Churches in the Capitol Hill area also bring together some strange bedfellows. Many local congregations serve outspoken Democrats and Republicans alike. Churches, though, provide a rare forum for bipartisan cooperation.
The Rev. Monsignor Charles V. Antonicelli, a pastor at St. Joseph’s, remembers several food and clothing drives where prominent staffers from opposing parties came together to help out those in need.
“They realize we are all Catholic Christians,” Antonicelli said. “Even if we disagree on how best to effect policy, we have something very important in common.”
“There are people with extraordinarily different political views who ordinarily run in different circles,” Griffin said. Church gives them the opportunity to get to know one another, he said.
Most clerics said their parishioners tend to avoid clashing during church activities and save their debates for later. “I’m sure they go out to lunch and argue about estate taxes or whatever,” said Andy Johnson, a pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
The nature of the Capitol Hill neighborhood lends local congregations a few other peculiarities. For one thing, many who attend services are well-educated and informed. Pastors here often find themselves tailoring their sermons to keep their listeners engaged.
“The challenge is to be up to date, to be current, to be intelligent, and to really know the faith myself so that I can help others to understand it,” Antonicelli said. “We want to make sure we speak in educated terms.”
And since political tides can sweep a party into or out of power overnight, the neighborhood’s residents are constantly in flux. Congregations are vastly different from one year to the next, local clerics said. And bringing together a busy, disunited group of people can be tough.
“The constant transient nature of the church is a real challenge in trying to build community,” Johnson said.
No matter who sits in their pews or for how long, the neighborhood churches share one goal: to remind the faithful that no matter how important their jobs are, their ultimate focus should be deeper.
“Their jobs are to rightfully improve things in this world,” Johnson said. “But that’s not ultimately where our hope is. If our party loses, we still have hope in Christ.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.