(The perspective of “an immigrant family that is now integral to St. John’s”)
Arriving DC 22 years ago, Nkem and I had no criteria in mind for a new home church except that, having grown up in the traditions of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and England, we were mostly focused on finding an Episcopal church that felt like home.
We had visited a few churches before we happened upon St. John’s by chance – it was the closest Episcopal church to the office. The congregation was warm and welcoming. The message from the pulpit was totally relatable, the music was fantastic and familiar, and the Church was only slightly older than the 150-year-old Holy Trinity Church in Geneva, Switzerland, where we worshipped until our move to the US, having also been wedded there.
Two decades on, St John’s has remained an important part of our lives as a family. Our children have grown up in the Church, playing different roles in the Christmas pageant over the years (from baby Jesus at only 2 months old through to Mary and narrators as teens), serving as acolytes and as readers. Nkem and I have also served in different roles as Sunday School teacher, treasurer, chalice bearer, usher, and Vestry Member. This is all the more remarkable given the mobile nature of our lives. Like many in Washington, DC, ours is closer to a nomadic than an immigrant existence. This week, as I write from the Middle East, with the rest of the family scattered across Bangkok, Houston, and Nairobi, St John’s remains home.
St. John’s is not simply welcoming in the sense that all churches must, of necessity, be. There is room for all in whichever way they are able to belong and participate.
For us, St John’s symbolizes family, history, and tradition – and, at the same time, growth. That is what drew us to, and continues to keep us in, St John’s.