St. John’s Episcopal Church, the historic Washington, D.C., congregation based near the White House, agreed to have security fencing erected in response to repeated vandalism on its property.
Recently, the church property has been at the center of vandalism and violent encounters between police and protesters following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
St. John’s Church Rector the Rev. Robert W. Fisher sent a message to the parish last week, the letter being cosigned by Senior Warden Paul Barkett and Junior Warden Jeff Hantson. Fisher explained that church leadership was contacted by city officials about building protective fencing around their property, in light of renewed violence.
“After a thorough discussion,” the church explained, and after discussing matters with Bishop Mariann Budde, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, “we reluctantly agreed to the fencing.”
“While we hate both the fencing and the boarded-up windows, one of our main responsibilities as rector and wardens is to protect the buildings. Our hope is to remove both the fencing and plywood as soon as practicable.”
The parish letter went on to note that, in the meantime, they have “much work to do” regarding various matters, including plans to eventually return to holding in-person worship services.
“In the coming weeks we must return our attention to regathering and reengaging our congregation, while continuing the conversation on racial healing that we started the past two Sundays,” the message continued.
“Our Regathering Task Force is hard at work planning for our safe return to in-person worship. A survey on that topic will be released shortly.”
Drawing its history back to the early 19th century, St. John’s is known as the “church of the presidents” as many commanders-in-chief have attended worship there over the generations.
During the recent upheavals regarding police brutality and racism, the property of St. John’s was the victim of an arson attack and, later on, was spray-painted with graffiti.
The church was also the subject of a controversial photo-op by President Donald Trump, who posed outside of the building holding a Bible after police cleared out demonstrators.