Wednesday, December 17, 2003

stories, part two

During the American civil war, Dumbarton and many other churches and public buildings within the District became hospitals for wounded soldiers, who poured into the city from the battlefields of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Wooden planks were placed across the top of the pews, creating an elevated floor where beds were placed. The church did not cease its operation, but did so during this time of crisis serve also as a hospital.

When the hospital was moved out, Lincoln came and attended a prayer service, as he did at other churches in town.

The same pews in that space are still there, only now re-arranged. The church values its idea as a sanctuary. During Vietnam War protests, protesters sought refuge in the church during tear gas confrontations with police. During the 1980s, the parish gave sanctuary to people from Central America fleeing the wars there.

Long before many congregations began welcoming openly gay members, Dumbarton decided to join the Methodist Church's Reconciling Congregation movement. Nobody knew of any gay people at the church, but immediately a few came out of the closet. Since then, there has not been a gay ghetto at the parish, but certainly gay people are interwoven in the life of the parish.

A few years ago, with great financial sacrifice, the parish constructed an elevator to make the upstairs sanctuary accessible to folk incapable of climbing the stairs.

It is not a perfect place. There are many strong willed folk, and as a rule, people aren't afraid to say what they think. There is often some rubbing together of bricks between personalities. Wonderful, wonderful place.

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