Parish of St. Monica and St. James  
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
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Who is St. James?

St. James the Greater was the author of the Book of James in the New Testament and was the first apostle to die for the Christian faith. In the gospels James is named as the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. James and John were mending their fishing nets in their father's boat in Galilee when Jesus called them to become His disciples. Jesus used the Greek word Boanerges (“sons of thunder”) to describe James and John because of their fiery tempers, impetuous characters, and firm convictions. Of the twelve disciples, Jesus permitted only Peter, James and John to be with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Herod put James to death by the sword. St. James' feast day is July 25.

Who is St. Monica?

St. Monica of Hippo (A.D. 332–387) was the mother of Augustine, who wrote extensively of her virtues and his life with her in his Confessions. Monica was born in the North African city of Tagaste. As a mother, she sent Augustine to a bishop to be convinced of his errors. The bishop, however, was unable to prevail, and he advised Monica simply to continue to pray for her son, telling her "It is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish." At the age of 28, Augustine received grace, according to his Confessions. He came to orthodox Christianity and became a great theologian. Monica's son is now known as St. Augustine. St. Monica's feast day is May 4.

Why are you sometimes called Anglicans?

The Episcopal Church of the USA is one of the branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion and is an offshoot of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is our spiritual leader. He is often referred to as “First among equals” when he interacts with the bishops of the Anglican Communion around the world. The Anglican Communion has approximately 60 million members worldwide; the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) has approximately 2.4 million members. 

Things seem different here from some Episcopal parishes I’ve been to. What is the origin and reason for your style of worship? Is this what’s meant by Anglo-Catholic?

One of the great strengths of the Episcopal Church is its ability to embrace a diversity of ways in which to worship God.  Our own community's style of worship is a result of the Oxford movement in the 19th century, which sought to restore to worship meaningful ancient Christian rites that were abolished during the 16th and 17th century Protestant reforms in the Church of England. Anglo-Catholicism calls for a return to the doctrinal traditions and practices of the early church.

Your Worship page mentions the Anglican Missal.  What is that?

The Anglican Missal is the product of the liturgical movement in the United Kingdom in the Nineteenth Century in which there was a renewed emphasis on the witness of the Saints and a reincorporation into the Mass of elements of the Latin and Sarum Rites that mark a day-by-day progression throughout the church year.  We hope that the richness of this tradition will provide for you a unique worship opportunity and open a portal to the Divine that speaks to your soul.

What about the Word?

Sermons at St. Monica and St. James are most often liturgical, seeking to relate the Holy Scripture and our worship to the daily lives of our people. The Word preached is the effort of our clergy to expand our understanding of God’s love and purpose for our lives.

May I take communion?

Yes. If God has put the desire in your heart, feel free to receive the Holy Communion with us. You need not be a parishioner or a confirmed Episcopalian. 

How do I go about becoming baptized or having my children baptized?

You can simply talk with Father Williams – who will be very pleased to see you! 

What is that delightful fragrance in this church?

It’s liturgical incense. In less sanitary and hygienic times, the Early church, believing that the smoke could purify objects and people who were censed with it, started using incense during the Holy Eucharist. Today, we use it symbolically to signify our prayers rising in our sight, in God’s presence.

At St. Monica & St. James', we burn liturgical incense that is produced by the Anglican Benedictine monks of
Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York.  Depending on the liturgical calendar, any of the following blends could be used: St. Benedict, Sancta Crux, Santiago, St. Augustine.

It is a good example of our Anglo-Catholic approach to worship: engaging our whole self and all our senses. Sight, sound, motion, smell, taste, and touch – all of these things assist us in worshipping God.

Is that gorgeous music coming from a parish choir?

Yes, the choir is made up of parish members. Music is a crucial part of our worship at St. Monica and St. James. The choir sings a wide range of repertoire from Gregorian chant to contemporary pieces. The service music and hymnody represent a breadth of music tradition. Of course, there is always room in the choir for more voices! 

How old is this building?

The original building was built in 1880 (on land purchased and donated by the then-Librarian of the U.S. Senate) and consisted in what is now the nave. The current sanctuary (the space behind the communion rail) was completed a year or two later. The Great Hall came next, followed by the space for the current nursery and the kitchen below. The rectory (the residence of the rector) is the newest building on the parish grounds. 

I keep hearing and reading that the Episcopal Church is the church of the well-to-do. Is that true of this parish?

In our congregation you’ll find people with a wide variety of financial means. 

What should I wear to church?

There is no “dress code” or need for fancy attire. Communicants dress as they themselves feel is appropriate.

How is this parish able to continue to in the center city? Aren’t urban parishes in trouble?

St. Monica and St. James plays an important role in the Capitol Hill community. It is a place where tradition in our worship prepares us for life in a very dynamic society. It is a place where people forge new friendships, enjoy a sense of family, and find unique opportunities for service in this community of faith.

What’s your policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people?

Our religion and our faith tradition here at St. Monica and St. James are our policy, not only for LGBT people but everyone else as well. The sign on the street says “The Episcopal Church welcomes you” -- and we mean it. 

How can I feel more a part of the community?

If this is your first time at the Parish of St. Monica and St. James, please sign our visitors' book or fill out a visitor's card so we can keep you informed about church activities. Regular attendance at Sunday worship and the coffee hour following is a good way to become familiar with new faces and allow members to become familiar with yours. Several times a year, we hold a Newcomer’s Class where you can meet in a small group with the priest-in-charge to learn more about life at St. Monica and St. James. Volunteering to serve at mass, helping out in the parish office, setting up or cleaning up after the coffee hour, singing in the choir or participating in adult education classes are other good ways to become a part of the community. If you’d like a call from Father Williams personally, simply indicate that on your visitor’s card. He will be delighted to speak with you! 


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