USA Church Partnership

Our American Partnership with St Patrick's Episcopal Church, Washington DC

A few of the children from St Patrick's in Washington want to say hello to us. Check out this short video clip

Hello from St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC!

We were delighted to hear from Jo Pawson and the idea of being the destination for your New Year Fundraiser. After a difficult two years, it was a welcome chance to engage in a new way with like-minded parishioners who just happen to be thousands of miles away. We are excited to build connections, welcome you at the end of your walk, and walk you home after our joint celebration on March 20, 2022.

I am Jo Anne Nelson, the Senior Warden at St. Patrick’s DC, like your Rector’s Church Warden. I have been a parishioner for almost nine years and have been involved in many of its ministries including the Cantoris Choir, Tech Guild, Service Saturdays, So Others Might Eat, and in various roles on the Vestry.

Many people outside of the city equate the District of Columbia (D.C.) with the Federal Government of the United States (U.S.), which makes sense because it was founded in 1790 as the nation’s capital from land ceded by Maryland and Virginia. What most don’t know is that it is a vibrant city and diverse culture with roughly 700,000 residents that live in neighborhoods named after the villages that existed prior to the founding of the city. We have art and culture, food and sports teams, and an extraordinary park system with 98% of residents living within a ten-minute walk of a park.

Our church is in the Palisades neighborhood in the northwest section of the city, which overlooks the Potomac River. St. Patrick’s was founded in 1911 as the last mission chapel of St. Alban’s Parish (established in D.C. in 1854) and was the first Protestant church named after the patron saint of Ireland in the western hemisphere. The Rector of St. Alban’s wrote to the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland asking if “stones could be procured from that historic temple wherewith to make a font for little American St. Patrick’s Chapel”. The Dean sent four 750-year-old stones from the edifice of the Cathedral that were used to create a baptismal font, which we use today.

The Church outgrew its original location and moved in 1985 to join the St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School on Whitehaven Parkway, our current location. In keeping with the modern architecture of the new building, a clear, crystal cross was purchased from a local artist and used until an unfortunate accident caused it to shatter. During a Vestry retreat in 1996, a discussion about how the new rector and Vestry could show their support for one another led to a creative outcome: they hiked into the woods, found two weathered split fence rails, and used nails and rope to create a cross. It stood behind the altar for two years until a more permanent sculpted cross was carved from durable hardwood and installed in 1998.

The Day School was established in 1956 as a ministry of the church and originally offered classes for pre-school and kindergarten students. Having outgrown the church’s original location, it moved in 1975 and today is a thriving school with two campuses serving approximately 500 preschool to eighth grade students. Its mission is to create a diverse and inclusive learning community of students, faculty, staff, and parents who recognize the infinite value of every individual as a child of God.

We have also had a decades-long program focused on helping to educate future clergy.  Seminarians join us for 1-2 years as they complete their field study, typically at nearby Virginia Theological Seminary located in Alexandria, Virginia. Founded in 1823, it is the largest of the accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church and it prepares men and women from around the world for service in the Church.

We have several groups that gather frequently, particularly our music programs. There are programs for children of all ages, many of whom start in kindergarten with Music in Motion and grow through our Classy Handbells and instrumental programs. When we’re lucky, they rejoin us after college for our adult choir and other ministries.

The Bible Babes meet weekly to read and discuss the Gospel for the coming Sunday, Women Together in Fellowship meet monthly for dinner, Senior Saints who pre-pandemic met quarterly for lunch and fellowship, and a few others. We have regular book discussions and learning opportunities, including our upcoming series of discussions about The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

In addition, we serve multiple individuals and organizations within our neighborhood and community, and partner with groups around the city of Washington and in the mountains of Haiti. You can learn more about them, and us, on our website: stpatrickschurchdc.org.

We are blessed with an incredibly talented Rector, The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard, Director of Music, Dr. Adele Lynch, and Administrator, Mary Beth Howard, who early in the pandemic learned how to create a livestream service with music for parishioners. Their ingenuity really knows no bounds! The Vestry has been creative in offering ways to connect, including a drive-by Halloween parade and a virtual shared meal for last year’s Feast Day (including shepherd’s pie!). While the pandemic has increased the strain on all of us, we are lucky that many in the parish feel more connected than ever.

One of the reasons we are so excited about your walk is that we are focusing on renewal as we emerge from our latest round of remote worship. This feels like a wonderful opportunity to do just that, and we are energized by the opportunity to ‘meet’ you in multiple ways and build new connections. We will continue to work with Jo as we flesh out the details, and we look forward to learning more about you and growing together through this journey.

In the meantime, thank you for reaching out, your letter of introduction and wonderful ‘hello’ from the children of St. Patrick’s Whitehead. We are cheering you on from Washington, DC as you walk the remaining 2,000 miles to reach us…

Jo Anne Nelson, Senior Warden, St Patrick’s Episcopal Church. DC

The members of St Patrick's Church in Washington DC will also participate in completing a similar walk as our church members, as they plan to walk us back to Whitehead. Below is a map of their route.

Photographs received from St Patrick's Episcopal Church.

The Church Mouse is a regular contributor to our Church Magazine here in Whitehead & Islandmagee. We have now discovered St Patrick's in Washington DC also has a Church Mouse called Palisades. Below is the recent article that featured in their Church News Update on 23rd February 2022