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the Rev. Dr. Luis León


about 150

Service Length

75 minutes

Sample Worshipper Dress

American-flag Hawaiian shirt, blue jeans

Bow Ties


Treaties Signed on Premises

the 1842 Webster–Ashburton Treaty, which settled the Canadian border in Maine, shared navigation of the Great Lakes, and ended maritime slavery

Congregational Fervor

Located across the street from the White House, this Episcopal parish has seen the attendance of every president since James Madison. There’s even a special “presidential pew” with kneelers embroidered with such names as Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and William Howard Taft. No such personalities were in attendance at a recent service; instead, a few uptight couples occupied the hallowed bench, casting sidelong glances at fellow congregation members.

Food for the Soul

León peppered his sermon with well-placed dramatic hooks that kept the congregation’s attention. “Why is betrayal the only truth that sticks?” he inquired poetically while riffing on the concept of “thorns” as presented in 2 Corinthians 12:2–10. His conclusions were stirring, if overly Hegelian: “Tension is the pulse of life,” declared León. “Without contraries, there can be no progression.”

Food for the Body

Cookies, iced tea, and lemonade were offered to the congregation during an outdoor fellowship hour after the service. A sampling of the lemonade revealed it to be pleasantly tart and highly refreshing. The cookies, though tasty, were only a step removed from Pepperidge Farm territory.

Overall Worship Power

Fully embracing the multimedia age, St. John’s has an extensive photo album on its Web site. Here, one can get a more personal sense of the congregation by paging through several years’ worth of baptisms, Christmas celebrations, and a photo of a somewhat awkward-looking President George W. Bush entering the church.

—Aaron Leitko