DC church offers hospitality for inauguration, women’s march

January 23, 2017

By Erik Alsgaard
UMConnection Staff

Every four years, on Jan. 20, the United States witnesses the inauguration of a new president. Just blocks away from the event, Capitol Hill UMC opened its doors in an act of radical hospitality, not only for the inauguration, but for the Women’s March on Washington Jan. 21.

The Rev. Alisa Lasater Wailoo has been a pastor at the church for the past eight years.

“This is a hospitality site,” she said on Jan. 21 as dozens of people sat in the church’s parlor. “We want to be a visible witness to the world that the church is open as folks struggle with the issues going on in our world.”

The church offered hot cocoa, coffee, snacks and perhaps most critically, bathrooms for any would want or need them, she said.

The church provided prayer sheets, a place to pray, and a document, “The Common Values of The United Methodist Church,” put together by the General Commission on Religion and Race, and the General Board of Church and Society.

Lasater Wailoo said it was important for the church to be open and offering hospitality on both Jan. 20 and 21.

“The church is with folks across the (political) spectrum,” said Lasater Wailoo, “as we as a nation wrestle with these really challenging issues before us. If the church can’t say, ‘We are open and have space for us to work at what it means to be a voice for justice and a place for holy community, then who’s gonna do it?”

Lasater Wailoo said a guiding Bible verse for her during a very busy week in Washington was John 1:39 – part of the Lectionary readings for Jan. 15 – where Jesus said, “Come and see” to the disciples.

“We have literally gone out in the park in front of the church, on Pennsylvania Avenue, and said, ‘Come on in,’” she said. “Come on in and see that the church cares, the church is with you. I think we do have go out into the world and say ‘come and see,’ and then we have to have something to offer that’s real and authentic.”

It’s important to welcome everyone, Lasater Wailoo stressed.

“One day may have been easier for me than the other to welcome all,” she said, “but if I’m gonna follow Jesus, then I have to welcome all into this unique place. And when people come into this community – not the building, but the community – they find black and white and gay and straight and blue and red, and that we’re loving each other and doing meaningful, transformative work together.”

At the Women’s March on Washington, United Methodists were present and scattered throughout the massive crowd. The Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor at Foundry UMC in the District, said she came because she is a follower of Jesus.

“I think Jesus calls those of us who claim his name to stand on the side of the vulnerable, the marginalized and the oppressed. I feel like the rhetoric and those who are being put forward into positions of power in the cabinet are folks who have the history of doing just the opposite of policies that are just, humane, and moral.”

As a woman, as a person of faith, Gaines-Cirelli said, she could “do no other” than to march.

At Foundry, she said, the church is organizing under the banner of sacred resistance.

“The vision for that is that the church is not just called to resist, but also called to be living and promoting a positive vision for the future,” she said.

A ministry team at the church, she said, is now involved in identifying, vetting, and publicizing weekly actions of sacred resistance. Gaines-Cirelli fully expects that there will be on-going needs to “push back” through the current administration’s tenure.

“There’s going to be too many things for the average person to keep track of,” she said. “This group will identify the most critical and impactful actions that people of faith can take, and then publicize those so people don’t have to sort through it all themselves.”

More information may be found at

Carla Jan 23, 2017 8:50pm

I attended a "virtual" march in my home town in MA. I was so gratified to see men, women and families with children filing in to the theater, that live streamed the DC march.
If anyone thought that this was a march to only defend women's reproductive rights, they were wrong. We supported health care for all, as a right, a rebuilt infrastructure, voting rights, women's rights, minority rights, LBGT rights, and a tax code that really benefited the middle class. We marched to show that we are against corporate greed. We marched to support equal pay for equal work. The Lily Ledbetter ruling was wonderful, but full parity has not been achieved. We marched for free or at least reasonably priced day care.
These were issues that affect women, men and families, they are issues that affect each and every one of us.

Robert Barrier Jan 23, 2017 8:55pm

Thank you for having the courage to allow a comments section so that readers, especially members of UMC, can exercise their 1st Amendment rights, unlike your National website which has closed off comments in a cowardly and hypocritical way. I am glad to call attention to this article, which begins in such an open and non-partisan way but then lapses into partisan misrepresentation. At least I get a chance to respond: may all the organs of the UMC emulate you.

