Lent’s invitation

In our sanctuary, and in front of it stand vases of sand, rocks, moss, and branches.

Suggesting wilderness space, they beckon us into the season of Lent, and to its questions.

What is there to be learned where it is barren or wild or uncomfortable?

Jesus went into the wilderness to clarify identity, purpose, and loyalty. Lent offers us that opportunity.

We make our way through this time with questions and willingness to examine ourselves. Moving, we hope, toward new life for ourselves and our communities. As the world faces the challenge of potential pandemic, priorities and identities beyond the individual will be tested. Something new may emerge!

The seedlings planted by members of the intergenerational Sunday School class in January are growing… Like these, perhaps the seeds of the wilderness journey through Lent will yield growth & fruit. A lot can change in 40 days.

Remembering rightly

Remembering rightly

It has been said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. God calls us to honest memory and to new life! In a climate where neighbors have been relegated to enemies, families have been separated, and many have been confined to camps, we don’t need to look beyond our own national borders for precedents. This week is a good time to remember again, and to listen for God’s call to justice.

From a Church of the Brethren denominational post:

“February 19 is a Day of Remembrance of the date in 1942 when President Roosevelt signed an executive order forcing 120,000 people into 10 internment camps across the U.S. Perhaps the best-known is Manzanar in California, now a National Historic Site commemorating the lives and experiences of the people who were held there. (See http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm)

In remembrance, we revisit a Church of the Brethren statement from October, 1991: “Resolution on Justice for Japanese-American World War II Internees.”

The statement recalls the unjust uprooting and interning of many in the Japanese-American community for more than three and a half years. It reminds us of one of the shameful national failures we would like to forget. And it invites us to repentance and renewed commitment to “another way of living” in Christ.

Maybe we can learn from our remembering.

(Read the full statement at brethren.org/about/statements/1981-ww2-internees.pdf)


On the first Sunday in November, it has become our custom to light candles. We do so in memory of those who have touched our lives and have died. They are family or congregational members we’ve lost. They are strangers who have suffered innocently. They are long-gone loved ones.

To remember is to bring to mind again, making present what seems to be distant or past.

We light a candle and speak a name, and there is a re-membering — a restoring of the presence and touch of someone who has gone. The company grows. We celebrate and find strength in the cloud of witnesses.

God, in the Hebrew scriptures, often “remembers” people. That remembering typically sparks an action on their behalf. Not just a matter of sentimental recollection, it is rather a renewed commitment to the person.

As we remember those who have been part of our lives, we recognize their impact in and among us. And we renew our commitment to passing on the gifts they shared!

Compelling vision: Conversations within COB Districts

As Annual Conference began last week in Greensboro, NC, the focus was on the compelling vision process in which the church as a whole is engaged. Over the past year, many Districts held sessions to begin to ask and answer questions that will help us discern how God may be calling the church in the years ahead.

One of the ways information was captured and presented is in a word cloud– a visual representation of the frequency with which some ideas were named in the conversations. Below are the 100 words most often articulated. They may express some of our priorities as a denomination.

Annual Conference delegates continued the conversations in Greensboro. In the months ahead we’ll have further information about what emerged there.


High Tea: just for fun!

It began as a wish from a 95-year old remembering long-ago family visits to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia for high tea. “We should take a field trip there, just for fun,” Maxie suggested. As an alternative, on June 15, with the Fellowship Hall transformed into a tea room, a group gathered for our own version of high tea.

As part of the time, Maxie and Jean, another of our 90+- year-old members, were honored. Each a remarkable example of living richly and fully into later years, the two continue to inspire many!

There was a great assortment of tea services , a profusion of sandwiches, cakes, scones, cookies, and fruit, and even a few fancy hats!

Women, men, and kids joined in the fun as we recalled a tradition, laughed around the tables, and indulged in enough food to become supper (though a rich one) for most of us.

All agreed that we ate as well or better — and certainly more abundantly– than we could have anywhere else!

Spaghetti and song

Spaghetti and song

We’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day by welcoming our community to a candlelight spaghetti dinner on Saturday, February 9.

Live acoustic music, bistro-style dining and good conversations mark the evening. Stop by between 5 and 8 p.m. for dinner and relaxing.

