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

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Guest Preacher November 18: Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson – Guest Preacher This Sunday

We welcome once again Bishop Gene Robinson to St. Thomas’ Parish.

Invite a friend (or two!) to come and worship with us.

There is always room at God’s table!

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The Happy Ending Cannot Happen in the Middle of the Story

I am writing in response to Matt Jarvis’ final blog post at Creating Sanctuary, “What’s Past is Prologue.” First, I want to thank Matt for always giving us as our architect more than we imagined we had asked of him. His design for a new worship space for St. Thomas’ Parish still inspires us, and his thoughtfulness in helping us move through a long process of exploration and decision has never flagged.

“What’s past is prologue” – and that means it’s not done yet. In recent months, we have had to admit that our original plan to build a standalone worship space that we could pay for entirely without indebting the congregation in the future – a space that could sustain itself solely on the normal yearly income of a small urban Christian congregation – is no longer feasible, given the realities of the devastating financial crash of 2008 and the continued slowness of the economic recovery worldwide.

Yet the “prologue” has already begun for what is next to come. We have realized that despite our successes in fund-raising thus far, including almost $1M from within the congregation itself, we have not been thinking broadly enough. We have been sitting, literally, on our greatest asset without putting it into play – the quite valuable piece of real estate on the corner of Church and 18th Streets NW.

Growth is always change, and as we have grown in our understanding of our total assets, we have had to change our plans for being the best stewards of them.  And so we are now looking at a different way to fund the new space that is needed to house the work of St. Thomas’ Parish.

What has changed is that we have come to understand that the way forward to build a new sanctuary must be part of a comprehensive plan that includes the redevelopment of the church’s existing facilities, as well as the best use of all of the land on which St. Thomas’ Parish is located. The outcome may well be to build the exact design that Matt Jarvis developed for us, but now funded as part of a broader, multi-use project on our corner in Dupont Circle.

There is still work to do. Growth and change are like that – always part challenge as well as part celebration.

It’s been said that “the happy ending cannot happen in the middle of the story.” So stay tuned, because this story isn’t done. God isn’t finished with us yet.

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Personal Letter from Gene Robinson to St. Thomas’

October 25, 2012

My dear St. Thomas’ brothers and sisters,

I am writing to say how excited I am to be joining you at St. Thomas’ early in the new year. I recently put a deposit down on a DC apartment — within walking distance of St. Thomas, of course! I will be in Washington roughly half-time beginning in February. But my heart will be FULL time at St. Thomas! Nancy Lee and your parish leadership and I have begun to talk about my involvement at St. Thomas’, including possibly preaching once a month. Whatever that involvement turns out to be, I will count it a blessing to be among you!

As for the plan to build a new church, I am very encouraged and excited about the upcoming meeting with Michael Foster’s development group , exploring strategies to build our beautiful sanctuary and develop the existing property. I am so excited about this, I have canceled scheduled commitments in order to be in DC November 16-17 to be a part of these discussions. After all, it’s not just YOUR future — it’s MINE too!

Let me say again that the thought of being with all of you in the new year is so very exciting — and that knowledge is easing the pain of leaving the diocese I so love. Together, all of us at St. Thomas will march boldly into our future, trusting that God will be with us every step of the way. See you in church on November 18th!

Bishop Gene Robinson

Note from editor: See for full information about St. Thomas’ partnership with MFTA Architects.

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Visioning Process with MFTA Architects


NOVEMBER 16-17, 2012


At the September 23rd parish meeting the Rector and Vestry announced plans to pursue partnering with a developer to reimagine the future not just of our sanctuary, but our whole site on the corner of Church and 18th Sts NW.   We have now retained the services of Michael Foster, with MTFA Architects , to work with our parish over the next four months to determine ways to pursue that goal.

The first step in our work with MFTA will be a formal Visioning Process on Friday and Saturday, November 16-17.  

We have shared with them all of our documentation as it relates to our discernment process, building design process and visioning exercises that have been done.

