05 December 2010

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

After coming to St. Anselm’s, I asked Kate’s friend Richard to pick a church for this Sunday. He picked Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, a parish that I’ve been looking forward to visiting for a while. The same group, Richard, Kate, John, and I, headed over to Holy Trinity from the Rosslyn Metro Station. We crossed the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and walked up a strangely placed set of stairs to get to the church at 36th St. NW. John pointed out that the stairs looked like the ones featured in a famous scene from the horror film, The Exorcist. As it turns out, they were.

            Holy Trinity is another one of the churches in contention for the title of “oldest parish in Washington.” It was formed in 1794 by Jesuit missionaries, the same year that St. Patrick parish (located downtown) claims to have been formed. I’m certainly not one to settle these kinds of disputes, but there appear to be two important questions: 1) which parish was formed earlier in 1794? and 2) should Holy Trinity be removed from contention since Georgetown was not considered to be part of the city of Washington at the time?  I think St. Francis De Sales can also throw its hat into the ring because of its claim of descending from the Queen’s Chapel, where Catholic worship started in 1722. Anyone have a good answer to this question?

            The church itself was built in the early 19th century, and it certainly doesn’t feel much like a Catholic church. Both the inside and outside of the building feature tall Corinthian columns, indicative of the “Greek Revival” style of architecture popular during the early 19th century. The outside looks very much like the White House, the Treasury building, and many other federal buildings. Because of its large, overhanging balcony, the interior felt a little like Ford’s Theater.

            The mass was very crowded. We were a little late and had to stand at the back of the church. There were lots of families there with small children, and we heard plenty of the whining, shouting, and crying that usually comes with such an environment. I quite enjoyed listening to the choir perform. There were about eight singers accompanied by three guitars and a pianist. They performed some of my favorite Advent hymns, including “O Come, O Come, Immanuel,” and “Soon and Very Soon.”

            In his homily, Father Murray discussed the calls for reform that were presented in today’s readings. Jesus left his apostles to do his work of bringing peace on earth. Since the world has not changed, some claim that he was not the Messiah. Father countered this argument by saying that the world has not changed because we have not taken Christ’s message upon ourselves. He told the parish to care for the poor and to “exclude no one from our love.”

Also, at the end of Mass, I realized that Speaker of the House (soon to be House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi was in attendance. I managed to snap a picture of her as she left. This is my third major politician sighting while visiting Catholic churches around the country. This summer, I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger at church in Santa Monica and this fall, I saw Joe Biden, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas at the Red Mass in Washington, D.C. I wonder who’s next?!



View of the Interior of the Church from the Upper Balcony

Speaker Pelosi Leaves The Building:

Churches That I've Been To So Far (The list is getting big!)

View Churches I've Been To So Far in a larger map


  1. Political sightings at church. Must be DC :]!

    Nice post man!


  2. There is no good answer to the question of the first/oldest church in DC. St. Peter's also puts in a claim (somewhat weak) tracing themselves back to Duddington Manor.

  3. Oh, two more thoughts. There is a great book entitled "At Peace With All Their Neighbors" about the early history of Catholicism in DC (http://www.amazon.com/Peace-All-Their-Neighbors-Catholicism/dp/0878405577).

    It talks a lot about Holy Trinity. I would highly recommend it.

    Unrelated, but as you visit various spots, did you know there is a public Sunday Mass at the Vatican embassy on Massachusetts Ave., NW? I think it is very early - 8:00 am or maybe 7:00 am. Go to the chapel door on the north side and ring the bell and they will let you in.

  4. Kurt, I was hoping you would have an answer for me! That book sounds great, and I will definitely remember the Vatican embassy.

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