Sojourner’s Welcome at Potter’s House

More about our spring break mission trip experiences….

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On our first full day in Washington, I woke before dawn to the ominous sound of rain on the windowpane of our hotel room at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Before breakfast I had already received a phone call cancelling our first DC mission activity: feeding and worshiping with the homeless at Church of the Epiphany’s Street Church.  We spent the morning in a walking tour of VTS (mostly in the rain) and by lunchtime our team was cold, wet, and getting just a tad cranky.

We loaded the diocesan bus and headed out for our next mission activity: touring the National Cathedral.  On the way, we stopped in the Adams Morgan district for lunch.  The Potter’s House, a ministry of the Church of the Saviour, is located in that neighborhood.  We were hoping to attend one of their evening services but, remembering that they serve lunch, we decided to pay them an early visit.

2013-03-12 13.02.11As we walked into this bookstore/cafe/art gallery, one of the staff stepped forward to greet and welcome us.  She gave us a quick overview of the menu offerings, reminded us that all the bread at Potter’s House is homemade, and invited us to grab a beverage (self-serve) and come back to a large centrally located table.  She said once we were settled with our lunch she would join us and tell us about Potter’s House.

At this point I was getting a little rattled.  Such a warm, sincere welcome. They seemed to be expecting us. Had I made an appointment here for us and forgotten to add it to our busy agenda?  As I waited on our food and looked around, I realized that we were not unique, that everyone received a warm welcome at Potter’s House.  What we were experiencing was simply biblical hospitality.  Welcoming the stranger in your midst. Rest for the traveler, sustenance for the sojourner.  What a radical concept!

Lunch arrived, every bit as good as the menu had promised.  Our greeter also returned, carrying an extra plate of cornbread squares just in case any one hadn’t had a chance to try it.  We learned that Potter’s House had first opened in 1960, “a beatnik-inspired coffee house.” During that turbulent decade, the conversations centered on social justice and eliminating inner city poverty.  Potter’s House became, as their website attests, a “long running experiment in breaking down barriers.”

Today you can find many and various faith communities, discussion groups, and justice initiatives meeting at Potter’s House, including: Eighth Day Faith Community, weekly Taize services, Unbinding Lazarus (a support group combatting racism), Jubilee Church, Lectionary Lunch, and Friends of Jesus Church.

2013-03-12 13.43.34Music, art, and books are integral to Potter’s House, which is also an independent bookstore specializing in spirituality and social justice topics.  Breakfast and lunch are served, featuring a Southern-inspired menu.

The Potter’s House website states that they “seek to model a new way in which everyone who walks through our doors is equally valued.”  We experienced that welcome in our visit.  Don’t get me wrong–I dearly love the National Cathedral and  we had a wonderful time there touring and attending Evensong.  But our visit to Potter’s House is what stayed on my mind and heart that day.  As we left there after lunch, one of our students told me that she had felt more “at church” there than she did at church.  Amen!

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