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St. Thomas' Parish at Dupont Circle – Washington, DC

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Ministry in Daily Life – An Urban Experience




Dr. Wayne Whitson Floyd
Parish Administrator & Clergy Spouse, St. Thomas’ Parish at Dupont Circle
Parish Administrator, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church

I was asked recently to write something for a group of Episcopal bishops, clergy and lay people about the way that St. Thomas’ Parish lives out our baptismal covenant — the way we do “ministry in daily” life as a congregation.  Here is what I said.

“I work in two parishes, and belong to one of them, where my wife, The Rev. Dr. Nancy Lee Jose is Rector, in the heart of Washington, DC. The parish where I am a member has pioneered “ministry in daily life” now for more than three quite distinct generations.  Originally a large urban English Gothic church that could boast of F.D.R. as its Senior Warden before he was President, and that Eleanor Roosevelt delivered out first lay homily, the building that “was” St. Thomas’ Parish was a 1970 victim of arson that destroyed all but the previous social hall and parish offices, which remain our entire  “church” still.

The remnant of the congregation who remained swapped a “building” for a “neighborhood” – becoming a visible and vocal presence at the interface with Dupont Circle war and political protesters, and then the LGBT community, and more recently the influx of young professionals – straight and gay – who have adopted our neighborhood precisely for its generous-hearted and socially-active posture in the larger Washington, DC, urban context.  We are constantly being pushed to make more space for our community and its ministries, and as a result have raised almost a million dollars from our members towards a capital campaign finally to build a new worship space to house the work we do amidst our neighbors in Dupont Circle.

St. Thomas’ chose to remain committed to the neighborhood, whoever came to live and work here, in so doing found itself constantly changed by, as well as changing, the daily life of the area where we have lived and worshiped now for more than a century.

One simply couldn’t keep church and life separate when life has so much to say about how you “do church,” and when church understands itself to be intimately entwined in “daily life” – whether confronting police lines, holding funerals for community members and their friends who died during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s at a time when few other churches were willing to do so, developing one of the first services in the Episcopal Church in 1998 for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions, or claiming to have spiritual relevancy for a generation that can find it as hard to come out as Christian as a previous generation found it difficult to come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“Daily life” for our parishioners is spent working for Congress members, holding senior positions in NGOs and nonprofits, doing research at NIH, going to graduate school, working for the State Department, or raising children while playing in the National Symphony Orchestra.  The sacramental life of the parish continues to seek new ways to ground people’s everyday attempts to find God in the world where they work.  They in turn bring that world back into the church with them in challenging and amazingly faithful ways.

Our leadership continues to emerge from the people who arrive on our doorstep, most of whom for a generation have been young, highly educated, professionally ambitious, and spiritually hungry. Our Junior and Senior Wardens are forty and under; several Vestry members are in their twenties; and hardly anyone grew up in the Episcopal Church – many didn’t grow up in any church whatsoever.  The parish took a risk to call a partnered gay man as their Rector in the 1990s and a straight married woman, who happens to be my spouse, as their first female rector eight years ago.  The “daily life” of our parishioners now includes more and more children, whose parents reflect the broad array of sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, and vocational choices that “are” Dupont Circle in the twenty-first century.  We “are” a slice of tomorrow’s America today.

We continue to pioneer ways of engaging the real world in which our members live and work and play – inviting a Montessori School to share our facilities, hosting a Korean Presbyterian congregation, and developing a Taize service that reaches many who otherwise have no ‘religious’ connections whatsoever. Most recently we have partnered with Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to begin work to start a Center for Nonviolent Communication at St. Thomas’ Parish that he will lead as he makes our parish his “church home” when he is in Washington in retirement and also working with the Center for American Progress.  We want to help facilitate a more civil and responsible public discourse that can invite “daily life” into “parish life” – and vice versa — in new and creative ways. In the process I think we will once again help to redefine both “ministry” and “daily life” in fresh and responsive and courageous ways.  We aren’t striving to be a “big church” but rather a “growing community” of involvement, responsibility, and faithfulness.

