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SPIRITUALITY 2018: Inner city, small town MCC church experiences vastly different

Clergy members say affirming denomination still needed in 2018 and beyond

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Metropolitan Community Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Exterior of the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington. (Photo by Elvert Barnes; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a much different thing to go to a Metropolitan Community Church in a major city vs. a small town and the denomination itself, founded in the late ‘60s as a Protestant fellowship for LGBT Christians, is in a time of transition as more churches, especially in Christianity’s more liberal branches, have become affirming. Roman Catholics and evangelicals — the two largest groups of U.S. believers — are the biggest holdouts.

As Christianity’s Paschal Triduum culminates with Easter this weekend, we checked in with two regional LGBT MCC clergy to find out how their parishes are doing in 2018. Rev. Deb Coggin is pastor of New Light MCC in Hagerstown, Md. Rev. Cathy Alexander is associate pastor of MCC Washington. They responded via e-mail.

New Light MCC

Rev. Deb Coggin

New Light MCC — Hagerstown, Md.

What year was your church started? 1996

Was it always an MCC church? yes

How many weekend services do you have on a normal week? one

About how many folks walk through your doors on an average Sunday? 20-25

Are you full-time, part-time or volunteer? Part-time – 20 hours a week

What is your annual operating budget? $53,000

How do you feel the needs may be different of MCC believers/members in major cities vs. small towns or suburbs? In a small city, support and safe places for LGBT are fewer. The needs remain the same. All of us need support, a safe place to be and the affirmation that God is with us. This message is part of the DNA of MCC.

Are you doing a Good Friday or Holy Saturday service? Good Friday service is tonight at 7 p.m.

What times are your Easter services? 10:30 a.m.

How is your Easter Sunday morning worship different? We add a few extra readings and special pieces however; the base of the service remains the same.

What was your attendance for Easter 2017? 32

As the mainline churches have become more welcoming, what does MCC offer that they do not in your opinion? MCC is more than welcoming. We celebrate all of who we are as children of God. We are more than affirming. We are inclusive. Everyone is invited to full participation in the life of an MCC community of faith.

Are there many cradle Catholics and/or cradle evangelicals in your pews? As those bodies have dug in their heels against LGBT folks, how does MCC have relevance to those believers? Our congregation has many of both. It is the same for all who have been preached at as if they are evil. We help them heal and discover for themselves what God has to say. We plan services and activities so all feel accepted and comfortable. We honor some traditions of all Christian faiths while creating something new for all.

Are mainline churches in Hagerstown very affirming? In Hagerstown, we have several very affirming churches, however, most churches either tolerate or are outwardly hostile to LGBT people. We offer a safe place for healing from church abuse in all forms. We encourage the full participation in the life of our community. We seek to teach people to live in the questions of faith as opposed to declaring we have all the answers. We offer a positive biblical message about LGBT people as well as refute and explain passages which have been used to abuse LGBT people.

What kind of faith community were you raised in if any? I was 28 before I came into a faith belief with God. I quickly moved from Southern Baptist to Assemblies of God to Pentecostal to MCC. 

What’s a general scripture passage that continues to resonate with you? Romans Chapter 8 resonates with me and particularly verses 37-39: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What’s your favorite hymn or sacred musical selection? Old hymn would be “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” Contemporary praise would be “We All Bleed The Same.”

Overall how is the MCC needle shifting? Where do you see the fellowship going in the next 10-20 years?  We are being called into accountability for being as fully inclusive as we promote. I believe we will continue to be in the forefront of the fight for justice — LGBT rights, homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, human trafficking, gun control, women’s rights, etc.  Wherever there is injustice in the world, MCC along with others will be in the fight for justice.  

Could you imagine a day where LGBT believers will be so fully integrated that there will be no need for MCC or is that too “pie in the sky” for our lifetime? Our founder, Rev. Elder Troy Perry once believed this was possible. For MCC now, it is not only the LGBT people involved in the life of MCC but heterosexuals as well as children. My wife and I adopted five girls. They are growing up in an MCC church and my hope is they will continue into adulthood with MCC, which is about more than sexuality. We believe in Gods call to help others. I believe there will always be people in need and the need for MCC to be present and active.