Whether coming alone, with a special person, or with friends and family, all are welcome!

Donations help meet needs in our neighborhood and support the work of Sanctuary DMV, which reaches out to immigrants

Christmas Sharing Fair – Dec. 1



Find creative gifts from craftspeople, non-profits and artists working for justice, peace, and the good of the earth


Every purchase serves not only as a present for a friend or loved one, but also supports a worthy cause


Find out more about groups working to meet the needs of the earth and its people

SERRV – marketing global handcrafts
HEIFER INTERNATIONAL – passing on the gift of food
OCEAN CONSERVANCY –protecting & advocating for the ocean & its wildlife
BEAD FOR LIFE – helping women artisans break out of poverty
AMERICAN BIRD CONSERVANCY – saving native birds and their habitats



Stop by & enjoy grilled brats and burgers, baked goods, and children’s activities

The Plague 

Next week we will again erect the Memorial to the Lost in the church yard. Some describe it as a t-shirt graveyard, and it feels that way. Each shirt marks one of the 205 lives lost in our region during 2016 to gun violence. They were young and old — from Maryland and DC and northern Virginia- every loss a sudden end to life given by God.

The plague is violence in our culture.And the plague is the use of guns to kill other human beings.

This is the third year we have partnered with Hyattsville Mennonite Church to host the Heeding God’s Call Memorial. Days after we put it up in 2015, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at a Bible study in Charleston. Shortly after we erected the Memorial in 2016, Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

And this week in 2017, we grieve yet another mass shooting, as the entire country laments the senseless deaths in Las Vegas.

So we will erect the Memorial and will remember and pray and pledge ourselves to making change…again.
Because we believe that there is another way of living.
Because we think that there are connections to be made between reliance on guns in private and in national and international arenas.
Because we have known a reality in Christ that reminds us of the value of every person.
Because there are sensible gun regulations for which we must advocate that will protect life .
Because symbolic action leads us toward hope!

New Adult Sunday School Series to Begin


In adult education, for the next four weeks (Feb. 5-26, 2017) we will be looking at “Archaeology and the Bible”.

This Sunday Hooker Monroe will introduce the series with specific focus on major issues in  “Archaeology and the Bible”and will share from his experience at an archaeological site in the Negev dating from 2000 BCE.


The major issue which is still live in the profession is that of  the historicity of the Bible – that is,  how accurate is the Bible as an historical account of  biblical times from the early iron age (around 1100 BCE) and the times of Jesus; and how should the Bible be used. if at all,  in guiding objective research into this question The archaeology of the Bible for biblical fundamentalists is all about proving the Bible inerrant.  On the other end of the scale “minimalists” believe that it should be assumed that the Bible, as a historical narrative,is a collection of legends and myths the very consideration of which has the potential to distort archaeological research and interpretation. The minimalists eschew even the name of the Bible in describing their field. They will call it “the archaeology of the Southern Levant”  or “Syro-Palestinian archaeology.” There is on this scale a range of  “centrists” who believe that there is likely a lot of real history in the Bible and think that the text need not be so sharply divided from the archaeology in exploring that history.


For two of our February sessions Dr Robert Miller of Catholic University will present on ” The archaeology of every day life” and ” The archaeology of religion”  in early iron age in Syria/Palestine/Israel. Dr. Miller has done extensive work in this area and is well familiar with the whole range of  perspectives on archaeology and the Bible. (as an aside, Dr. Miller grew up in a heavily Mennonite part of Ohio where he was the only non-Mennonite named Miller)

Adult Sunday School  Schedule 
February 5 – Hooker Monroe
February 12 – Bob Miller
February 19 – Hooker Monroe
February 26 – Bob Miller

All are welcome! Join us as Sunday school begins promptly at 9:30 in the front of the social hall. Coffee and tea will be there as always.


Photo attributions from top to bottom:

Advet view to the Negev via Wikimedia
Ruins in Negev desert in Israel via Wikimedia
he Negev Monument via Wikimedia
eersheba, Monument to Negev Brigade, Entrance Wall via Wikimedia

Byzantine Iconoclasm and American Flag Protests


Recently, I have developed an interest in the Byzantine Empire, which lasted between, approximately, 330 AD and 1453 AD and was a continuation of the more famous Roman Empire during the Late Antiquity and Middle Ages.  My interest probably stems from two sources:  studying Latin for four years in high school and realizing that the Byzantine Empire was rarely discussed during my formal education.  Several aspects of Byzantine history are quite interesting:  the relationship between the emperor and the patriarchs of the historic episcopal sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Rome; its differing role in the Crusades; and the religious division caused by Iconoclasm.