No one could have predicted the path we’ve taken to get this far.  But with God’s help we will find our path into the future, sure to be surprised and awed by who and what we find there and what faithfulness requires of us in ministry, as in daily life.

 

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Open Communion at St. Thomas’ Parish

by Wayne Whitson Floyd, Ph.D.
Parish Administrator and Clergy Spouse at St. Thomas’ Parish at Dupont Circle

There is significant discussion in the Episcopal Church today about whether or not Baptism should be a requirement for taking Holy Communion. Among the 400 or so resolutions submitted to the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis this past week, one was a resolution passed by the House of Bishops affirming that “baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion.”

Now there is little doubt that throughout the whole period of Constantinian Christianity – the millenia-long period following the legalization of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine when baptism was normative for almost everyone in a predominantly-Christian society – it was also normative-practice in catholic theology for Baptism to precede the reception of Holy Eucharist.

Still, it troubles me greatly that despite all the talk about the Episcopal Church’s need for change to meet the realities of the post-Christian day-and-age in which we live, in the rush of the final day of General Convention the Bishops (with the Deputies concurring in the last afternoon’s flurry of unfinished resolutions) chose not to courageously step out into the changes-demanded-by-the-future of the post-Constantinian Church with the radical hospitality of sacramental-inclusivity, but chose rather to circle the wagons and draw a sharper us-them, baptized-unbaptized distinction than I would wager is the actual practice in a majority of Episcopal Churches today.

While no one really expects people in the near future to be asked to produce their baptismal certificates in exchange for a bite of bread at the altar, it now will become less clear to many who we otherwise graciously invite to gather with us around Christ’s Table whether or not ‘we’ the baptized really do welcome ‘them’ the unbaptized at all. And in fact, in my own lifetime, I was refused Holy Communion in an Episcopal Church in rural North Carolina in the late-1970s because I did not have a literal card to turn in confirming that I had been to private confession with the rector during the preceding week. So don’t think it won’t happen somewhere.

As a systematic theologian and former Episcopal seminary faculty member, I am concerned that despite the mystery and beauty of the Anglican sacramental theology of the unexplainable and undeniable ‘real presence’ of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine, we have allowed ourselves to slide subtly towards a ‘receptionist’ theology that views the efficacy of the sacraments as somehow dependent on the state of the one receiving the elements. The Donatist controversy in the early church had been resolved by a clear understanding that the efficacy of the sacraments was not dependent on the moral-character of the clergyperson consecrating the elements; and the Zwinglian-controversy of the 16th century had been resolved by a similar refusal of those like Richard Hooker to reduce the efficacy of the sacraments to the intensity-of-faith of the believer.

Rather, we ended up as Episcopalians with a theology that affirmed the ‘real presence’ – as certain as it is unexplainable – of Christ in the Eucharist — a presence not dependent on baptism or confirmation or any other ‘requirement’ the church might presume to place upon how God is to be permitted to show up in the sacraments.

The incarnation is about the ‘real presence’ of God in Jesus who brought himself into the most improper and scandalous places and relationships with human beings. Likewise, the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the Eucharistic elements expresses the same sort of divine-risk-taking that brings God bodily into contact with even those we do not think worthy of the encounter — tax collectors, sinners, liberal-Democrats like myself, and even the unbaptized.

I personally have a very high theology of baptism; I actually believe that when my Methodist grandfather baptized me as an infant with water “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” I was truly “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”  I have never doubted that I was a full member of Christ’s church; I never needed anything else, not even ordination, to make me more fully Christ’s very own.  And I have spent my life seeking to live out my vocational calling rooted in Baptism.

So I take it very personally when some in the current debate rail against the “laziness” of those wanting to “lower the bar” and allow “them” to the table before “they,” like “us,” have been baptized.  If you’re in that camp, speak for yourself on that matter; but don’t presume that you have any idea why I believe unreservedly, passionately in the theology of the Open Table.