The consultant has requested to meet with approximately 20 members (Ambassadors) of our parish which represents a true cross section of the congregation. Within this cross section we would hope to have representation from youth, elderly, family, singles, clergy, vestry member, major committee member, building committee member, maintenance, administration, teachers, flower guild, choir, missions, finance, fellowship, new member, old member, etc. We encourage you to consider volunteering to serve in this effort. Some of you may be personally asked to participate in order to make sure there is diversity and broad cross-section representation.

Those who will be participating as Ambassadors will need to be available on Friday, November 16 from 6 pm until 9:30 pm and again on Saturday, November 17 from 9 am until noon. On Friday, we will start with an informal light meal together, and will provide a light breakfast for Saturday morning.

According to MFTA: “The Ambassador’s Visioning Workshop is a consensus building workshop aimed at understanding the church’s values, goals, program and vision. There is considerable planning that MTFA will do ahead of the workshop to understand the information that is already available and to analyze the potential of a site. We realize, for instance, that St. Thomas’ Parish has already gone through discernment exercises and even have plans for a new sanctuary. We are carefully reviewing the related data to determine what information is missing and what needs to be confirmed.”

  •  On the first evening of the workshop, we will begin with an informal meal together. MTFA will summarize our initial research. We will then engage the group to consider what must be preserved and what God is calling the church to do.
  • On the second day we will address the inner working of the Church and its relationship with the community. Together, we will look backwards, and we look forward in time.
  • Three to four weeks later, the Ambassadors will meet again with MTFA to review our initial analysis. It is therefore critical that the same group of Ambassadors stay with the process at each of these steps since consensus is a critical component to making this work.

Throughout the process, the Ambassadors are called to represent what they did to their constituencies in the Church. If the Ambassadors do their job well, the entire congregation is knowledgeable, informed and in line with what the Ambassadors have done. The Visioning Workshop results in a stable and strong foundation for planning to proceed.

If you are interested in serving in this effort, please submit your name and contact information to John Johnson, Senior Warden at or Matt Cloninger, Building Chair at

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Prayers for Children and Young Persons

 Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, page 829
Prayers and Thanksgivings “For the Care of Children” and “For Young Persons”


Leader: Almighty God, Creator of all, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good.

As we care for our children:

All:  Be with us dear Lord.

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, who held up children as a model of faithfulness:  As we watch our children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world, help us to teach and model to them and to young persons that your ways give more life than the ways of the powers of this world.

As we stand up for our children:

All:  Give us courage dear Lord.

Leader: Let us commit ourselves as the Body of Christ to be a Christian community that serves the needs of our children and young persons rather than the devices and desires of our own hearts.

All:  We will with God’s help.

Leader: May we teach our children and youth to take failure not as a measure of self-worth, but always as a chance for a new start.

All:  Teach us wisdom dear Lord.

Leader: Let us raise up children and youth who are strong in their faith, enduring in their hope, generous in their love and joy for all of God’s creation.

All:  We will with God’s help.

Leader: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families:

We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell.

Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness.

Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh.

Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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A little bit of clarity

From “Bishop Mariann’s Blog
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Diocese of Washington
September 26, 2012

“What fills the heart with happiness is not what we get out of the world; it’s what we put into it. Being about something worthwhile, spending our lives on something worth spending our lives on is what, in the end, makes us happy. A creative God didn’t complete creation so that we might have the happiness that comes with continuing to co-create it ourselves.”
- Joan Chittister, Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose and Joy

Years ago, when our children were young and I was at a vocational turning point, I took our family to diocesan camp for a weekend. The camp director was a parish priest, who seemed rather old to me at the time, but was probably in his late 50s. During our visit, he told me that he was leaving his camp position to assume a new job, as the director of a group home for troubled adolescents.

He could barely contain his excitement about his future work. In the world of church vocations, this was clearly not a move up the ecclesiastical ladder. Yet the soon-to-be-former camp director spoke with such joy. “I feel as if I have been preparing my whole life for this job.”

