Our trip from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. was to be a relatively short one, but we ran into a couple of bumps in the road. (Every pilgrimage has at least one, right?) Our first stop in Washington was to be the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, the only religious building located there. It is home to the UM General Board of Church and Society.
Our first bump was having trouble contacting our guide at the UM building, Rev. Clayton Childers. So we pulled over to formulate plan B. We happened to be in the vicinity of Arlington National Cemetery, so we saw the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was very moving. Having finally coordinated a meeting time and place with Clayton, we got underway again. But due to a protest for racial justice in Washington commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, we couldn’t turn on the streets our GPS was telling us to turn on! Police had them blocked off, leaving us “strangers in a foreign land” pretty much on our own.
Eventually, we got where we were to go and met up with Clayton. The UM Building is located literally across the street from the US Supreme Court building, where the two lawyers in the group — Jim Turley and Al Hoppe — paused for a picture. When we were in Philadelphia, we saw the courtroom used as the very first Supreme Court room of our nation.
We then entered the UM Building, and into Simpson Chapel named for Bishop Matthew Simpson, who preached at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral. There, Clayton told us about a couple historic worship services that had been held in that chapel. When Martin Luther King Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, UM’s celebrated with Mrs. Coretta Scott King in this Chapel. And when Senator Paul Wellstone was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2002, the room was filled to overflowing twice for a memorial service.
Clayton describe the history of the building (erected in 1923) and the work of the General Board of Church and Society. Because UM theology includes both personal and social holiness, the Board began with the work of the WCTU — Women’s Christian Temperance Union — and its campaign for Prohibition to “reform the land.” The building also has some apartments, which have housed Supreme Court Justices, Senators, and Representatives over the years.
After Clayton told us the story of the GBCS, we then had a worship service in Simpson Chapel. We used the Sunday Service that John Wesley had sent over to the American Methodists with Thomas Coke in 1784, with one change — we sang our modern version of “Amazing Grace” because we felt this whole trip has been covered in God’s grace. Rev.’s Jim Turley, Ann Mobley, Mopsy Andrews, and I led the service.
In place of a sermon, we asked our pilgrims to share what has impacted them from all the history we’ve been experiencing. They spoke of the incredible passion and love of God evidenced by our founders, and the parallel passion found in the nation’s founders as well as those who have kept both the Methodist Church and our nation alive over the centuries. I challenged our pilgrims to “identify your 40th,” who can be the 40th pilgrim on our trip (we number 39 pilgrims) by sharing our experience with them.
Following the worship service, we once again boarded the bus which took us to our hotel. After a harrowing experience parking the bus, we finally made it to our rooms, tired, but thankful for another wonderful day of learning. We now have the rest of the day to ourselves. We will tour Washington, D.C., tomorrow.
See all our trip photos by clicking here.