At ‘my’ church here at St. Thomas’ Parish we frequently celebrate the sacrament of Baptism, joyfully welcoming both infants and adults into full membership in Christ’s church. Those are great days; I long with all my heart for many more of them.  We also faithfully practice Open Communion, welcoming all to Christ’s table who wish to participate in the ‘real presence’ of God’s gracious love in the eating and drinking of the sacramental elements of bread and wine.

As a Eucharistic Minister, I have watched many a face weep in awe and mystery at being offered “the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation” — and I never thought once to ask whether or not they deserved it or were allowed it because of something the church had or had not done.  I knew none of us deserved it — it was a gift of God, offered for us all.  And I know some of those same faces have shown up in baptism and confirmation classes, drawn closer to God and now drawing closer to the community of the Church: “Christ existing as community” as Bonhoeffer put it.

When I look into the faces of those who have risked stepping forward into God’s ‘real presence’ – those who sometimes for the first time ever are being drawn into the possibility of life in community with Christ — in my heart I hear Jesus saying to me, quite personally, if you must know: “It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea, than that you would cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

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General Convention Highlights



Highlights of the 77th General Convention include the election of St. Thomas’ Parish Senior Warden John Johnson to a six year term on the Executive Council of the national Episcopal Church! 

Out of the scores and scores of resolutions proposed and passed, of particular interest to the St. Thomas’ Parish community are also a handful of resolutions that were adopted by both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies and this become a part of “the mind of the church” as we know it in mid-2012:

Bishops and Deputies also approved the  provisional use of the rite “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant”.  This is the first official rite for the blessing of same sex unions, despite the fact that congregations like St. Thomas’ Parish have been doing so for over a decade.

Another resolution passed adding transgender people to the anti-discrimination protections in the Episcopal Church.

It should not go without note that causing at least equal conversation was the creation of a task force to re-imagine the workings of the Episcopal Church in the 21st century. this group of up to 24 people will gather ideas in the next two years from all levels of the church about possible reforms to its structures, governance and administration. Its final report is due by November 2014.

In an anti-climatic motion intended neither to affirm or offend, the General Convention passed a “no decision” resolution, effectively “kicking the can down the road” to postpone the rejection of the Anglican Covenant while holding open conversation with worldwide Anglicanism.

And on another much-discussed topic, so-called “open communion,” the House of Bishops has passed a resolution reaffirming “that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion,” striking down the additional phrase in the version passed by the House of Deputies that concluded: “We also acknowledge that in various local contexts there is the exercise of pastoral sensitivity with those who are not yet baptized.” The HOD subsequently concurred with the revised version without the pastoral sensitivity provision.  The discussion about this brief notice of this resolution in The Lead is telling about the significance different voices in the church see in this decision.

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Caging the Tiger

Violence comes in many forms. Bombs. Guns. Fists.

As well as words, gestures, posturing.

Bullying-behavior rarely resorts to the former; but bullies are masters-of-manipulation with the latter.

We live in the middle of what Ryan Halligan, a staff writer for the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, has described as “An Epidemic of Bullying,” verging on a societal pandemic.  At least, in the case of the bullying of children and young adults, light is finally beginning to be shed on this dark behavior, and responses are being formulated.  For example, St. Thomas’ Parish participated in the It Gets Better project, a national response to the suicides of teenagers who were bullied because of their sexual orientation and identity:

Bullying in the workplace, however, has been described as “The Silent Epidemic” — it happens regularly, but it isn’t being discussed very openly yet.  Writing for Psychology Today, Ray Williams defines such bullying as “the conscious repeated effort to wound and seriously harm another person not with [physical] violence, but with words and actions. Bullying damages the physical, emotional and mental healthy of the person who is targeted.”  And we have gotten so accustomed to such behavior in our entertainment, our politics, and our work-environments that we are numb to the effects of psychological violence, much less to potential remedies for it.