Richard Larson Jan 24, 2017 12:24am

You are hopelessly mistaken in your beliefs. Jesus came to rescue people from their sin, not from inadequate health care, corporate greed, and all the other things these marchers were protesting. I suggest actually reading the New Tes.

Richard Larson Jan 24, 2017 12:34am

Unfortunately, many of the so called Christian marchers are duped by Satan. Jesus didn’t did a tortured death on the cross to save people from poor health care, hurtful words, corporate greed, or the other things this misguided people were protesting. He came to save people from their sin. Your church is concerned about making sure unredeemed sinners have a place to go to the bathroom, but without presenting the gospel of repentance from sin and utter surrender to Jesus, your church would be better off closed

Brandi Jan 24, 2017 12:10pm

Well done, faithful servants! I'm glad you were open and welcoming both days. A great example of unity. I wish more people and groups would swallow their pride and listen to those who are on the opposite side they are on.

Rosemary Hauff Jan 24, 2017 5:29pm

As I follower of Christ, I am concerned with the comments of Garnes-Cirelli regarding "just, humane, and moral' issues of the new appointees to the cabinet. Have we have given them an opportunity to show what they are attempting to a accomplish. Where is there any mention of our Christian responsibility to pray for our leaders. Was the tone and language that was presented at the march truly what we want to see in followers of Christ? And what about "sacred resistance"? Are we truly looking to do all for the glory of God or we are we looking for selfish concerns that are possibly sinful. What if all the money spent on this march had been used to feed, clothe, and shelter those need?

Hugh Jan 24, 2017 6:37pm

“The church is with folks across the (political) spectrum,” said Lasater Wailoo
Why then is the banner being held in the photo at the beginning of the article an obvious jab at our new president? Does this say welcome to the citizens of this country that voted for him?

How can anyone possibly believe that participating in a march filled with such hate and vulgarity be something that Christ would want us to do? This was not a pro-woman march, this was an anti-Trump, anti-conservative, and pro-abortion march. Does God want us to kill babies still in the womb? We have lost site of what God's message is.

I pray for the United Methodist Church and fear for its future...

Thomas Meyer Jan 24, 2017 8:05pm

What I found to be disconcerting was the apparent absence of welcome for those who are or who profess to be Pro-Life. It seems that they were either not invited or strongly discouraged from being a part of the conversations and discussions, given the opportunity to express their beliefs and their views on relevant women's issues. It was, after all, a women's march. I pray that their different religious views and beliefs were not the reason that they were being strongly discouraged from attending, and as much or as many showed up, were neither received nor made to feel welcomed.

They are women by birth and gender, anatomically and biologically, physically, mentally and spiritually. They were grandmothers, mothers, sisters and so on, as well. To deliberately exclude women from conversations about women and relevant to women regardless of beliefs, as much as it happened would be extremely unfortunate and undeniably and inexcusably wrong. To only hear one side of any issue or series of issues in such a manner as put on display during Inauguration weekend is inherently and grotesquely unfair and without any measurable benefit or merit. All sides should have an equal voice in engaging, participating and in addressing the widening diversity of issues and concerns relevant unto their gender. It is not about, and has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone's right versus left ideology or their values or their conservative versus liberal theology.

There is ONE Triune God. There is ONE cross. There is ONE resurrection! There is ONE transcendent Wisdom needed! (1 Corinthians 1:18 - 31).

Richard Jan 25, 2017 12:19am

Sadly, it is political actions of the church that are driving so many away from the message of salvation. When our clergy takes political positions, it alienates those who disagree with those positions. Unfortunately, it many conferences, the UMC seeks to be a partner of the Democratic National Committee rather than a partner of Jesus Christ. Sadly, the actions of Foundry UMC are disgraceful.

Rev Chuck Smith Jan 26, 2017 10:25am

Will you be open and welcoming to those coming to express the right of an unborn child to be born as well?

Kay Jan 26, 2017 6:57pm

No longer hospitality when you post an article stating "One day may have been easier for me than the other to welcome all" and then go on to clarify which group you were referring to. How do you think that makes people who attended the inauguration and came into the church feel? The UMC may be starting the same division in church as in our nation. I joined a UMC because I felt it preached love and forgiveness. Does it not apply to ALL?

Dot Ramsey Jan 26, 2017 9:23pm

There was nothing Christlike about the March! Killing babies is not condoned by the Lord God! Those protestors had signs which expressed hate! The language was deplorable, & unfit for t.v. They represented lawlessness, & rebellion against God, & man! I think that your church is sending the wrong signal to our youth.

