photo credit: Elaine Graves

photo caption: Ward 6 Councilmember-elect Charles Allen, center, looks at early church photos with long-time Southwest residents and St. Augustine’s founding congregation members Neal and Barbara Peirce.

St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church members hosted an Open House on Sunday, May 18 with 70 Southwest community members to share the story of its history, temporary transition plans, and new building.

The Rev. Martha K. Clark, Rector, and Senior Steward Pamela Collins welcomed everyone.

“For the last eight or nine years, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church has worked on the sustainability of its building and its congregation, specifically to keep the Episcopal Church’s presence in the Southwest neighborhood,” Rev. Clark explained.

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, joined the celebration, stating, “I commend this congregation for its tenacity, courage, and hopefulness for continuing to stay connected to serve this neighborhood.”

Charles Allen, Ward 6 Councilmember-elect, commented, “This church has a small congregation, but has always had a huge presence in the Southwest community.”

“Since 1961, St. Augustine’s represented a diverse congregation, replacing former separate black and white Episcopal Churches in Southwest,” said Neil Pierce, an early church member and one of the founding members of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly.

Kwasi Holman, a St. Augustine’s redevelopment representative, explained, “We sold a portion of our site to the developer PM Hoffman in order to assist in the construction of our new church.”

Thelma Jones, congregation member and long-time community activist, summarized the church’s numerous community outreach programs including a breakfast program, which will be on hiatus during the summer, a food pantry, and youth activities.

St. Augustine’s transition coordinators Lauren Vaughan and Robert Graham noted that Rev. Clark will be holding office hours each Tuesday in Safeway’s Starbucks area after June 8.

According to Rev. Clark, the new church will be more community centered, completely accessible, and located in a sustainable building with an endowment for long-term maintenance. The new church will feature a large, second floor sanctuary looking out onto the waterfront and the Washington Monument that will be used for Sunday worship (and doubles as a great wedding venue). Plans also include an off-the-street, small, intimate chapel, a large, modern kitchen, a community room, office space for non-profits, a Sunday school, and a library named after Thurgood Marshall to house a permanent collection of books and artifacts.

Kwasi Holman enthusiastically concluded, “We love this church, but we’ll love our new church even more! It will be a spectacular church building and we’ll be as welcoming to the community as we have always been.”

By: Elaine Graves

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