Rev. Cathy Alexander

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington

What year was your church started? 1971

Was it always an MCC church? Yes, it has always been under the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) umbrella.

How many weekend services do you have on a normal week? We have two services per Sunday in the sanctuary. We also have a monthly interactive service on the last Sunday of each month led by our Young Adult Ministry. These services are held at various locations throughout the city. The last Sunday reflective service was held at the National Portrait Gallery. We are also re-starting our monthly Spanish speaking prayer service.

About how many folks walk through your doors on an average Sunday? We worship about 130-150 each Sunday on site and an additional 50-60 via live streaming of our services. Also an additional 40-60 views of the videos of the service. The message of love and acceptance is getting out there. MCC-D.C. is blessed to be one of the most diverse congregations in MCC on a variety of levels.

Do you have your own building? Yes

Are you full-time, part-time or volunteer? I am full time and the Senior Pastor Rev. Elder Dwayne Johnson is full time.

What is your annual operating budget? (declines to answer)

How do you feel the needs may be different of MCC believers/members in major cities vs. small towns or suburbs? The need for shelter, food, spiritual guidance, safe streets and community are consistent and driving forces for our neighbors no matter the geography. Where people congregate in a given location may differ, the ability to get around from place to place quickly may be different, and proximity to church may be a challenge. Many times in a suburban environment, the closest MCC may be hours away. This proves to be a challenge to establishing community. In an urban environment, the unpredictability of traffic is an issue in on-site attendance. It encourages us to seek different ways to reach out to and spiritually touch people (like livestream, remote campuses and other ways to make it easier for people to connect).

Are you doing a Good Friday or Holy Saturday service? One is planned for Good Friday, yes. We also held a Maundy Thursday service.

What times are your Easter services? 9 and 11 a.m.

How is your Easter Sunday morning worship different? We usually welcome more people to our services on Easter (Christmas Eve too). We have several ministries in our worship arts ministry (9 a.m. choir, 11 a.m. choir, First Sunday Choir, Moving Spirit Dance Ministry, Eclectic Praise Band, Drama Ministry, sound board, audio/visual) who minister on different Sundays throughout any given month. Most of our ministries will offer their gifts together during our Easter Sunday Services.

What was your attendance for Easter 2017? About 300 throughout Holy Week last year.

As the mainline churches have become more welcoming, what does MCC offer that they do not in your opinion? I don’t think it is so much a matter of what one offers against the other. I believe there is enough hurt and spiritual violence in the world that requires that all of our spiritual organizations reach into the communities in which they serve to help as much as possible to counteract messages of hate, violence and harm. Is there a place and a need for MCC into the future? I would say absolutely yes, without a question or doubt in my mind.  Many of our congregants have let us know that they appreciate going to church where many in the church have similar perspectives and challenges as they do. They can come as their entire selves and the affinity communities in which they are a part — leather, drag and a variety of others.

Are there many cradle catholics and/or cradle evangelicals in your pews? As those bodies have dug in their heels against LGBT folks, how does MCC have relevance to those believers? We understand (mostly from membership class) the faith background of those who regularly attend our services. About 20-30 percent come from a Catholic background and 10 percent from evangelical traditions, 60 percent from other protestant faith traditions and a small number of those from the Jewish and Buddhist traditions. One thing that is difficult to do is to paint the denominations and the people in them with the same broad brush. There have been hurtful, spiritually violent and life threatening damage done as a result of some of these institutions. I think it is important to remain open to inviting conversation and common cause. There are things we can agree on and perhaps we can be the agents of change to enter in to conversation to impact hearts and minds. This is done on a personal level primarily and not necessarily on a denominational one.

What kind of faith community were you raised in if any? I was raised in a Christian tradition: Baptist and Catholic. 