That’s one of the reasons that St. Thomas’ Parish is in conversation with Bishop V. Gene Robinson about the formation of a Center for Nonviolent Communication in our new building when he retires as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2013. Meanwhile, we are already beginning to work on our own nonviolent communication skills, as well as the community dynamics that can encourage and discourage them, in our upcoming parish retreat with Canon Charles LaFond, who oversees congregational development in the Diocese of New Hampshire.

This is important work for us to do, because besides being potential agents of change in a culture of violence-filled rhetoric and behavior, churches also can themselves be hotbeds for bullying.  In an organization that is built on a metaphor of sheep being cared for and protected from harm by a shepherd, churchgoers get caught off-guard when the sheep attack one another .. or sometimes, even more viciously, the shepherd.  Episcopal priest Dennis Maynard has chronicled the latter behavior in his book, When Sheep Attack, which provides chilling examples of how a lone-wolf bully, or a small pack of parishioners bent on destruction, can threaten to bring a parish to its knees through their bullying behavior.

One of the worst characteristics of church communities, however, is not just that such behavior exists — undercutting even the best efforts of a community to foster an environment of hospitality, welcome, and inclusion — but that often virtually the entire congregation is  aware of what is going on and chooses to stand by and do nothing.

Rabbi Edwin Friedman, one of the most respected voices in describing the systemic dysfunctions of families and communities like the church, challenges this bystander-behavior in the face of bullying in his little book, Friedman’s Fables, in the story he entitled “The Friendly Forest.”   There he describes the efforts of the inhabitants of a forest to encourage a lamb to disregard the continually threatening and aggressive behaviors of a tiger who has taken up residence in the same forest where the lamb lives. Some want to brush off the behavior as “just the way tigers are,”  while others even go to far as to suggest that the lamb is bringing in on herself by being so unnaturally peaceful. Then the conciliators of the forest suggest that all that is needed is “better communication” between the lion and the lamb; they should should just talk through their differences.

The fable ends rather abruptly when, following the continuing advice to the harried lamb, “Don’t be so sheepish. … Speak up strongly when it does these things,” finally “one of the less subtle animals in the forest, more uncouth in expression and unconcerned about just who remained, was overheard to remark, ‘I never heard of anything so ridiculous. If you want a lamb and a tiger to live in the same forest, you don’t try to make them communicate. You cage the bloody tiger.’”

Bullying continues until it stops.  And it seldom stops of its own accord.  It stops when it no longer is deemed acceptable to blame the victim of bullying and instead the bystanders step up — which often begins when they speak out — and state the obvious: We’ve got to cage the tiger.  Authentic nonviolent communication leads to justice in the way we behave — not by talking while the bullying continues, but by finding ways to “cage the tiger” … in ourselves and in our communities. This is the way that Christians envision the Reign of God when the “lion lies down with the lamb” … and the lamb sleeps well through the whole night.

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The Terror Trap

Opening up the newspaper or going online for news recently has been far more of an adventure than even many news junkies and sensationalism mongers could have expected.  I was on vacation, but couldn’t get away from news about

  • the country, if not the world, teetering on the verge of an economic cliff
  • hurricane Irene and an earthquake on the east coast in a single week

And then this morning’s headlines warned of a “specific but unconfirmed threat” of a car-bomb terrorist attack in New York or Washington this weekend. 

The economic crisis was a human- not a natural-disaster, and could have been avoided by different decisions being made.  And the hurricane and earthquake, we must remember, were natural-disasters, but not vengeful “acts of God.” While the Weather Channel let us see the former coming, despite the fact that we couldn’t do much but hunker-down until it passed, the earthquake caught absolutely everyone by surprise, leaving Washingtonians and others up and down the east coast literally as well as psychologically rattled in the aftermath.

Terrorism, however, is a very different beast.  It is the result of human actions, and at the heart of any act of terror is the desire to remove all of the potential victim’s sense of control from the victim, leaving no action that can be taken to prevent it.  Whenever “they” threaten to strike, “we”  feel helpless to do something in advance to guarantee a lack of success.  In spite of this, there’s no way to hunker-down until the threat is gone, like in a monster storm, because by its nature the threat of terror is ongoing – it does not pass us by to move on elsewhere.   Yet like earthquakes, acts of terrorism catch us off guard, and once we’ve experienced one, they leave us with varying degrees of PTSD responses.

