I have been part of more than a few conversations with pastors about whether to allow patriotism into a church sanctuary or service. Sometimes, before Memorial or Independence Day, there will be an argument (sorry, "discussion") about whether "Battle Hymn of the Republic" can be used in the order or service or "God Bless America" can be a prelude. Sometimes, the discussion is whether there should be a U.S. flag in the sanctuary, and if so, should it be taller than the Christian flag. At the heart of these discussions is whether giving honor to the country and not just God in church constitutes idolatry.
The National Cathedral was built very close to that line. Because the District of Columbia was completely ruled by Congress back in the day, in 1893 that legislative body passed a charter that allowed the Episcopal Church to build a cathedral. In 1907, when the cornerstone of the church was laid, President Theodore Roosevelt was there, and when the final finial (decorative piece) was placed 83 years later, President George H. W. Bush was there. The United States Congress designated it as "the National House of Prayer." Three Presidential funerals (Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford) have been held at the Cathedral. Inaugural prayer services for a number of Presidents (FDR, Reagan, both Bushes, and Obama) have been held there.
So is it a place built to honor God or the Nation?
We went to the National Cathedral on Thursday. So what did we do on Sunday?
Ephesians 4:5: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism."
Service Length: 31 minutes
Sermon Length: 12 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Everyone greeted each other during the passing of the peace (and it seemed likely that everyone was a visitor). The priest greeted all as they left.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 15
Probable Ushers' Count: no ushers to count us
Miles to church: 6 miles
Church website: http://cathedral.org/
Service Length: 2 hours 27 minutes
Sermon Length: 55 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Early in the service, visitors were encouraged to fill out the cards in the church information brochures behind each seat (there wasn't a card in the brochure in front of us, but we found one).
Followup by Tuesday Morning:
none email Wednesday afternoon, apologizing for responding slowly to our visitor card.
Our Rough Count: 990
Probable Ushers' Count: 1100
Snacks: coffee, hot water for tea, lemonade, cold water, cookies
Musicians: acoustic guitar (man), vocals (2 men, 1 woman), piano (man)
Songs: "Thou Who Wast Rich"
"God, Whose Giving Knows no Ending"
"See the Destined Day Arise"
"Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery"
"Victory in the Lamb"
"Come, ye Sinners, Poor and Needy"
"Dear Refuge of my Weary Soul"
"Speak, O Lord"
"He Will Hold me Fast"
"Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today"
Miles to church: 18 miles
Church website: http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/
Service Length: 1 hour 49 minutes
Sermon Length: 15 minutes
Visitor Treatment: We were greeted at the door and asked if we usually attended at the other location (this was a special gathering of the whole congregation in honor of the Church's birthday). We happened to notice a visitor's card and filled it out, but didn't find the box where it was supposed to be deposited. We gave it to a regular attender who promised to turn it in for us.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 160
Probable Ushers' Count: 180
Snacks: decaf and water before the service, sandwiches, cake, decaf, and water for a special celebration after the service
Musicians: acoustic guitar (man), keyboard (man), vocals (woman), percussion (man), electric bass (man), electric guitar (man), choir (5 women, 3 men)
"You Brought me Back to Life"
"You are Good"
"You're a Good, Good Father"
"Down to the River to Pray" (choir, a capella)
"Must be Something in the Water"
Miles to church: 1 mile
Miles from start: 13,491
Total 2016 Miles: 13,184
Church website: http://thetablechurchdc.org/