Carla and Bob Jan 27, 2017 5:00pm

Those who condemned the March for Women, did not, apparently, speak with those who marched or attended a virtual/streamed in march.
Women's reproductive rights were a small part of this endeavor.
Some folks posted that Jesus came to save sinners, not health care. Don't you think that He would consider greed, the greed of insurance companies, to be sinful?
Jesus loved every one of us, men, women and had affordable health care, education, day care been issues of that day, He would have marched along side of those who marched.
Had a crumbling infrastructure, and a tax rate that only benefits the top 1% been issues of that day, Jesus would have marched along side of those marchers.
Jesus said nothing about either homosexuality or abortion, but somehow, some posters seem to think that they can "speak for Jesus."
I am happy that UMC opened their doors to the men, women and families that want our nation to truly be a nation that cares about people, and that does not feel that corporations have human status.
If you really think that this march was "all about abortion," you are mistaken. However, abortion is a volatile subject, and there will always be disagreement regarding this issue. However it would be wise to remember that abortions have occurred, even back in the time of the Hebrew Scriptures and before, and it will always be a choice that some women will make for a variety of reasons.
The main issue, today, is, will this be a safe, rare occurrence, or an unsafe, more frequent occurrence, due to the lack of reliable, or as close to reliable as possible, contraception, and keeping abortion legal.
Making abortion illegal never stopped the procedure.

Linda Bennett Jan 27, 2017 10:07pm

I am really unhappy that you went to the womans march- they are for abortion- they are for themselves-demanding all for them-and by the way did you bother going to the march for Life? I probably can answer that it is no-sad-

Anna Jan 28, 2017 2:23pm

It seems that the UMC has become more a political faction than a place to meet and experience God.
The church has left me.

Maria Jan 28, 2017 2:47pm

You say you are inclusive-- but at the same time, your expressions reveal your disrespect for viewpoints different than your own.
Example: “'One day may have been easier for me than the other to welcome all,' she said."

You talk about the oppressed-- I believe the truly oppressed are the unborn babies who have no voice-- expect for those proclaiming RIGHT TO LIFE! Open your closed hard hearts!

Rosalie Jan 28, 2017 2:50pm


Your voices turn me against the church-- not towards it!

Tim Whetsell Jan 28, 2017 7:49pm

I am waiting patiently to see if you did the same thing for the pro-life march.

Keith Jan 28, 2017 9:26pm

Where was the UMC during the March for Life? The saving of innocent babies is something I think would be tops on a church's list.

Chris Jan 30, 2017 3:26pm

Did you open your doors to the men, women and children who participated in the March for Life? If not, you disappoint me greatly.

carla Feb 1, 2017 3:00pm

To the gentleman who praised this site for allowing comments, I say, "Kudos." I, too, am disappointed that the main UMC site does not allow for comments.
To those who are Vehemently Pro Life, I certainly support your right to think and feel as you do. I, too, could be Pro Life, if being Pro Life meant a better life for all in this world. If Pro Life meant the end of the death penalty, the end of poverty, the end of students having burdensome debt, health care for all as a right, not just a privilege, the end of food insecurity, the end of homelessness, and a tax code that benefited the working poor, and the middle class. If the Pro Life stance, went further than fetal life, I could agree with this agenda. Being Pro Life really means a good life for the both the mother and the fetus that she is carrying, both before birth and after.
I read about the Republican Party being Pro Life, and wanting the end to abortion, but abortions will continue, illegal or not, as long as provisions are not in place for the mother and her baby. So many of my Republican friends, do not want "their tax dollars," to pay for SNAP, CHIP, Medicaid, or Section 8 Housing, some have the attitude that "we should pull ourselves up by the bootstraps." Suppose there are no boots.
Children born in poverty often struggle all their lives.
If we are truly Pro Life, we much advocate to have the issues, that I mentioned above, remedied, and work to solve those issues, not merely advocate for life prior to birth.

K. T. Gregg Feb 15, 2017 1:06am

I am concerned that the Methodist Church is more interested in politics than the souls of people. We are suppose to love all people, but hate the sin. That means we are suppose to confront sin and take a stand for and teach Biblical principles. In I Cor. 6:9-10 it is one of the verses we need to read. I