So what are we to do?  Make preemptive strikes against potential terrorists?  Close off streets around public buildings or install detectors that seek to ‘see’ a threat before it materializes into action?  Be on guard against ‘them’ by racial- or ethnic- or religious-profiling?  Install walls and fences at our borders to keep ‘them’ out?

The fact is, we have as a people tried all of these, and many people still find such responses ‘necessary’ even if ‘unfortunately’ destructive of the very patterns of normalcy that terrorists’ themselves wish to bring about.  This is what I’ve come to think of as “the terror trap” – becoming so paralyzed by our anticipatory anxiety that we lose a large measure of our quality of life, even as we “succeed” at temporarily forestalling the next attack.

“The Terror Trap” is what happens when we allow ourselves – consciously or unconsciously – to internalize the strategies of terrorism into our daily lives with one another, for example, through bullying behavior or actual domestic- or societal-violence.  We walk around trapped in our fears of others.  And we also use our financial or social or political power to entrap others in their fears of us and what we might do to them, such as stealth drone attacks in the night in Afghanistan.

However, “evil,” according to the great western Christian theologian Augustine, is not some “thing” with it’s own reality that needs defending against because “it” may otherwise get us.  “Evil” instead is what is left when we remove the “good” from our own lives or the world around us.

  • The absence of intentional acts of goodness entraps us in the void of what we experience as “evil” — those places where love, compassion, forgiveness, justice, and radical hospitality no longer empower who we are or what we do.
  • The “evil” of terrorism is that it threatens to entrap us in places of suspicion, rather than love; self-interest rather than compassion; retribution rather than forgiveness; unfairness rather than justice; and exclusion rather than hospitality.

“The Terror Trap” isn’t really something that “they” control; it is a trap that we build inside ourselves that captures the goodness that resides in each of us and holds it hostage to fear, doubt, suspicion, and anger.  We have a lot more control over this than we usually realize, but we hesitate because it means changing the habits of our hearts to free the goodness that we allow otherwise to remain trapped within us.  Terror is a trap, whether external or internal, that sucks the air out of the room and leaves us smothering in the void; and in the absence of the good, we begin to create the very terror we abhor.

 

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Brother, sister, let me serve you

Sometimes, you stumble across simple things that have profound messages.  This six-chord, guitar-song written by a New Zealander thirty-five years ago is now included in the Episcopal hymnal-supplement, Voices Found: Women in the Church’s Song. We’ll be singing it together this Sunday at St. Thomas’ Parish, but you may enjoy this preview of the original, written by Richard Gillard, who sings it here:

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Exciting Guest Preachers for 2011

VOICES OF WISDOM – RADICAL WELCOME

Beginning this past October 31st, St. Thomas’ Parish initiated an exciting guest preaching/presiding schedule for Sunday mornings.  This initiative is an expression of the high value we have long placed on providing a generous pulpit of welcome and hospitality.  It also embodies our commitment to greater diversity in the faces of leadership in our community.

Our first guest preacher/celebrant was on Oct. 31st, The Rev. Janice Robinson, former rector of Good Shepherd, Silver Spring and the current chaplain of the Bishop’s Search Committee.   She was followed on November 28th by The Rev. Bill Doggett.

The 2011 lineup of guest preachers and presiders at the Eucharist are:

  • January 23rd – The Rt. Rev. Michael Creighton, Retired
  • January 30th – Canon Charles LaFond, Canon for Congregational Min. (NH)
  • February 27th – The Rev. Simone Bautista, Canon for Latino Ministries
  • March 27th -  The Rev. Preston Hannibal, Canon for Academic Ministries
  • May 29th – The Rev. Kim Baker, Chaplain – Washington Episcopal School
  • June 6th – The Rev. Mpho Tutu, Director of Institute for Peace & Reconciliation
  • June 26th – The Rev. Mary Sulerud, Canon for Deployment & Vocational Ministry

More information will be provided about each preacher prior to their day with us.  We are proud to give worshipers at St. Thomas’ Parish this chance to hear some of the best preaching that can be heard today in the Episcopal Church.  Please join us and bring a friend (or two!).

