End of YAV Reflection: Gratitude for NYAPC

This post is by guest-blogger, Kasey Kelly, who is the 2018-2019 Young Adult Volunteer at NYAPC. 

I am so thankful for the YAV program and my work placement, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, for being part of my journey. In the beginning of the YAV program, I had to build new relationships from scratch. I formed not only connections in my YAV house with my roommates, but also in the church. I quickly familiarized myself with the new music and the Lord’s prayer, since I never stepped in a Presbyterian Church before the program.

My favorite task at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is storytelling. Storytelling is the memorization of the scripture with an animated narration. At first, I was nervous because it has been so long since I memorized a monologue. I had to learn the meaning of scripture in a month and then memorize it in two weeks. I memorized John 20:19-31 on April 28 and then Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 on July 7. I learned to read these biblical stories deeply and find patterns in the wordings under the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which is different from my usual New International Version (NIV). Pastor Alice Tewell suggested that I practice memorizing these verses while walking and running on the treadmill. It brought a whole new meaning to my workout. Then, I discovered my gift of biblical storytelling. I am thankful for the experience of working at NYAPC because otherwise, I would not have known about the art of storytelling.


My rehearsal for the Storytelling of John 20:19-31 NRSV


I learned where to see Jesus in a ministry. When I encountered challenges at the women’s closet in the Radcliffe Room, a ministry for guests who experience poverty, I found myself acknowledging how I can attribute Jesus’ characteristics such as patience, kindness, and compassion. At the beginning of the month or end of the month, the environment of the Radcliffe Room was chaotic. I changed my perspective by understanding that these women are not feeling their best. I talked to women and worked with them as much as I can. Then, the women’s closet ran smoothly.

Every Thursday, I was blessed to witness the close-knit community and wonderful friendships in the Community Club. I worked in the substitute zone, where I took students with absent tutors and paired them with tutors who have absent students. I will never forget the time when I took nine students and tutors at the National Portrait Gallery. I thoroughly enjoyed their curiosity and wonder about the exhibits. In the spring, I took one student, one former student, and five tutors to the U.S. National Arboretum. The tutors and students were able to share their love and joy for plants, trees, and birds as I led them through azaleas trail, columns, and bonsai.


Kasey Kelly pictured Bonsai (Impressive Right?!)


New York Avenue Church’s community has excellent hospitality to the marchers, such as Poor People’s Campaign, and work together to care for one another. The staff cares about each other, and I enjoy working with them. They bring joy into my life as we both have inside jokes and funny stories.

During the last few weeks, many church members approached me to ask me about when my time at the church will come to an end. I am going to miss working at the church, but I am ready for my next chapter, which is attending Boston University School of Theology and School of Social Work. Goodbyes are the hardest. It is the only way to have beginnings and growth with changes. We are changing together.

Kasey Kelly, YAV 2018-2019

Baptism: Christian Theology for All Ages in Language for Kids and Youth

As somewhat of a New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to do a bit more blogging.  I thought I’d do a series on church language and practices for parents and other caring adults to use to talk with their kids and youth. It has a bit of progressive bent, but so do I. Here is the first in the series on practices in the church.  This Sunday January 13 is the Baptism of the Lord, so I’m starting with baptism.  (The pictures are meant to be fun to jog your imagination.) 

Thanks, Alice Tewell (Associate Pastor)

funny-baptism-cartoons-4What is baptism?
In baptism, God claims us as God’s own. Baptism sets us free from sin (all those horrible things we do) and death and unites us with Jesus Christ in his resurrection. Through the water used in baptism and the amazing power of the Holy Spirit, when we are baptized, we become part of the church, and are joined in the ministry go God’s ministry of love for the world.

So… what does baptism mean again?
Baptism is a sign of God’s complete love for you and your adoption into the family of God. You can’t do anything to get rid of God’s love. Even when you aren’t so happy with yourself and even when everyone else is mad at you, God still loves you. When you are baptized, we believe that Holy Spirit comes to you and fills you up with God’s love.

Is baptism a “sacrament”? What does the word “sacrament” mean anyway?
Baptism is called a Sacrament, which is often said to be “visible signs of an invisible grace.” Communion (aka the Lord’s Supper) is the other Sacrament that we celebrate. Both baptism and communion are ways that we can see God’s grace for ourselves and show us signs of God’s extraordinary love for us. We grow stronger in our faith when we see and participate in baptism and communion.

