The memories come flooding back for Candace Shultis when asked about her 25-plus years on staff at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church.
She’s been gone a few years now having left to pastor a St. Petersburg, Fla., MCC church. But so much of her ministry was in Washington, on the occasion of the church’s 4oth anniversary — the festivities kick off tonight with an event at Human Rights Campaign headquarters — she waxes nostalgic during an hour-plus phone chat from her new parish. Her memories run the gamut of human emotion — from tedium and tragedy to laughter and tears of joy.
She remembers one anniversary weekend where outside festivities were planned at the old M Street location. Members asked her to pray for good weather — “I guess they figured I had a closer connection to God about such things,” she says — only to have it rain the entire weekend. The joke for years was never to have her pray for weather again.
She also remembers feeling ridiculous blessing the current Ridge Street building with former pastor, the late Rev. Larry Uhrig, who died of AIDS in 1993, going around the new building with a plant he’d brought from Hawaii throwing water at the building, again in the pouring rain.
It never takes long, though, for talk of MCC’s history to come around to the AIDS crisis, which took a staggering toll on its members and which Shultis admits defined much of her ministry there, especially in the 1980s and well into the ‘90s.
“I think in many ways my time there, certainly for a good bulk of it even early on in the pastorate, was defined by HIV and AIDS,” Shultis says. “You just can’t say anything but that. It was just real clear, this had a huge impact on the community and we lost a lot of people. Not all from AIDS — some had heart attacks, Bob Johnson, Bob Hager, there were a couple who committed suicide. I even remember our first member who died, James Vincent McCann, Jim McCann. We named a ministry award after him … but we lost so many. We became kind of known as the place where you could come and we would do your funeral … it was just really hard on the congregation.”
MCC-D.C., as it’s casually known, is part of the Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a liberal Christian denomination with a vastly, but not completely, LGBT membership. The D.C. church’s roots go back to 1970 when a group of gay believers started meeting as Community Church of Washington. The church was chartered as an MCC church on May 11, 1971.
Rev. Troy Perry, the denomination’s founder, remembers vividly the D.C. church joining the Fellowship.
“We said right away, yes, we’d love to have them,” Perry says by phone from Los Angeles where he’s lived for 48 years. He resigned as the Fellowship’s moderator in 2005 but is still active among the church’s 250 congregations around the globe.
“It was one of the briefest dedications we ever did,” he says, a Southern accent still palpable in his voice even after decades in California. “We got there and it was like 22 degrees. It was so cold I thought my jaws would fall off. So it only lasted about 15 minutes.”
MCC-D.C. is one of the largest churches in the Fellowship. Shultis says it’s always in the top 10 in terms of weekly attendance and often in the top five.
Perry has visited most of the denomination’s churches and says visiting the Washington church is always a highlight and blessing for him.
“They absolutely believe in wonderful worship services,” he says. “They’re known widely for their gospel choir and they’ve sung at all our marches on Washington. I’ve preached there many times and I always go pray there the morning of the marches. We’ve had five so far. … They do wonderful things there.”
But not all has been easy in recent years. After stabilizing its membership and attendance after the advent of anti-retroviral therapy, the church experienced a boom era around 1999 and 2000 in which it wasn’t uncommon for 500 faithful to come through the doors on an average Sunday morning. It’s about half that now.
Shultis, who became senior pastor in 1995, remembers that “it was nice not to have as many funerals” for a change, but also remembers there was rarely a dull moment.
One of her most poignant memories started around rather banal circumstances. After settling into the magnificent Ridge Street building, a series of properties around the new church became available and members sensed a rare chance to purchase them and eventually expand the parking area. But the logistics were dicey — purchase had to be approved by the congregation and involved three contracts, the failure of any one of which could sink the whole project. They also had to move fast.
“This involved taking out, like a $700,00 or $800,000 loan and so we had a very large congregational meeting and I couldn’t believe it, the vote to do it was unanimous,” Shultus says. “I had tears in my eyes. I thought, ‘Golly gee, we’ve worked so long and people really understand what we’re trying to do here and support it.’”
The D.C. church, as with the Fellowship as a whole, has long sought to be a place of refuge for gay Christians chastised by the churches of their youth. The church offers classes on its interpretation of the scriptures that many Christian churches use to condemn gay sex.
Longtime member John Dewey, the church’s lay delegate who represents the parish at denominational meetings, says an underlying theme woven into nearly every sermon is that “God loves and accepts you no matter who you are.” He says the scriptures need to be considered in their proper historical context before there was any notion or understanding of sexual orientation.
“We take a non-judgmental approach to Christianity that welcomes people exactly where they are,” Rev. Dwayne Johnson, the church’s current senior pastor says. “We welcome people’s doubts and our core theology is really God’s unconditional love.”
Johnson, well respected within the Fellowship for leading a Houston MCC church through a period that saw its attendance double, succeeded Shultis in early 2010 after a lengthy national search. He volunteered at the D.C. church from ’89 to ’92 and has high praise for both Uhrig (whom he calls “incredibly passionate — prophetic in the best sense of the word”) and Shultis (“strength, integrity and grounding” in Johnson’s words).
Despite the adage that Sunday mornings provide the U.S. with its most segregated hour, MCC-D.C. is widely known for its healthy interracial mix and array of ages. Shultis says it wasn’t always that way and in its early years was dominated by white gay men, a trend she was eventually concerned about.
Shultis put her neck on the line during a heart-to-heart with Uhrig when she was still assistant pastor and said, “You have got to pay more attention to women, more attention to people of color, the music had to change, the attitudes had to change … it took a lot of time to change the ratios but I think he really listened. Things began to change after that.”
Shirli Hughes, the church’s minister of music since 2001, says it’s important to honor the church’s past, a reason she’s excited about the bounty of anniversary festivities that are planned throughout the year.
“It’s taking all of that rich history of what has been our past and all those saints who have gone on before us and the sacrifices that so many have made to make it possible to be where we are today,” she says. “It’s taking that collective wisdom and energy and using it to propel us into a new vision, to really embrace the limitless possibilities of the future.”
But now with so many mainline Christian churches opening and welcoming LGBT believers, is MCC-D.C. in danger of becoming an anachronism? Has the decline in attendance been partially due to that trend?
Johnson says no.
“The difference is we’re not just an affirming church, it’s hard to find the right language,” he says. “I don’t want to bash any other churches by any means, but I think it’s because of MCC in a lot of ways that other churches even started opening their doors [to gays]. There were many, many years when it was just us. And many others are still fighting that battle internally. … Other churches may welcome and affirm you but we are you.”
Sue Elliott, an Upper Marlboro, Md., resident who’s been active in the church since the early ‘90s, knows what that feels like first hand. It’s a big reason she’s been in the church choir and on the church’s vestry council for so long.
She says the 40th anniversary comes as no surprise considering how much the church offers.
“I never thought for a minute it wouldn’t be here to see 40,” she says. “I’m excited. We’re moving forward and have a lot of new things planned. I never doubted for a minute that it would last. I just thought we’d grow together in dynamic and exciting ways and we have.”
The evolution of the open house
The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished
In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.
The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population.
According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.
Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool.
Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day.
Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.
The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well.
Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.
Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.
The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.
Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements.
One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves.
Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.
Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.
But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties.
I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned.
On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.
After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market
Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory
With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.
Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.
Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.
Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”
D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.
We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.
Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.
Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.
Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.
Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms
Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.
DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds
For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.
The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.
Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds
For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.
Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.
Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.
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