Byzantine Iconoclasm refers to two periods in Byzantine history:  a sixty-year period in the middle of the 8th century (approximately, 726 AD to 787 AD) and thirty-year period early in the 9th century (approximately, 814 AD to 842 AD).   Generally, icons are Byzantine religious works of art, commonly paintings of Christ, Mary, angels, or other saints, which became important to the Byzantines because, in part, they taught the Bible to the illiterate public and were the reported source of innumerable miracles.  Individuals who venerated icons were known by several names including iconolaters, iconodules, and iconophiles.  However, by the beginning of the 8th century, segments of Byzantine society (primarily the military and some emperors) began to take a strong stance against icons (generally known as Iconoclasm).  Individuals who turned away from icon veneration were known as iconoclasts.


There are several reasons for the rise of Iconoclasm in the Byzantine Empire.  Imperial advisors attribute a volcanic eruption in the Aegean Sea to icon veneration.  Additionally, the Byzantine Empire was losing battles to the Bulgars in Balkan Mountains.  Likewise, the Empire was losing ground to Arabs in the east who had a strict prohibition against graven images, like icons (Thus, the thought was that if prohibitions against graven images worked for the Arabs, then it will work for the Byzantines).  Historians have also postulate potential class struggles between the poorer and richer regions of the Empire and between the genders.  While it is impossible to conversely articulate the arguments of both Iconoclasts and iconophiles, iconophiles thought physical images help people in spiritual contemplation (much as Christ assumed a physical form).  Meanwhile, Iconoclasts thought icons are common materials that will never be sacred and that icons violated the Second Commandment (or, in some religious traditions, the First Commandment) found in Exodus 20:4 – 6 and Deuteronomy 5:8 – 10.


As I read about Byzantine Iconoclasm, I am struck by the legitimate arguments each side had in the debate, the unwillingness of each side to listen to the other and acknowledge the legitimate points, and the devolution in demagoguery.  Additionally, I am struck by some of the similarities of 8th and 9th Century Byzantine Iconoclasm with recent issues concerning the American flag and the Star-Spangled Banner.  Since the summer, several professional athletes have decided to kneel for the national anthem.  Likewise, since the election of Donald Trump, some individuals have decided to demonstrate through the burning of the American flag during protests.  History seems to repeat itself twelve soldier_with_kids_600centuries after Byzantine Iconoclasm.  21st century American iconophiles hold symbols of American ideals, like the flag and national anthem, in high esteem, sometimes to the detriment of the actual ideal itself.  21st century American iconoclast, on the other hand, hold individual American ideals, like Freedom of Speech, in high esteem, sometimes to the detriment of understanding the importance the flag and national anthem to fellow Americans.  In a sense, both sides are right…and both sides are wrong for the same issues during the Byzantine iconoclasm debates of the 8th and 9th century, which were mentioned earlier.

While both 21stcentury American iconophiles and iconoclasts can passionately disagree, including Christians, we must continually abide by what Scripture tells us:  “consider[ing] how to stir up one another to love and good works” while seeking and praying for His kingdom to come.


Photo attributions:
*Byzantine Christ – The most famous of the surviving Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople – the image of Christ Pantocrator on the walls of the upper southern gallery. Photo via Wikimedia.
*Christ washes apostles feet (Montreale)
*2016 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, photo by Glenn Riegel
*Soldier with children and dog by @Skeeze


Ian IrvinIan is a former Modern Standard Arabic linguist with the U.S. Air Force and youth pastor before returning to finish his education back home in Pennsylvania.  After graduating, Ian married his best friend, Alaina, and the two moved to the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) where Ian is an attorney with the federal government. Ian enjoys Penn State football, reading in his and Alaina’s library, and pampering their two cats:  Nittany and Pride. Ian hopes to remain sensitive to God’s calling and helping others develop a closer relationship with Christ.