What’s a kernel or verse in the gospel resurrection narrative that especially resonates with you or that you may be preaching on Easter Sunday? For me, the progressive message of the Jesus who defied the oppressive Roman government forces provided a new way to be in relationship with God and each other. Our theme this year is Rising Strong, influenced by Brene Brown’s book. We are encouraged to rise strong to be our authentic and truest selves.

What’s a general scripture passage that continues to resonate with you? I’m partial to the Psalms as they sing the songs of the human condition — love, joy, connection to the Divine, lament and hope.

What’s your favorite hymn or sacred musical selection? I love all kinds of music. I particularly like “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood and “My Help” by Jackie Gouche Farris (Psalm 121)

Overall how is the MCC needle shifting? Where do you see the fellowship going in the next 10-20 years? I see MCC continue to speak out for justice, and to live out Micah 6:8 “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”

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Real Estate

City inspection codes: How easy is it to fail?

Be sure to check ventilation, smoke detectors, and more

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Landlords are required to install and maintain smoke detectors in their rental properties.

In the District of Columbia, rental properties are required to meet certain health and safety standards. These standards are set by the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

If you own a rental property in the District of Columbia, you may be required to have your property inspected by the DCRA to ensure that it meets these standards. The inspection process typically involves a DCRA inspector visiting the property and checking for any hazards or code violations.

It’s important to make sure that your property is in good condition and meets the District’s health and safety standards, as failing a rental property inspection can have serious consequences. If your property fails the inspection, you may be required to make repairs or upgrades in order to bring it into compliance. If you are unable to do so, you may be forced to stop renting out the property until the necessary repairs are made.

Overall, the likelihood of failing a rental property inspection in the District of Columbia will depend on the condition of your property and whether it meets the applicable health and safety standards. To minimize the risk of failing an inspection, it’s important to keep your property well maintained and address any potential hazards or code violations as soon as possible.

In the District of Columbia, landlords are responsible for maintaining their rental properties in a safe and habitable condition. If a rental property is not in compliance with the city’s health and safety standards, the landlord may be cited for code violations.

Some common code violations that landlords in the District of Columbia may be cited for include:

• Lack of adequate heating or ventilation: Landlords are required to provide sufficient heating and ventilation systems to ensure the health and safety of their tenants.

• Electrical or plumbing issues: Landlords are responsible for ensuring that their properties have functional electrical and plumbing systems. All plumbing fixtures must be properly sealed, in other words, no holes in the walls. All water heaters require pressure relief valves

Structural issues: Landlords must maintain their properties in a safe and structurally sound condition.

Pest infestations: Landlords are required to address and eliminate pest infestations in their rental properties.

Lack of smoke detectors: Landlords are required to install and maintain smoke detectors in their rental properties. Detectors must be placed 36” from ceiling fan blades and away from the path of the HVAC registers.

Proper locks: All exit and security gate locks must be easy to operate and must not require a key to exit.

It’s important for landlords in the District of Columbia to be aware of these and other code violations and take steps to ensure that their properties are in compliance with the city’s health and safety requirements.

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, go to www.ColumbiaPM.com.

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Business

Canino Dog Boutique offers healthful food, accessories

Cati Sesana opens new store on Belmont Street in Northwest

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Cati Sesana owns Canino Dog Boutique at 1409 Belmont St., N.W. (Photo courtesy Sesana)

Cati Sesana was sitting at home trying to help her mom find a local shop in D.C. that would have a cute sweater for her dog but couldn’t find much outside of the big-box stores. Last month, she opened Canino Dog Boutique to solve the problem.

“I was like ‘Let me do some research,’ there are shops like this in New York but I don’t know of one in D.C.,” she said.  

However, Sesana had a long journey from researching the pet boutique business to her opening day. Sesana played water polo at George Washington University and majored in music, so she didn’t know much about starting a business. 

One of her first tasks was figuring out what she was going to sell. 

“Initially I was just going to do accessories or apparel and not treats or food,” she said. “But I got really deep into pet nutrition and what’s going to make your dog live the longest.”

