Gordon Cosby (1918-2013)

GordonCosbyGordon Cosby, founder of Church of the Savior, a church which began in our DC neighborhood in the 1940s, passed away yesterday morning.

Four years ago, just before I moved to DC, Church of the Savior was featured in a Washington Post article as its time as a church came to a close–“Activist D.C. Church Embraces Transition in Name of Its Mission.” Over its sixty years of existence, though it never grew to more than 200 people, the church had an amazing way of birthing communities of people that cared about their neighborhood: Christ House, Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jobs, Potter’s House, Christ House, Mary’s Center, Samaritan Inns, to name just a few of the dozens of ministries that were created to see more of the kingdom of God in the neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, and beyond.

Jim Wallis, my old boss at Sojourners, once described the Church of the Savior as having had “more influence around the country than any other church I know about.” Without Gordon and Mary Cosby’s commitment to Christ and to our neighborhood in decades past–long before it was a safe or popular place to be–Jim and Sojourners would not be who they are, our neighborhood wouldn’t be what it is, and neither The District Church nor I would be who we are.

I had a chance to meet and pray with Gordon last year (with Aaron). It was amazing–and amazingly humbling–to be in the presence of such a good and faithful servant, and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to spend some time with him.

Thank you, Gordon, for your life and your faith; I walk in the path you carved and I follow in the footsteps you’ve left. Rest in peace.

Others have also written (far-more-eloquent) tributes to him, including:

When God answers

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been so humbled and encouraged by the ways that God has stepped up and provided, through many of you. On several fronts, I’ve been reminded that God is faithful and does answer prayer:

  1. In the last two weeks, in response to the email ask I sent outalmost twenty people have given or pledged to give, which essentially doubled the number of people who are financially supporting me!
  2. This last Sunday, the church’s Executive Team met and decided to increase their financial support for me. We’re still working on details, but this is exciting for me and encouraging as it means that our church community continues to grow–not just in size, but in generosity as well.
  3. And last, but certainly not least, the church was given a house in the Columbia Heights neighborhood by an anonymous donor! I just posted Aaron’s account, and I’m pretty sure you’ll want to read it–it has more details, for one thing.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve just started a series at The District Church on prayer–we planned it before I even knew I’d be sending out an ask for support, and definitely before we got the house! But God has been stirring my spirit from the relief and exhaustion that I was feeling in the aftermath of the last few crazy months, to a renewed excitement and anticipation for what he continues to do in, through, and around The District Church.

All thanks be to God.

A word from Aaron: Houston, we have a …


If you were at The District Church last Sunday, you’ll already know this; but if you weren’t, here’s an email update that Aaron (lead pastor of The District Church) sent out earlier this week with the good news:

It was two years ago that we began meeting and praying in our home as we were in the process of starting the church. We wrote down the vision we believed God gave to us, “To be a multiplying network of neighborhood churches that exists for Christ and the renewal of our city.”

We believed that God called us to this city for a purpose. To build roots and seek the peace of the city in a way that lifts up the name of Christ. We knew that we wanted it to start in Columbia Heights but not end here. We knew that cities don’t change at once but rather one neighborhood at a time.

We began to dream: what if we were able to plant a church and start an urban ministry in every neighborhood throughout the city? We could have the strength of a large church but the flexibility and community of a small church. As we began to pursue this and ask ourselves what would it take to begin to make steps toward this huge vision, it all came down to one thing; leadership. Everything rises and falls on the quality of leadership.

We began casting a vision for a Leadership Residency program that would help train people who are called to plant a church or start an urban ministry. It would not an internship, which is only meant to gain experience in a field, but rather like a medical residency. We thought if the medical profession requires 3+ years of a residency to work on bodies than we should at least require a year residency to train people to work on souls!

Justin Fung was our first leadership resident and he was ordained in November, and is now serving as Associate Pastor here. Blythe Scott is our second leadership resident and is focused on the urban ministry component.

Leadership Residents are asked to raise their own support. It’s a way to test one’s calling; much like ours has been tested over the years! But we as the church have wanted to do our part as well. Since housing is the most expensive part of everyone’s budget in this city (it was over 50% of our budget when we moved here), we began to dream about being able to provide housing for leadership residents.

So we began praying that God would literally give us a house. This was a bold prayer to pray at the beginning as a house church of 20 people in the midst of a high priced housing market during an economic downturn, but we prayed. Deep down I was thinking that this would be 5-10 years down the road.

Well, I’m excited to share that God has provided! We have a house! 

An anonymous donor loaned us the money to purchase the house and retain it for at least the next five years!

It will be used for some meetings and hospitality space for some church gatherings, but the main goal is to make sure we are providing a good pipeline of leaders for the vision God is birthing in our community to make disciples and truly be a church for the city.

The house is just a block south of where we live, and very close to many others in the church.

It gets me fired up to share this because I am reminded that our God is on the move! Our leadership community and several small groups have been praying for this. It is such an affirmation from God about the calling we have as a church.

This city is full of people with good ideas. Lots of people that move here have good intentions to make a difference in our city and world. But we are not just looking for good ideas, we are looking for people who are called and have a burden.

By purchasing this house we are saying to ourselves as a church that we value leadership at our very core. That making disciples who make disciples is the very essence of our mission.

I can’t wait to have you visit the house, but more importantly experience what God is doing here.

If you have some candidates for our leadership residency who are called to ministry in the city, send them our way!

With love,

Aaron & Amy

You’re invited!!

In August, I shared about beginning the ordination process (“Adventures in Becoming a Pastor”). Well, in the six weeks since then, we’ve had an ordination council meeting, at which I was unanimously approved; and the church’s leadership also came out in strong support of my ordination. So with that:
They say it's like a wedding ...

I’m so pleased to be able to invite you to my installation service as Associate Pastor at The District Church at 2pm on Saturday, November 5, 2011.

The service itself will take place at National Baptist Memorial Church in Columbia Heights, just a block away from where our church meets, and it’ll be immediately followed by a brief reception/celebration time. I know most of you won’t be able to make it to DC for that weekend, but if you are, I’d love to have you here to see, hear and experience life in DC and at The District Church.

Let me know if you think you can come; if you’re coming from out of town, I’ll help to try and find housing for you!

What a difference a year makes

Recently, I was flipping through some photos, and noticed these gems from one year ago. These were taken in Aaron & Amy’s living room, back when the church was newborn and still meeting in the Grahams’ house. I don’t even remember whether we’d settled on The District Church as our name, at that point—my inclination is that we hadn’t yet. We were just a bunch of friends who felt called to plant a church in Columbia Heights, and were trying to figure out what that might look like, where and how God might be leading.

Here, in these pictures, you can see what I like to call “Post-It Sunday,” the day when we articulated the things that were necessary to church as well as the things that we could do without and still be church. These post-its eventually developed into some of our core values—including worship, community, and justice.

Twelve months later, we’re still trying to figure out what it looks like to be a church in our neighborhood; we’re still trying to be attentive to each other and to the movement of the Spirit—some things will never change. But much has changed: for the last nine months, we’ve been meeting in a school; we’ve grown more than tenfold from a dozen people to almost a hundred and fifty; we’ve gone from just one small group to five; we’ve gone from being a disparate group of people from around the Columbia Heights neighborhood toward a fuller expression of Christ’s love in our area—through ministering in local high schools, serving at neighborhood events, putting on kids’ festivals and educational movie screenings and more.

What a year it’s been. And, based on the testimony and evidence of the last year, what a year—indeed, what years!—we have to come. I’m simultaneously both completely clueless as to what God’s going to do in and with and through our church in the coming months and years … and so unbelievably excited.