He told me a lot with those words, about his own troubled childhood, perhaps, and where he felt most of use, how his particular gifts could best be used. He also spoke of the miracle of grace, how pieces of our life and history that we regret or are lost to us can come back and be woven into a new tapestry of meaning.

I remember thinking at the time, “I want to be able to say that someday.” I wanted that depth of integration and sense of purpose.  Intuitively I sensed that such clarity comes with a price, that there was no way to leap frog over the years of uncertainty to attain it.  I also could tell simply by looking at his face that finding the work you’re born for doesn’t guarantee a life without struggle, or hardship, or pain.

Perhaps we’re never given complete clarity about the nature of our life’s work; maybe we’re given just enough clarity to rise on a given day and do the work God has given us to do. But a little bit of clarity goes a long way. A little bit goes a long way, helping us to sort through the myriad of things that we could do and select the one or two things that give us the greatest joy. A little bit of clarity goes a long way, allowing us to accept the imperfections and broken parts of our selves and to trust that with God, nothing is wasted.  A little bit can help us in those luminous moments of decision, when we choose the path that makes our heart sing.

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20s and 30s Ministry – Diocese of Washington

Guest Blogger: Jason Evans
Reprinted from the EDOW Bulletin with the permission of the author.

“You said live out loud, and die you said lightly,
and over and over again you said be.”
- Rainer Marie Rilke, Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Over the years, I’ve become a fan of Rainer Marie Rilke’s poetry. This line from his Book of Hours, in particular, has long stuck with me as a bit of mantra for how we are to live as the church in our context today. Even here in the capital, the church no longer is the cultural influence it once was in this country.

In response, we have frequently and politely relegated ourselves to the sidelines, not desiring to offend or impose ourselves on others. In such a context, we have seen the size of many churches diminish. The death of ministries can grow burdensome. In response, we strive harder and harder to “do” the right things.

Yet, in his poetry Rilke invites us into a different kind of perception of our place in the world. He invites us to “live out loud,” confidently taking our faith into our everyday lives sharing the “news” that remains “good.” And rather than grow worrisome over doomsday tales, we are invited to “be” rather than “do.”

  • That is to say, that we become present to the communities and neighborhoods around us.
  • We look and listen for what God is already doing within those places.
  • When we discover these things we celebrate them and join in, inviting others to do the same.

As your new Diocesan Young Adult Missioner, this is what I envision. I am eager to go about this ministry “out loud.” I am eager to be in your neighborhoods and sacred places, listening to you and your community members. Together, we will celebrate what God is already doing and discover new opportunities yet to be uncovered.

Because this is my hope, please know that I am eager to hear from you. Know that my office door is open to you. Feel free to stop by Church House and introduce yourself. As I said before, I am anxious to see what God is doing in your community-especially as it relates to young adults. Call me, e-mail me and let me know when I can visit you and others from your parish. I look forward to the opportunity and to partnering with you in our ministry to young adults.

Jason Evans is the new Diocesan Young Adult Missioner.
Learn more about Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese on the website.
Share your thoughts and reflections on Facebook.

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Words Matter

Nancy Lee Jose+
Rector, St. Thomas’ Parish

Kathleen Norris is a well-known author that I have relied upon for several years when seeking story illustrations as well as to revisit a ‘good read’ when nothing else seems appealing on my bookshelf.  One of her books, Amazing Grace, is a volume in which the subtitle is telling:  “A Vocabulary of Faith”. When I’m stumped in sermon preparation or even a letter that needs to be carefully crafted, I’ll go to this particular volume to see how she defines and illustrates a particular word.

During my sabbatical I spent deliberate time thinking about the language we use, both in church and elsewhere.  And in particular, I found myself pondering words that have been introduced into ‘church talk’ from other disciplines and how this impacts ‘church life’.