Who was the first person to be baptized?

imagesIn the Jewish tradition, people have participated a cleansing practice (mikveh) before important events with the family and synagogue community. John the Baptist, who was Jewish, came before Jesus Christ baptizing people in the Jordan River. Jesus Christ came to John the Baptist and asked him to baptize him. At first John the Baptist didn’t want to do it. He said he wasn’t good enough. But then Jesus asked him again, and John the Baptist baptized him. When Jesus was baptized, the heavens tore open setting the Spirit of God permanently loose in the world. A dove came down from heaven and a voice from heaven said “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”unknown

I know the pastors say a lot of things during baptism. What do you think is the most important part?
When you are baptized, the pastor or pastors dip their hand in the water three times, saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You are sealed with God’s love forever.” We use a lot of water because we want everyone to see the sign of God’s love!

Why don’t we use special water for baptism? Why don’t you use soap?
When John the Baptist baptized Jesus he did it in the Jordan River in the wilderness. Jesus and all of the other people who were baptized were baptized in regular water that was probably a bit dirty on the bottom. In baptism, we believe that God shows us how we can turn ordinary things of life (like water) into extraordinary possibilities. We don’t use special water or soap because it isn’t needed. The natural things that God provides is enough.


Why does the church baptize babies and little kids if they can’t decide for themselves? What promises are made?
In baptism, we believe that parents, other adults who are family, and the church community are very important in raising children. When babies are baptized in the church, the parent, parents or another adult who raises them answers some questions including promising to “turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil in the world”, promising to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior trusting in his grace and love, and promising to be a faithful disciple obeying God’s Word and love.

In answering these questions with a “Yes, with God’s help,” the parent, parents or other adults promise to raise the child in the faith of the church. The people in the church also promise to help raise the baby or child into the faith by listening to them, being caring of them, and teaching them about God. We believe it is important to make these promises out-loud.

Is baptism only for babies?
Nope. You can be baptized at any age. If an older child, teenager, or adult is baptized, they answer the questions saying no to sin and evil, yes to Jesus Christ, and promising to be a faithful disciple for themselves.  These questions are big ones, so I think “the Yes, with God’s help,” is an important thing to say too.

Should I be baptized more than once? What if I don’t remember my baptism?
In our church, you only need to be baptized once. Even if you don’t remember your baptism, your baptism is for your entire life. (We assume if you are baptized as a baby or young child, you probably don’t remember it.) When you are a teenager, likely in 8th or 9th grade, you can take part in the confirmation class, which is a class where you learn about God and the church, and decide if you want to become a full voting member in the church.

What does it mean to ‘remember my baptism’?
We encourage you to participate the practice of renewing your baptism. You can do this informally on your own on a Sunday by dipping your hand in the font and thinking about your baptism and God’s gift of grace for you. When you see another person’s baptism, you are also invited to remember your own. On Maundy Thursday during Holy Week, we usually have a time in the service to renew your baptismal vows when we pass a damp cloth from the baptismal around the congregation.  There are also other ways you can remember your baptism including when it rains, when you are near a beautiful body of water or even when you wash your hands.


Where can I read about baptism in the Bible?
Every Gospel! Each have a slightly different take.
Matthew Chapter 3
Mark 1:1-11
Luke 3: 1-22
John 1:19-34


Activity during worship:
Next time you are in the sanctuary, consider doing these activities:

  • Find the dove in the sanctuary. Why do you think it is where it is? What does it mean?
  • Find the baptismal font in the sanctuary. What does it say on it? Why do you think it placed where it is?
  • Find the stained glass window showing baptism. What is going on? Read the passages from the Bible that talk about baptism. Which passage do you think is being represented in the picture? Draw the window or a modern version of baptism.
  • Pay attention next time someone is baptized in the church. Pay attention to the words and the prayers. Pay attention to the feelings present in the sanctuary.

Activity at home:

  • Ask a parent or trusted adult about your baptism. What did they decide to get you baptized? What do they remember about it?
  • Find someone who remembers their own baptism. (Hint: They were probably not a baby when they were baptized.). Ask them about it.
  • Ask a Jewish friend about the mikveh cleansing ritual. Or, look it up, and report back.
  • Draw a picture of a baptism taking place.  What do you think baptism looks like in different cultures and places?
  • Talk about and then write down what your family believes about baptism.