She recalled the initial trouble she had with finding food for her dog, Aiko and wanted to eliminate that worry for her customers. 

“I only carry two dog food brands, so I kind of get rid of that overwhelming decision-making that’s like, ‘What do I do? What’s right for my dog?’ so I only carry brands I know and trust,” she said. 

As for her apparel and accessories, she only sells products from small and local shops that don’t have distribution in major retailers. One of the local shops Sesana purchases from told her that she was their first retailer and that since then, business has improved. 

“By shopping here, you’re helping other small businesses and it all kind of domino effects,” Sesana said. 

As a first-time business owner herself, Sesana knows all about the obstacles of trying to get a small business off the ground. 

 “The biggest challenge was finding a landlord that would give me an opportunity,” she said. 

Sesana visited spaces in a lot of high foot-traffic shopping areas, like Georgetown and met plenty of landlords who loved her concept but didn’t want a first-time business owner. 

“I think the pandemic scared landlords from giving smaller businesses a chance, because so many closed,” she said. “But then the personality of a neighborhood kind of disintegrates a lot. … Why would I come to 14th Street when I can shop from Lululemon online?”

Finally, Sesana was given a chance for a space just off of 14th Street on Belmont Street. Conveniently located next to Streets Market and across the street from Doozydog! Club.

On Nov. 6 she opened her doors and has worked every day since then. The store is open Monday through Friday, from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4-7 p.m. and on weekend 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sesana is currently the only employee. 

“I am the company graphic designer, customer service, and dog walker!” she said, motioning to her dog lying in his doggie bed. 

After Sesana closes the store, she is out into the night playing the drums in a band. 

She says that being a musician has given her the right mentality to get through the long days at her boutique. 

“Slow days are tough, but I can zoom out and see the bigger picture,” she said.

Canino Dog Boutique is located at 1409 Belmont St NW, Washington, DC 20009

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Real Estate

Top tax benefits of homeownership

Mortgage interest, property tax deductions, and more

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Thinking of buying a house? Here are some of the many tax advantages that come with homeownership.

As we are closing out 2023 and getting ready to start 2024, now is a good time to review what tax benefits most homeowners are getting. There are several categories that you can look at to see if you will benefit from being a homeowner. According to RocketMortgage.com, here are some of them:

  • Mortgage interest.  Most newer homeowners are paying more on the interest in their monthly mortgage payment than on the principal, so this could be a big tax benefit.
  • Home equity loan interest – HELOC (home equity line of credit) loans are like a 2nd mortgage on your home. Many homeowners can use it to make upgrades to their house and interest on these loans is deductible if you used it for that purpose.
  • Discount points – for those of you that purchased in the last year or so these may apply, as these are the price paid to lower an interest rate on a loan.
  • Property taxes – depending on where you live, your state and local property taxes may be a big source of tax deductions for you.
  • Necessary home improvements – even if you did not use a HELOC to improve your home, some of your expenses in this category may be deductible.
  • Home office expenses – as more and more people are working from home, this should not go unexamined in your search to find tax deductions.
  • Capital Gains – a capital gain is the difference between the value of a home when you sold it versus when you borrowed it. So, if you sold your home for a significant profit and did not roll over those gains into a new property within a short period of selling the old property, then ask your tax professional up to which amount of these profits are not taxable.

We asked Tina Del Casale ([email protected]), a DMV-area lender with Sandy Spring Bank, what she thought about the tax benefits of homeownership, and here is her answer:

“Most homeowners wish they knew sooner that most every major home improvement can reduce your future capital gains when you are ready to sell your home. While the deduction for a single person is $250,000, and for married couples is $500,000, the DMV has seen property appreciation that outpaces those numbers. So keep ALL your receipts for replacement items like your HVAC, windows, doors, roof, major landscaping and updating bathrooms and kitchens. You will thank me later! Of course most importantly consult a tax adviser for up-to-date information!”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us if you have more questions and happy holidays! Let’s get you home for the holidays.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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