I’ve enjoyed doing some church shopping in the DC area.
It’s fun even asking people about parishes they prefer.
The peace types go to St. Aloysius, a Jesuit-run parish in D.C. near the Capitol, although there’s some disgruntlement with the current pastor.
Many of the nuns go to St. Camillus, a Franciscan parish in Silver Spring, which is about a 15-minute drive from my apartment. The multicultural Mass is very popular for the high-energy music in multiple languages, and the friars are regarded as good homilists. I’m bothered a bit, though, by the concert feel of the liturgy, with many songs without any worship sheets, making it hard for the congregation to sing along.
So, I’ve checked out Our Lady of Sorrows, within walking distance of my place. That parish seems on the brink of financial ruin, as the priest was begging for money the week I went. An interesting note: he also pleaded for donations of rice for Mother Theresa’s nuns in the parish.
I’ve got to check out recommendations for St. Augustine’s in the heart of DC, the original black Gospel parish, I’m told,, so the music should be good. Then there’s St. John the Baptist, further north in Silver Spring that comes with a recommendation for good liturgy and a choir that leads the congregation in song. (Plus, I have a soft spot for the name, as that was my first parish in Schenectady, and I really felt at home there more than at any parish before or since.)
So far, my favorite is St. Stephen and the Incarnation, an Episcopal church in Columbia Heights, a historic black neighborhood in DC. I attended to participate in an Amnesty International letter-writing event after the service, and I was impressed.
The historically white congregation integrated early on, in the 1950s, and had a prayer service soon after Martin Luther King Jr’s murder while riots raged just outside. The congregation also hosted what’s claimed to be the first public service led by a female priest ordained illicitly before the Episcopal denomination OK’d female presiders. Now the building hosts a number of peace and justice groups.
The congregation intentionally draws everyone into the service, with the choir embedded in the middle of the pews rather than singing from the front. And everyone is welcomed to circle the altar during the communion prayers. I read that they’re now working toward developing a volunteer leadership team of both clergy and laypeople.
At the letter-writing activity calling for freeing political prisoners around the world and attention to death-penalty cases in the US, I felt some pangs of lonesomeness as young people talked about going out to brunch afterward and a potluck later on in the evening. It reminded me of the active singles group I belonged to in Denver. But I’m hopeful I’ll find something appropriate in the DC for me at this stage of my life.