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Who are we? My Top Ten.

We want you to know who we are at St. Thomas’ Parish; here are some good ways to start:

1. We try to be a place where all can find and be found by God. We are a community of ordinary people on a joyful and thoughtful spiritual journey together.  Our ministers are called Priests; and the senior minister in an Episcopal Church like ours is called the Rector.

2. This is a Christian community, which for us means that we are part of a long line of people who share a long story that stretches back two thousand years to Jesus and almost two thousand years before that to the earliest memories of the Jewish people.  In particular we are part of the Anglican line of Christians which stretches back to the earliest Celtic Christian communities in the British Isles, and took its Episcopal Church form in the United States following the American Revolution.

3. We practice what we call Radical Hospitality, patterned after Jesus’ own teachings and personal practice. This means that everyone is welcome – there’s no litmus test. All of you is welcome – you don’t have to check part of yourself at the door – not your mind, questions, body, feelings, doubts, or background.

4. Worship is at the center of who we are as a community, and shapes all else that we believe and do. Our Sunday morning worship is centered on the Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, a commemoration of Jesus’ last meal with his original followers, and a central way that we celebrate Jesus being present with us today through eating bread, and drinking wine together.  Wherever you may be on your faith journey, there is room at the table for you.

5. Our worship is ordered by what is called The Book of Common (that is, community) Prayer, which contains many of the oldest forms of worship and prayers that Christians used when they first gathered together.

6. When we gather for worship, we usually start with music and singing. We read from the Bible, and listen to sermons (shorter than those in many other Christian churches!) that help us to connect the stories of the Bible with the stories of our own lives. We pray together, give God thanks for our blessings, confess our failings, ask for forgiveness, and lift up our own needs and those of others to God’s hearing.

7. We regularly recite what is called the Nicene Creed, a shorthand way of reminding ourselves of the shape of the whole story of God interacting with our world: God made everything, and everyone. God took human form in Jesus and loves us so much that Jesus was willing to suffer and die on our behalf. God could not be defeated even by death, and lives on now with us as the Holy Spirit, who called the church into being.

8. Episcopalians are a combination of Catholic and Protestant styles of Christianity — our sacramental emphasis on Holy Eucharist is brought together with a deep reverence for the primary authority of Holy Scripture in telling us about God and ourselves. We are a both-and, not an either-or, church; the world isn’t black-and-white, and we are confident that God is with us in all that life brings our way.

9. We also believe in the goodness of human reason, as a God-given resource for understanding who we are. And we trust in what we call tradition — the ways that faith has been passed on over the centuries, down to the present day, in the beliefs and practices of faithful people long before us.

10. At the end of worship, we are sent out to be bearers of God’s love and compassion and justice in the world. Our mission as Christians is to represent Christ in our daily lives, bearing love and justice that is the life-giving power at the heart of reality. Worship gives us strength for our journey and courage to be God’s people in a challenging world.

Come and visit us and see for yourself. There is a place at God’s table for everyone.

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We’re Growing a Church Just For You

On June 20, 2010, the Vestry (or governing board) of St. Thomas’ Parish voted unanimously to move forward to rebuild a new worship space in Dupont Circle. While our new building is going up, I want to be in conversation with you about who we are, what we’re doing here, what we believe in, and why we think this parish matters to the larger communities we live in.

After the original structure, church home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, was destroyed by arson 40 years ago this August, our congregation chose to remain in the neighborhood of Dupont Circle, worshiping, as we still do, in the renovated parish hall. Over time this prophetic decision evolved into an intentional, creative, and courageous leadership role in solidarity with of the growing GLBT community in this historic Washington, DC, neighborhood.

