th at 10:00am via Zoom. Our summer sermon series, Faces of Faith: Bold and Untold Stories continues, focusing this week on the widowed prophet Anna, who meets the newborn Christ. You can find Anna’s story in Luke 2:21-38.

Join us for 10:00am Sunday Worship here

The Personnel Committee has been hard at work, ensuring that the church is properly staffed. Last week, we said goodbye to Rev. Billy Kluttz, who has moved on to serve as the Associate Pastor at Govans Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, the city in which his husband is now doing a residency. The Personnel Committee is currently negotiating with someone to serve as a ¾-time Associate Stated Supply Pastor. This person will begin mid-August—more details coming soon. We’ve also brought on board Will Timmons to serve as a paid Worship Coordinator, an 8-10 hour a week contract position. Will began in this new role on Tuesday and will now direct the production of online worship, ensuring that we continue to have a high-quality Zoom experience. Will has been volunteering on the worship tech team since March and has been essential to NYAPC’s successful transition to online worship.

Your Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC) is now meeting regularly on Sunday evenings from 7:00-9:00pm. Please continue to keep this group in your prayers as they begin the faithful process of discerning NYAPC’s next Lead Pastor.

Finally, a prayer for the life of the world by John Philip Newell. Since returning from vacation, I’ve been hearing from many of you about the fear that is welling up inside you—how long will we need to keep up this virtual reality, the rising Covid-19 death count, the trampling of truth by elected leaders, and deep concern for those who are stuck in homes that are not safe and essential workers who take risks in order to help the many. We gather these very real fears and take them to God in prayer:

To the home of peace
to the field of love
to the land where forgiveness and right relationship meet
we look, O God,
with longing on earth’s children
with compassion for the creatures
with hearts breaking for the nations and people we love.
Open us to visions we have never known
strengthen us for self-givings we have never made
delight us with a oneness we could never have imagined
that we may truly be born of you
makers of peace.

Peace and Courage,

Heather

What’s Going On: The Pandemic Flower Project

By Gwenn Gebhard

Each week since early April, three members of our congregation have received flowers from NYAPC, thanks to a combination of generosity and creative thinking. When the church moved to online worship back in March, the Diaconal Ministers canceled its weekly orders for Sanctuary flowers from Foxglove Flowers, but committed to continue to pay this small business during the pandemic. That’s when owner Yvonne Trujillo made a creative offer:

Thank you so much for your offer to continue to pay me for the weeks that your church is closed during this COVID-19 crisis. I had an idea come to mind. You could give me the names and addresses (including phone numbers for delivery purposes) of __ people of your congregation per week. And I will deliver a fresh $___ value arrangement to each person. This way you will put this money to good use & cheer up some members of your congregation.

Foxglove Flowers LLC designs and puts together our sanctuary flower arrangements that sit on either side of the altar during worship services. These arrangements are paid for out of the Flower Fund, money the Diaconal Ministers use primarily for each Sunday’s flowers, along with poinsettias for Christmas, and lilies, ferns, hydrangea, and azaleas for Easter. Contributions from the congregation for special dedications replenish the fund.

We negotiated for three flower arrangements each week to be delivered to three addresses in close proximity to one another (to reduce delivery costs). Unless the arrangement is for a bereavement, the card delivered with the flowers usually says:

These flowers represent God’s presence and our prayers that blessings of calmness, courage, health, and hope be with you in these difficult times. From the Diaconal Ministers at NYAPC.

For many years, the DMs have re-arranged the sanctuary flower arrangements into smaller bouquets and delivered them to members of the congregation who are ill or homebound, celebrating a special anniversary or a birthday, and as a thank you for their service to NYAPC. This project takes the place of that work.

This project also keeps a small business, Foxglove Flowers, functioning and their staff employed. Yvonne Trujillo is a European trained Floral Designer of over 20 years’ experience. She says on her website: “Floral Design is my passion! I like helping my clients express their feeling through personalized Floral Creations. Hobbies are baking and hiking with family.”

