In 1796, a small group of visionaries stood at the corner of O and Potomac Streets, a few blocks up from the Potomac. They decided it was the perfect spot to set down roots for the Episcopal Church in Georgetown.
St. John’s has kept watch on that corner now for almost 225 years. Its bell tower has been a landmark to the neighborhood that has grown up around it. Even now, people mark the day with its bells, and the seasons with its rhythms.
What is the spirit of St. John’s? We have been described as “traditional, but not stuffy,”which captures us beautifully. We embrace the traditional worship of the Episcopal Church, with its balance of Scripture, strong preaching, outstanding music, and the mystery of Holy Communion. Sundays during the school year (from September through May) you’ll find a relaxed, family-style service at 9:00, with a shorter sermon and easy-to-sing music led by a cantor. At 11:00, you’ll find a more liturgically rich service with a full choir that is truly among the very best in Washington. You’ll find friendly people of all ages at both services who will smile and help you find your way. Between services you can get good coffee (in real mugs) in our parish hall, or go to our adult faith forum in the chapel. Activities for elementary-aged kids happen then too, though children are also welcome to stay with you or play in our atrium with our friendly nursery staff. During the summer months (Memorial Day through Labor Day), we have one service at 10:00, with lemonade and Popsicles on the lawn afterward.
And while we embrace traditional worship and do it very well, we sometimes do it with a bit of flair, as we work to provide a range of worship experiences to feed the souls of all who come to us. We have Jazz services and theme Sundays, including Star Wars Sunday, Harry Potter Sunday, and this summer’s Sound of Music Sunday. And to show that even historic parishes can learn something new, we also have a weekly podcast called The Irreverends that explores the coming Sunday’s readings with just a dash of humor. But even though we love exploring new ways to reach people with the Good News of God’s love, we also love our ancient roots. Over four Sunday nights in March, the enduring words of Compline – the ancient night prayer – chanted by the choir by candlelight, have transformed St. John’s into a place out of time.
Outstanding music is another way we feed the hearts and souls of those who walk through our doors. Our music program is amazing. Not only are our acoustics grand, our choir superb, and our organ a treasure, but we host the Georgetown Concert Series, which brings world-class music to the neighborhood! Groups including the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Chanticleer, the King’s Singers, and Voces8 – and even acclaimed baritone Nathan Gunn – have performed in our concert series and greeted concert-goers in the reception afterward.
The people of St. John’s have been praying and singing and laughing and crying together on this little corner for more than 200 years – a witness to the timeless message of the love of God, and the vision of those who gathered there so long ago. Join us, and be a part of something bigger than those visionaries ever imagined!
The Rev. Gini Gerbasi, Rector