Response to Incident of Violence at Western

Dear Western Friends,

I write you with great sadness from the corner of 24th and G Streets to confirm an incident of violence yesterday afternoon.  As you may have heard in news reports, a man was stabbed outside our 24th St. entrance just as Miriam’s Kitchen was opening at 2:30 p.m. 

Thanks to immediate action from MK staff, first responders arrived within minutes to care for the victim and apprehended the suspect in Washington Circle. As police closed down the entire block and therefore access to the church, you would have been proud of both MK and Western staff as they assisted police and worked to feed guests using the sanctuary side of the building.

In the face of an ongoing investigation, you should know:

  1. Safety and security remain important to the staff and leadership of both Western and Miriam’s Kitchen. As Western’s Session continued with its regular meeting last night, they requested that I be in touch with you to confirm not only the facts of what happened, but their ongoing commitment to everyone impacted by what happens in our building. In a gathering this morning, MK CEO Scott Schenkelberg reaffirmed his own commitment, reminding those present that it has been at least eleven years since any known violence with a weapon in the proximity of the church. In the event of ongoing concerns, please be in touch with me or Sterling.
  2. The trauma related to this act of violence has ripple effects.  I’ve watched people come and go all day today, reminded of how many people are touched by what happens on this corner.  We remain in prayer for the victim and the suspect and those who love them, for the Miriam’s Kitchen and Western Church staffs, as well as for all who live, work, and study around this corner in Foggy Bottom. This incident particularly highlights the traumatic vulnerability of our neighbors experiencing homelessness and the significant impact of shelter in sustaining life.
  3. The grace in response to trauma has ripple effects, too. I’ve been touched by the response of our community and presbytery reaching out in concern; the session moderator at Northminster Presbyterian Church let me know that they have been praying for us.
  4. Western Church remains a space for God’s life-giving, love-sharing Spirit.  Although our sacred space has been desecrated by an act of violence, we remain centered in a God whose love is stronger than hate, whose light is stronger than darkness, and whose life is stronger than death. I have been in conversations regarding how other communities of faith have responded to acts of violence in their midst.  We will act to reclaim our witness to God’s love and peace at work, not just for ourselves as a church, but as an invitation and on behalf of those impacted in our Foggy Bottom community.

The church will keep you informed as appropriate.  In the meantime, I invite you to join me in prayer.  The following comes from our Book of Common Worship:

For those present at a traumatic event:

God of the ages, you have always been faithful to your people.
Come to us now, we pray!
Give comfort and courage to those who are suffering.
Give strength and skill to those who are working to save and to heal.
Give us your peace that passes all understanding in these moments of shock and sorrow.
Open our eyes, hearts, and hands to the movements of your Spirit,
that we might be comforted and comfort others
in the name of Christ, our healer and our light.  Amen.

Grace and peace – may you know them deeply,

Laura Cunningham