Pastoring in DC, Riots Hit ‘Close to Home’

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As rioters breached the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Wednesday amid protests while legislators met to certify the electoral college vote, Pastor Meg Jenista Kuykendall, who serves Washington, DC Christian Reformed Church, ministered to her congregation in the usual way—reaching out to parishioners by phone and text “with immediate concern for individual church members.”

She said at least once a week listening to the news becomes a moment of pastoral care follow-up. “It’s not just national politics, it’s the everyday life, vocational work of my congregation,” said Jenista Kuykendall, who has ministered at the Washington, D.C., church since 2012. 

Tuesday afternoon, as things were unfolding, she opened a Zoom meeting and was joined by a few congregation members to check in and pray with one another, something she has done as a pastor a few times since March, to minister to congregational concerns such as a member in the hospital. The congregation is using only online technology to gather and to worship together in order to prevent person-to-person contact as a measure against the spread of COVID-19.

Katie Ritsema-Roelofs, the church’s worship pastor, has been editing together pre-recorded segments of the liturgy each week, continuing the church’s practice of encouraging member participation by way of prayers, shared artwork, and readings of the confessions. Ritsema-Roelofs told The Banner that she and Jenista Kuykendall decided to flip everything but the planned preaching text, John 1, for worship this Sunday, to be more authentic to the moment. 

Jenista Kuykendall spoke passionately about communicating to the wider Christian Reformed Church that the members of her congregation who work as public servants are “in the nation’s capital right now doing the work of seeking the common good as Reformed Christians” that they were raised and taught to do. She sees a connection of the characterization of Washington as a “swamp” to events this past week and wanted to remind people, “Words have consequences.”

Two CRC members are House Representatives in Washington: Randy Feenstra from Iowa, and Bill Huizenga from Michigan. 

Feenstra told KCRG-TV9 on Jan. 7 that he was not in the house chamber at the time of lockdown Wednesday when the Capitol Building was breached. “I was just out of the chamber, so I was back at my office when it all really hit,” he said in an interview available online

Huizenga tweetedThank you to the men and women serving in the Capitol Police. Yesterday was a day none of us will soon forget and we are grateful for your service.”

On Jan. 8 the CRC’s Office of Social Justice posted a corporate prayer responding to Wednesday's violence. Director Mark Stephenson read the words written by Stephanie Summers and the Center for Public Justice.

Colin P. Watson, Sr., executive director of the CRCNA, posted a call for prayer on Facebook Jan. 6. On Friday he wrote a more formal call to the denomination for concentrated prayer and engagement, encouraging repentance and reminding Christians of our call "to be salt and light in our society."

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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Comments

I am very thankful to Pastor Meg and Pastor Katie for their kind, capable, and Spirit-filled leadership of my church home in Washington DC. 

I would also like to clarify that the photo at the top of this article is definitly not from the riot on January 6, 2020 and is misleading. Judging by the signs and people's clothing, I suspect this photo is from the Women's March in 2017. These were very different events and I would urge Banner editors to choose a photo for this story that depicts the January 6 riot which is the subjet of this piece.

Many thanks to the art director who made quick work and changed the cover photo to depict the January 6, 2021 riot. Appreciate you! 

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