May 18, 2018 at 3:34 pm EDT | by Jim McGrath
No new church for ‘dwindling congregation’ at St. Thomas
St. Thomas, gay news, Washington Blade, DCCA

St. Thomas’ Parish Episcopal Church (Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid via Wikimedia Commons)

This is in response to Peter Rosenstein’s Article, “DCCA doesn’t speak for Dupont,” May 11, 2018.

When Rosenstein says, “DCCA doesn’t speak for Dupont, I would point out that neither does he. I believe that DCCA does so with far more credibility than Rosenstein, however, since his piece on St. Thomas contains more errors than there are seeds inside of a pomegranate. Moreover, I doubt that DCCA purports “to speak for Dupont,” a grandiloquence that a thoughtful, professional, progressive and long-standing neighborhood organization like it is unlikely to adopt, but one which Rosenstein has no qualms assuming for himself.

Rosenstein derides DCCA membership numbers. However when I attended DCCA meetings in the St. Thomas church hall, which I believe accommodated a few hundred, the place was packed. That was not true for Sunday morning services in the same place, however, which sadly reflected the “dwindling congregation” pointed out by its long-time rector, Father Henry Breul.

For that very reason he adamantly opposed building a new church, since maintaining the old one threatened the parish with bankruptcy, and the costs of a new church even more so. Father Breul confided these facts not only to me, but publicly to the community at large many times. Instead of a superfluous and non-sustaining new church, he gave the neighborhood a beautiful churchyard park, and devoted saved resources to outreach activities such as a Gay-AA meeting place, both of which were in place for the next 40 years.

A new church on that site is an instance of “Edifice Complex” and a Faustian bargain with developers to finance it by a hugely out of scale residential property on a small, congested site, whose “market-rate” units only the affluent can afford, continuing the affordable housing dilemma facing the city, which regrettably sports a “welcome sign” for the rich and an “exit sign” for the poor.

With Olympian, uninformed disdain, Rosenstein belittles all opposition to the St. Thomas Church as inconsequential. Then, introducing an incredible “red herring,” he links it to protest about the bars on 17th Street as some kind of cabal. He sheds copious tears over the “thousands of dollars” spent by the bar owners, but nary a word about the “millions” they gained by concessions and expansion. I can count numbers as well as Rosenstein, and I remember the ABC Board Hearing Room filled with protesters regarding the bars. Those protests reflected opposition of hundreds of tenants and residents almost next door to those bars complaining about noise and disruption.

Since Rosenstein is fixated on numbers, I would remind him that in addition to DCCA, the many residents on Church Street and nearby residential locales, those protesting the church site include the D.C. Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition (TENAC), which represents all who live in rental housing, two-thirds of the city, or an estimated 400,000 people, which unanimously passed a resolution against the St. Thomas redevelopment proposal at a thronged meeting in the Great Hall at the Sumner School. Rosenstein admits he lives a block away from these sites, perhaps he should move in a little closer for a better perspective.

 

Jim McGrath is chair of the D.C. Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC).

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