News and Views

DC church offers hospitality for inauguration, women’s march

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on

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.”

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