From the Presbyterian Mission Agency on Baptism 

From Worshiping with Children

From the NEXT Church Blog – Love Letters Remembering Baptism

Presbyterian Questions and Presbyterian Answers by Donald K. McKim.

Another take from the Methodists on LGBTQ welcome for baptism

Musings with Rev. Roger Gench especially the part about soap!

National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

On this longest night of the year, today we remembered those who died while experiencing homelessness in our region. It was a powerful service (8 years running now at NYA) made especially poignant by the reading of the names of the people who died living without a home.

Every person honored was someones daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend. Every person should be valued as a child of God made in Gods image, valued and loved.

We hold the service each year to honor those who have died and to advocate for those who are suffering amongst us.  We find it shameful that in this region with so much opportunity, we fail to care for the most vulnerable amongst us. As people of faith and as people of conscience we believe that we are called to show up in the broken places: the places of deepest pain, suffering, and shame.  

In those broken places, through both our actions and our words, we are to say that because you are a person who is created in the image of God — 

You are not alone. You are valued. You are loved.  

And by being present for one another, we are to be repairs of the breach, to breathe in a sense of healing that says because you are a person of dignity and worth,  I see you,  and I want to know you just as you are.

We also thanked the many interfaith and social service groups participating in today’s service.  We would like to give a special recognition to  Evelyn McMillan, the NYA cook,  for a beautiful and hearty lunch that provided such a good opportunity for fellowship after the service.

On this longest night, will you pray with us?

O Holy God,

In the midst of winter,

In the midst of difficult political and economic times,

In the midst of great polarization,

On this longest day of the year,

We come to you in prayer.

We grieve this day for all those who have died experiencing homelessness,

We pray for that each person here would feel valued, and dignified, and loved.


God of wonders and miracles who moves us into action, 

We pray that every person who desires it would be able to live with the dignity and the security of a home.  

We pray for all those who died on the streets and in shelters this past year, unrecognized and unseen. 

We pray that they will not be forgotten.

We pray especially upon their families and friends,

Both those in close in daily interactions 

And those who have been separated by the distance of time and space.

God of all mercies

And giver of all comfort:

Look graciously, we pray on those who mourn,

That they may cast their worries on you.

Then, in your mercy, 

Grant us safe lodging,

And a holy rest,

And peace at last.



Blessings this Holy Night.



Center Updates December 21

Greetings looking toward this 4th Sunday of Advent!  We have some important exciting announcements related to the building and the Center this week!

First Floor Bathrooms: A very generous donor from the church has given a significant gift to renovate the first-floor bathrooms in early 2019. A team from the Trustees, Deacons and staff has already met for a scope of work meeting.

Phones and Internet: The Trustees have approved a contract for new phones and internet service for the church, Voice Over IP (VOIP). The contract, which was necessitated by the requirements of the Center, will also bring much improved phone and internet service to the rest of the church.

Center Construction: Center construction will continue apace throughout the holidays.

Church Volunteers for the Center and the Church Entryway: The opening of the Center will yield rich opportunities for church members who want to volunteer. One effort will provide ongoing support to NYA’s desk staff as they navigate the task of welcoming current users of the church while cooperating with the Center’s host staff as we welcome our new Center guests. The second effort, of which New York Avenue volunteers will play only a part, is to provide volunteers to the Center’s larger initiative to bring community volunteer commitments to many of the functions of the Center. Volunteer training will be offered for both efforts in January. Church members Ann Bradley and Matt Webster will be helping us orchestrate those efforts.

New York Ave. Church Mural-1

The Center Updates

Happy Advent! Progress on the Center continues at the church.  Last week photographer Stephen Reasonover was able to take amazing photos of the mural that Hank Prussing completed in the summer of 1966 when he was 16 years old.  Mr. Prussing says it is an allegorical scene of people walking down the side walk.  The people are purposely transparent making the comment about who are the invisible members of our society.  He said that in an indifferent world, the younger girl and older woman were to make the point about the importance of linking across generations and socio-economic backgrounds.  New York Ave. Church Mural-6.jpg

New York Ave. Church Mural-1.jpg

New York Ave. Church Mural-7.jpg

On the construction side, demolition, about eighty percent of the framing, and some of the electrical work is complete.  On the program side, the BID has completed the attached flyer outlining the services that will be provided as well as the services that are provided off-site until the Center opens.  They are also completing the service provider schedule including daily housing, case management and advocacy, employment services, health care screens, and harm reduction training.  Veterans benefits, ID services, and birth certificates are also provided on the weekly schedule. More services are to come. 