  • We opened our doors during the height of the AIDS crisis – welcoming HIV positive individuals to the Eucharist, ministering to the dying and their grieving partners and friends, and honoring the dead with funerals and memorial services when few other parishes did so.
  • We pioneered the development of rites for the blessing of same sex unions in the Episcopal Church, writing a still frequently used and widely adapted liturgy in 1998. Subsequently we have hosted countless blessings of holy unions, and our clergy have officiated at many others beyond our doors. Most recently we have been celebrating a steady flow of same sex marriages at St. Thomas’ Parish, including a wedding just this week of a gay couple who have been faithful partners for 33 years.
  • All of us at St. Thomas’ Parish have been blessed, too, by a steady growth in the numbers of children in our ranks, some with same-sex and others with straight parents, all of them looking for a spiritual home where they can be assured, as one said recently, that “my child will never learn to hate in this place.”
  • As older straight and GLBT members have retired or moved from the parish, younger adults have found a home with us in growing numbers. The result is that the median age of our parishioners is about 35, with only a handful of members over the age of 55, and currently only one vestry member over 45. This influx of young adults has led to a doubling of our congregation’s size and budget in the past 5 years. Now we are in the both enviable and lamentable place of being almost out of room to welcome those still arriving at our doors.

People who come here find an inclusive congregation, whose life is centered in the sacraments of baptism and holy communion — “a place where all can find and be found by God.” We are constantly deepening our practice of faith rooted in vital worship and bold outreach in equal measure, continually learning to love one another and our neighbors, although sometimes it is not clear which is the more difficult. We are proud to be a part of our community, and we also are deeply committed to contributing to our neighborhood and world in days long after we ourselves are gone. We’re growing a church just for you — and a place of sanctuary and refuge, of inspiration and courage, of faithfulness and compassion for tomorrow and the day after.

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Anglican Covenant – a bad idea whose time has come?

Dr. Wayne Whitson Floyd, a lay theologian, chairs
the Education and Formation Committee
at St. Thomas’ Parish, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC

One of the recommendations of the 2004 Windsor Report, written in response to reaction against the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, was that the Anglican Communion move towards the adoption of a so-called Anglican Covenant. Despite many gallant attempts to make Windsor into a statement of the beauty-of-unity that is the Anglican Communion, I remain unconvinced. As the old Southern saying goes: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” I say this because I am convinced that such a document — however nuanced its wording — would in effect state the means by which official condemnation of the Episcopal Church’s full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians at all levels of church life could be justified. It also would define the Episcopal Church’s action in consecrating Bishop Robinson as having removed TEC from the fellowship of the Anglican Communion. Dress it up however you want, but IMHO it’s still a pig.

To its credit, the response of the Episcopal Church up to now has been far from enthusiastic about such a Covenant — “it would be a bad idea that I do not support” Washington’s Bishop John Chane was overheard to say recently. Our bishops and Executive Council and General Convention deputies have agreed, however, to study the idea and make recommendations about the Covenant (the official study guide can be found here), which is in its second draft (the full text can be found here).

The Diocese of Washington’s Episcopal Cafe recently commissioned a series of articles on the Covenant, which give you an idea of how it is being approached officially by the Episcopal Church. And the General Theological Seminary’s Desmond Tutu Center, following its April 2008 conference on the proposed Covenant, has posted on its website more html, mp3, and pdf resources and responses to this than most Episcopalians will ever have the patience to absorb.

I realize I betray my own heterodox Episcopalianism — and poor Southern manners — by having lost already most of my patience to participate in what already is a several years long extended series of debates among our bishops, Executive Council members, General Convention deputies, seminary faculty and all manner of cogs in the complex machinery that is the Episcopal Church. This will continue past this summer’s Lambeth Conference, into the 2009 General Convention, and certainly beyond.

From the outset, I must say that I simply think the whole endeavor is a bad idea, but a bad idea whose time appears to have come.

It’s a bad idea for some fairly simple reasons: Read more

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