We live two blocks south of the Maryland line, just inside the northwest part of Washington. We live two houses in from Massachusetts Avenue, too. And our address is 4416 which has always made me enormously happy because 4x4=16 and also, my birthday is 4/16. I adore the neatness there.
The intersection of Massachusetts and Western Avenues (Western being the dividing line between the District and Maryland) is a traffic circle, roundabout or rotary; DCers tend not to use rotary at all and most often traffic circle. But really, whatever you call it is fine. The city is riddled with them so you best figure out some moniker.
Westmoreland Circle has six spokes off of it, and in between Mass Ave into Maryland and Dalecarlia (pronounced Dell-a-carlia, as if those first vowels aren’t “a” and then “e”) Drive sits the Westmoreland Congregation United Church of Christ.
It is a beautiful church surrounded by always-green grass, a few picnic tables and a sign that regularly declares delightfully progressive things. When marriage equality for all became the law of the land, WCUCC put a rainbow flag up flanked by the message, “…And the greatest of these is love.” My eyes filled with tears of love and gratitude every single time I passed that sign, until they took it down, although the flag still remains.
My favorite part of the church, however, is its steeple which soars into the sky. It is as if the Earth has shot up a hand towards the heavens, trying mightily to hold tight and fast to both poles and all in between.
The boys and I drive by this steeple every morning on the way to school. I enter the roundabout on Mass Ave, drive past Butterworth Place NW and Western Ave before exiting onto Mass Ave once more. Every morning the same steeple soars, and yet a new scene awaits me. I anticipate it as I do breath, which is to say subconsciously but gratefully.
Some days the hand of Earth reaches through a blue sky toward a blazing sun. Other mornings it is the only contrast in a sea of gray. At times it looks bedecked with cotton balls and at others the arm of a great compass guiding believers some place.
Frequently I take pictures. Regularly I promise myself I’ll start taking one photograph every morning at roughly the same time. What a beautiful book of stasis and motion that would make.
I am not a believer, and I’ve never stepped foot inside the church. I’m sure I would be welcome, but I don't feel right.
Instead I stay outside, admiring the Sunday visitors, the new message on the sign out front, or the gleaming, expansive windows that line the long walls running parallel with the nave. Always I make time to look up at the steeple. Always I am rewarded.