On the church side, we have formed the BID Advisory Group (BAG), a group of NYA members and staff focusing on the relationship between the BID and the church as well as the role of church volunteers.  From the membership, the group includes Ann Bradley, Rebecca Davis, Martha Davis, Paul Dornan, Tyler Feret, Courtney Spearman, and Matt Webster.  From staff, the group includes Jasmine Jowers, Roger Gench, and Alice Tewell.  

There has been a change in the leadership of the Center.  Rev. Linda Kaufman is no longer the Director of Homeless Services and Executive Director of the Center.  Ellen Jones, the Deputy Executive Director at the BID, is serving as the Executive Director of the Center until someone is hired after the Center’s opening. Jones writes, “We are grateful for the contribution Linda made in her short time here at the BID to meet the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness in downtown DC. She helped to set us on the path towards opening the Downtown Day Services Center to place more individuals in housing and secure the services they need to stay housed, while improving their quality of life during that process. We wish her well in her future endeavors.”  At the church, we are also grateful for the contributions Linda made as well as the relationships she as built both with church staff and members.  We wish her well, and expect to see her around town! 

We are also excited to announce that in the fall, Darlyene “Tokyo” Direkston joined the BID as the  Homeless Services Site and Program Manager  to oversee day-to-day operations of the Downtown Day Services Center (The Center). You can read more about Ms. Tokyo here.  Most of the other Center staff has also been hired.

Please reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns, or want to volunteer in the Center. 

As a reminder, the Radcliffe Room will be giving out Christmas presents on Sunday December 16 starting at 8:15 am to our guests.  You may bring Christmas cards for our guests with a greeting “Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays” to the front desk though the morning of December 15, and they will be put in the Christmas bags.  If you are able to volunteer (and do not normally) in the Radcliffe Room, and would like some more information, please contact our Young Adult Volunteer, Kasey Kelly (yav@nyapc.org).  

Many thanks,


Advent Christmas Pageant 2018


We look forward to seeing you for the annual Christmas Pageant this upcoming Sunday, December 16 at 10 am!   The hope the that the Christmas pageant will be a way to introduce our kids to the Christmas story, the fellowship and joy of intergenerational church, and teach about responsibility and trying out new things. It should be a fun-family friendly day of worship!

This year, the Christmas pageant will feature a hymn sing and storytelling from a new Bible: Growing in God’s Love, A Story Bible edited by Elizabeth Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim. The last story is from the Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

We will have a lot of hymn singing, so we encourage hearty voices!

Here are a few notes especially for visitors with kids:

Are you a child who is new today or wasn’t able to make it to a rehearsal? You are welcome to take an extra costume from the back.  You can be an angel, a shepherd or a sheep.  You enter during the 4th story (Surprise visitors) with the other kids. 

Did you come early at 8 am (older) or 9 am (younger) to practice?

Please grab your costume in Room 511 (5th floor) and then meet us in the sanctuary. We will take a picture of everyone in the sanctuary at 9:45 a.m. Please be in your seats after the photo.

Is there a celebration after the service?  Yes!  We invite everyone from the congregation (not just families) to Peter Marshall Hall on the 5th floor for special treats, to take pictures, and to share in Christmas cheer. 

A special note for sheep:  We love that our youngest children play the sheep. We hope you will allow them to graze around the front of the sanctuary and enjoy the spirit of the pageant story.  It is what sheep do! Other animals are welcome too! 

When does my child in lower elementary and PreK play their part? Where should they sit?

All children PreK-Lower Elementary enter during the fourth story, Surprise Visitors.  Angels have 1 line:  “Do not be afraid.”  Younger children should sit with their guardians ideally in the first four rows where they can see and participate in the church! Sheep are welcome to sit in the front of the pews and roam free.  (Free range sheep.)

Where should older child/ youth sit? Upper Elementary and Youth Students who have practiced are invited to sit in the choir loft up front. 

We look forward to seeing you!  There is A LOT more information of rehearsals etc, so if you are looking for more detailed information, please email Alice.tewell@nyapc.org.

Happy Advent!