The Diaconal Ministers welcome your contributions to the Flower Fund. Because we did not have our usual Easter Lily dedications, the Diaconal Ministers missed an opportunity to replenish the fund.  You can donate by going to https://www.nyapc.org/give-now/. Select “General Donation” and note “Flower Fund” in the accompanying box.

Peddling Hope – from Rev. Billy Kluttz

Grace and peace be with you!

This Sunday, we gather to hear the story of Vashti from Esther chapter one. Vashti is the queen dethroned for her disobedience to the king. Within a season of civil disobedience, I believe that Vashti is just the prophet that we need right now. If the story of Vashti (and the Book of Esther) is not fresh in your mind, you may enjoy remembering her story with this humorous parody and midrash by artist Felicia Sloin, click here.

Next week, we are also excited to announce the launch of our new Digital Church Hub which will provide you with quick links on our website homepage to access the information and resources you need during the pandemic. To visit the new Digital Church Hub after it goes live, go to http://www.nyapc.org. And, if you prefer the website as it was, there’s a button for that, too! This has been a summer-long project with our new communications team. Special thanks to Erica Morgan, Will Timmons, and Meg House for their hard work on this import effort.

This Sunday will also be my last Sunday with you. I want to say “thank you” for working alongside me this summer. I hope that I have encouraged you to continue your vital ministries as a church. I hope that I have helped equip you to be the church in the digital age. I hope that I challenged and comforted you and your soul through my words and/or silence.

You all have certainly been an inspiration to me this summer. Our work together has reminded me of my love for the church–and of the great power disciples of Jesus still have to affect change in the world. Your commitment to justice and creatively doing church during this pandemic are points of hope for me that I will carry with me into my next call in Baltimore.

My favorite quote comes from the Moroccan feminist Fatema Mernissi’s book, Scheherezade Goes West. The book itself is a study of the harem in western artistic portrayals—an apt subject for conversation this week because the harem plays a special role in the story of Esther. But the quotation comes from the book’s ending in which Mernissi imagines what she might have done with her life if she had been denied an education. She writes: “Yes, I would have peddled hope. Hope is my drug and official addiction. Pessimism is the luxury of the powerful. I can’t afford it.”

Keep peddling hope, New York Avenue! Your example and witness have already given me such great hope for the future of the church. Thank you for sharing that with me and with each other. I will be cheering you on from a little farther up I-95.

Peace,
Billy

Black Lives Matter Protestor Hospitality

Black Lives Matter protestors march by New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where they can find access to restrooms, water and respite. Photo: Aryn Myers

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has recently used its building’s unique location, two blocks from the White House, to support the current protests for Black Lives Matter. Embodying NYAPC’s value of radical hospitality, volunteers ensure protestors have access to restrooms, water and a safe place to recharge.

NYAPC has found itself on the frontlines for justice and social change throughout history. The congregation and its leaders actively participated in civil rights marches, anti-war protests, and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, sometimes known as “Lincoln’s Church” because President Abraham Lincoln worshipped there, also houses an early draft of the Emancipation Declaration written by President Lincoln.

John Wiley, Eleanor K. Robins, and Vincent de Forest stand outside the Poor People’s Campaign Information Center at NYAPC in the spring of 1968.

Protestor hospitality is a continuation of this work. The church opened its doors for the Women’s March, the March for Our Lives, and now for the current Black Lives Matter protests, providing access to restrooms, water, cell phone charging and cooling stations. In a unique time during the pandemic, these services are in even greater demand with many other businesses and buildings closed. Click here to join our volunteer email list and help open our doors during city protests and marches.

The church also displayed protest art on its building in a series of installations in celebration of Juneteenth. The congregation and friends submitted protest signs to be hung along New York Avenue, a main thoroughfare of the protests. NYAPC also partnered with a local artist and light designer John D. Alexander that evening to display Enlight of Solidarity: Juneteenth “Power to the People” (pictured below) expressing commitment to social justice for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ communities. Find out more about the art installations here.

Protestors pass the Juneteenth protest art installation at NYAPC. Photo Eric Bond.
Juneteenth Light Installation Enlight of Solidarity: Juneteenth “Power to the People”. Photo: Eric Bond.