Our Temporary Place of Worship at St Stephen and the Incarnation

Dear people of St. Thomas,

This Sunday was the last service in our current building. As we leave our building for a time, I am asking us to remember the story of the seventy followers of Jesus being sent out ahead of him to proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. The followers of Jesus were told to travel light and rely on the hospitality of the towns they entered. During this next two years, we will have to be flexible and rely on the hospitality of others. I am confident this time will strengthen our community and make us a stronger church.

We are close to securing a lease for office space on Church Street, so we can maintain a presence in our current location. We will be sharing office space with other local businesses and nonprofits.

In regard to our Sunday morning worship, The Episcopal Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation (on Newton St.off of 16th Street, NW) has offered its worship space to us at 12:30 pm. The Vestry and I have accepted this gracious offer for a trial period until March 1 (Ash Wednesday). We hope that everyone can gather at this later hour in our new temporary location, and we will make changes to keep the service to one hour.

We want to let you know how we came to this decision.

Space

Finding a space proved to be more difficult than we expected. With the help of an experienced  real estate broker, we were able to identify one possible space. The space had some benefits, but significantly more drawbacks. Accommodating more than 70 people would be a struggle. Virtually no storage exists. No piano is available, making it necessary for us to purchase an electronic instrument. We would have to set up and take down the space every week.

The process had lots of input from a variety of sources. There were two congregational meetings after the worship service on Sunday. Nearly 50 people responded to an online survey. Of those who responded, nearly all of the responses indicated a clear desire to maintain our own worship service and not combine services with another Episcopal church.

The Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation offers the best of both worlds. We can build a relationship with another church by being in the same space and we can have our own service.  St. Stephen and the Incarnation also offers a traditional worship space with a pipe organ, a piano, and a parish hall for our coffee hour, all of which will help make life a little easier for us.

Cost

The most cost-effective non-church space we found was about $2,800 per month. The rent we will pay to St. Stephen and the Incarnation will be far less. The lower rent will help us reduce costs over the next two years and be better stewards of our resources

Collaboration

We live in an age where the Church is rapidly changing. In past generations, Episcopal churches had the “luxury” of maintaining a high level of autonomy—something that is no longer the case. We are now realizing how much we need each other. Both churches have much to learn and teach each other. We will also have our Holy Week and Christmas Eve services at another parish, to be determined later, for the next two years.

Community

The most important thing to remember is that we will continue to build a strong community outside our Sunday worship. In early February, the Vestry is holding a retreat to plan ways we can build our internal community and strengthen our collaboration with other churches and nonprofits. We hope to create times where members of our congregation can meet with each other during the week.

How to get to the Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation

The Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation is in the Columbia Heights neighborhood and is near the yellow/green line on the Metro and close to two bus lines. For more information, visit here http://www.saintstephensdc.org/new-to-st-stephens/

Thank you for your dedication to following Jesus and being a part of this community. Our move is long overdue. We are talking a leap of faith and trust you will join us. Please keep St. Thomas’ Parish in your prayers. We look forward to seeing you at St. Stephen’s and the Incarnation this coming Sunday at 12:30 pm.

Alex Dyer+, Priest in Charge

Carol Coonrod, Senior Warden

David Swanson, Junior Warden

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