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|2371: St John's,
Lafayette Square, Washington, DC
© AgnosticPreachersKid and used under license
Worshipper: Wes Charles.
Lafayette Square, Washington, DC.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
St John's dates from 1815 and is the work of Benjamin Henry
Latrobe, who oversaw construction of the U.S. Capitol and supervised
the Capitol's rebuilding after it was destroyed in the War of
1812. A neo-classical cream-colored building, the church is
somewhat dwarfed by the structures around it. The interior,
however, is a different story, with beautiful cream interior,
tastefully decorated with gold. More than 20 stained glass windows,
including a vertical representation of da Vinci's Last Supper
above the altar, date from the 1880s and are the work of Madame
Lorin, curator of glass at Chartres Cathedral in France. The
steeple bell was cast in the Boston foundry of Revolutionary
War hero Paul Revere. It is said that whenever the bell is tolled
to mark the death of a sitting president, the ghosts of six
men wearing white robes briefly appear in the President's Pew
and then vanish.
Every U.S. president since James Madison has worshipped here.
Pew 54 is officially designated as the President's Pew, although
as a matter of protocol the president usually sits in the front
pew. Their website is very good and is clearly designed to reach
the casual visitor. It details all the usual parish activities
and organizations, and mentions an exchange program with a church
in South Africa (there were visitors from this church at today's
service). Clearly this is a very busy congregation with lots
Lafayette Square is located directly opposite the White House.
Over the years the square has been used as a race track, a graveyard,
a zoo, a slave market, an encampment for soldiers during the
War of 1812, and many political protests and celebrations that
continue to this day. The area is the site of several government
buildings and fashionable hotels.
The Revd Dr Luis León, rector, led the service. The preacher
was the Ven. Sharron Dinnie, director of the Kwasa Center in
Vukuzenzele, South Africa.
The date & time:
April 22, 2012, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
At the start, about a third full, but with latecomers this quickly
increased to about two-thirds. There were people in the gallery
too, but from where I sat it was hard to see how many.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes, although not quite in the way I was expecting. I walked
in, clearly a tourist, with a small rucksack containing camera,
etc., and was asked to leave it in the porch. I felt quite uncomfortable
about doing so, and had a quick rummage round to remove any
valuables. One of the ushers said, quite loudly, "We're
all God-fearing people here!" as if to tell me it was OK
to leave my wallet, etc. in the bag in the church porch. Not
quite the welcome I expected!
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was comfortable, with cushions on the back and seat.
How would you describe the pre-service
I arrived just on time so didn't get a chance to notice.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!"
What books did the congregation use during the
A 32-page full-size book printed on high-quality paper specially
for the day, with sheet music, words, readings, and names of
donors, servers, etc. At the end were 10 pages of notices.
What musical instruments were played?
An organ, played very well, with a talented choir. The Gloria
was by John Rutter.
Did anything distract you?
For most of the service, I was wondering whether my bag was
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
About right. It was quite reverent, but felt a little rushed.
The leader and readers spoke a little more quickly than was
suitable for a nice contemplative service, and the organ was
a little fast. Having said that, I found the overall atmosphere
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 The Ven. Mrs Dinnie was a little quiet and took some
unusual pauses during the sermon, as if slightly under-rehearsed.
She repeated over and over again: "You are the body of
Christ!" Effective, but a trifle overdone.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Jesus wasn't just a spiritual body, but had a physical body
too. God exists in all our bodies. We are now the body of Christ,
called to do his work in the world. We are his checkbook, his
net banking. We are everything as his body. We eat his body
and become his body.
Which part of the service was like being in
The uplifting style and atmosphere of the service, and the John
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Trying to sing the John Rutter Gloria!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People left fairly quickly. There was apparently a parish lunch
but I didn't get where it was, and wanted to go off sightseeing.
I hung around for a while after collecting my camera from the
porch. I chatted with an usher and a "welcomer" who
were both, at least now, very friendly. The rector also took
the trouble to welcome me and seemed to know most of his congregation
by name. Many of the congregation also spoke to me and told
me how wonderful their rector was.
How would you describe the after-service
I didn't see any coffee.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I could do so. The people were nice and I actually
enjoyed the service very much and liked the atmosphere. I just
felt it was a little superficial and didn't have the depth and
pauses that my local church has.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. It was also encouraging to hear people speak well
of their rector. It was a shame he wasn't preaching today as
I'd have liked to have heard him.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
"You are the body of Christ!"
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