What if we were more conscious, I’ve been thinking, about using words such as grace, mercy, faith, reconciliation, incarnation, repentance, idolatry, sacred, sanctuary, ecstasy, just to name a few ‘churchy words’ to frame our conversations and ways of ‘doing business’ at St. Thomas’?  How might it begin to shift, perhaps even enhance, your ‘work environment’ if you had these words in the back of your throat during a difficult conversation with a co-worker?

And how is our religious identity influenced by words and structures from corporate and political environments that surround us?  Words such as: deliverables, CEO, executive privilege, agenda items, quantifiable, profit/loss, bottom line, zero sum, even strategic planning.

I do know that for me, I’d rather be approached by someone with mercy in their heart, rather than someone who is calculating a cost-benefit ratio for forgiveness. And I appreciate that reconciliation is a process involving change in both parties being reconciled, rather than being a zero sum game with a winner and a loser. It makes a difference whether I think of myself as having been granted immeasurable grace, instead of being judged against a fixed bottom line.  And heaven sounds better as a goal in life than just having a realistic strategic plan!

What do you think?  If we were more intentional about our words, how might it help us to deepen our relationship with God and one another—as well as to frame our identity as individuals or as a religious community?

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Where We Are With God

One Last Message in a Bottle
“The Goodness of Knowing Where We Are With God”

This is the third of my “notes from the soul” – spiritual “messages in a bottle” – the final installment of this Phoenix series – The Rev. Dr. Nancy Lee Jose, Rector.

Genesis 1:31 – 2:3

God looked over everything God had made; it was so good, so very good! There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that she had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. [Common English Bible]

Message in a BottleI’m writing to you from Maine, at the end of Mere Point – a small jut of land, just one of several peninsulas that reach out from the mainland towards the distant Atlantic like muscular fingers, with the small town of Brunswick making up the fleshy part of a hand. Life in Maine is different from day to day living as most of us Washingtonians experience our lives. Maybe that is why so many clergy persons spend a portion of their vacations here – it helps us look differently at ‘what is’ and imagine more fully ‘what might be’.

I can’t speak for my colleagues who dot the landscape ‘up here’ with their prayers and presence –yet for me the draw is multilayered. The pace and simplicity of life in combination with the beauty of the land and water puts all my senses on high-alert. I unearth the desire to graft into the marrow of my bones the sunrises, the surprise roadside gardens, the accents of lobstermen, and each body of water, only to be surprised to rediscover I was attached to all of it all along.

I’m reminded that God connected us to all of creation at our first breath, and that the 7th day of God’s rest, the Sabbath that has become for us our first day of the week, gives us the opportunity to reconnect our creativity with God’s own as we begin each cycle of seven days with the deep sigh of thanksgiving and praise for all that we’ve been given. Read more

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Fallout from the Spirit of 76!

As reported by Eric Sharf, parishioner at St. Thomas’ Parish.

As one of the organizers of the “Spirit of 76” we were concerned about what would happen when our participants returned to their home countries and began to speak out on the issues that they addressed while here in DC for the International AIDS Conference.   Our worst fears were realized when we learned in the past week that one the participants has been suspended from his job and kicked out of his company provided housing for raising the issues of being LGBT and having AIDS in a public forum.  This article by Canon Albert Ogle goes into more detail – Spirit of 76 delegate to AIDS conference faces horrendous retaliation back home in Africa.   My friend spent several nights in his car hiding from the police.  Fortunately the St. Paul Foundation for International Reconciliation has provided him with some emergency assistance to help with housing and is working with him on legal advice.  You can assist us by making a donation to the Emergency Fund that has been established to help him and others that may face similar situations by going to:

The Foundation is also pleased to announce that it has scheduled a “Report Back Workshop” on Saturday, September 15th from 9:00 – 11:30 am at Lutheran Church of the Reformation at 212 E.  Capitol St. NE, where you can learn more about what has been happening with the “Spirit of 76” program and how you can be involved in being part of the solution to addressing LGBT civil justice issues.  All members of the parish are invited to participate in this engaging program.   Please let Eric Scharf know if you plan to attend at

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