Christ Church in the News
Body of Christ
Vol. 79, No. 5, September-October 2010
Introducing Christ Church, Georgetown:
3116 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Web site: www.christchurchgeorgetown.org
Established 1817; 1,400 members
The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, Rector
Body of Christ introduces readers to a different parish in the church family of the Diocese of Washington each month. This month, writer Diane Ney speaks with the Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ, Georgetown, to learn more about the life, history, plans and character of that congregation.
WW: You and your parish have an anniversary coming up.
KENWORTHY: Yes, I’m going into my 20th year here. Christ Church was my first position as a rector and it has been a fantastic experience to grow with these people and to be part of the sacred endeavor of encountering God in this place and time. It is a blessed marriage of pastor and parish. When I came here I thought, “This dream of having a community of prayer. I can build it here.” And step by step we’ve done that as a parish, until now when we have 17 services during the week and five on Sunday. For us, prayer is the pulse of life, everything we do begins and ends with prayer. Everything programmatic, all the good works, the spiritual formation, education—all of that is rooted in that life of prayer.
WW: Christ Church is a large parish, but has the feel of a small community.
KENWORTHY: Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head. This may be a larger church, but it’s run like a pastoral parish. Relations are highly valued. Lay participation has grown tremendously over the years, as has our Sunday morning worship, which averages over 500. Right now, 50 percent of our people come from outside Georgetown, and we still have a few members whose families are rooted in the parish from its early days. There’s a tremendous loyalty to this parish. And that comes in part from the character of Christ Church, which is to be welcoming. Institutionally, we do everything we can to tell people, “These doors are open to you. This is a place where you know you are respected and loved.”
WW: Can it be that simple these days, when there are so many complex issues impacting on parishes?
KENWORTHY: Yes, it can. Our mission statement is to join with others who are seeking to love, worship and know God in the power of the Holy Spirit, as a welcoming community born of the risen Christ and to present him to the world in our lives and in our service to others. How does that play out here? Through worship, through spiritual formation for adults and children and in service to others. Everything we do is about spiritual formation, making people disciples of Christ. Our outreach programs are very active locally and internationally, with programs throughout the city of Washington, and connections with Honduras, Haiti, Russia, South Africa, Israel and Palestine. We have a pilgrimage to the Holy Land scheduled this fall.
WW: Again, a complex issue.
KENWORTHY: A multi-faceted issue, and a situation where we need to be sensitive to all concerns in seeking a just peace. We had a year-long forum on it, as part of our adult education program last year—“Jerusalem the Golden”—which explored our Christian faith and its Jewish roots.
WW: Your adult education programs are extensive, aren’t they?
KENWORTHY: I really think they are PBS quality in their content, in the caliber of speakers we have. Two years ago we did a 30-part series on the Resurrection of Christ. This year we have one called “Christendom,” a two-year series that will explore Christianity across history. And then another aspect of adult formation are our six to eight seasonal quiet days across the entire church year. These are an invitation to people to hit the pause button in their lives, step off the treadmill and create some quiet for God and see what comes of that. There’s a tremendous Benedictine influence in this parish. Many people have devoted themselves to the Benedictine principles of stability, prayer, work and study in their daily lives. And it has affected the life of this parish.
WW: Why do you think the Benedictine life is so attractive to our society now?
KENWORTHY: I think it is about balance in our 21st century world. By balance I mean prayer, study, work. I think people without even being able to articulate it, crave that. And I think the translation of that into parish life has a particular appeal for drawing people into a relationship with God. We have members of this parish who are very powerful people and they know they can come to this place and simply be that child of God who was created in his image and who seek reconciliation and restoration through the Christian life.
WW: So, what do you see for the next 20 years?
KENWORTHY: I remember one Sunday here, sitting in church with John Andrew, my former boss and rector of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, as others were giving out the body of Christ, and all you could hear was the shuffling of feet, coming to the altar rail. I remember turning to him and saying, “You know, John, I really love these people.” And I do. I feel as if I’ve been carried by them. Two examples: There were two times when my wife was critically ill, and then when I was an Army chaplain in Iraq a few years ago. For me, it was the greatest privilege to be able to serve God by serving those men and women who at that time were in harm’s way daily. In this parish there was a spectrum of feeling about that war, including some who vehemently opposed it, but they supported my chaplaincy. They supported me in my choice to go. I always use this metaphor, that we’re pilgrims together in this river of faith, trying to row toward God together. And we need each other, in all the things that life throws at us, to help each other discover faith in God and the graces that he has for us.