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the Revs. Brian and Ruth Hamilton

Service Length

1 hour


about 40

Sample Worshipper Dress

jeans, red blouse, lime-green blazer

Grand Pianos in Sanctuary


Congregational Fervor

Westminster Presbyterian’s history, dating to 1853, mirrors its neighborhood’s; the congregation’s original building was destroyed in the Great Society–era Southwest slum clearings. It now occupies a bright, airy pale-brick structure tucked among parks, apartment blocks, and the Waterfront Mall. Not that all congregants are local—one member, in search of a suitably progressive flock, commutes from Manassas. HHHHH

Food for the Soul

At a recent service, Ruth Hamilton’s “Children’s Message” explained one of Christianity’s most enduring metaphors. “Sheep are some of the dumbest animals…so they need a shepherd to watch over them,” she said. “That’s why we say God is like our shepherd.” Later, in the main sermon, she pondered the historical Jesus. “We could peg his market niche, his sociological position…his skin tone,” she said. “But would we know why he’s our redeemer?”HHHHH

Food for the Body

Post-service refreshments consisted of a frosting-laden German chocolate sheet cake, crackers and crab dip, strawberries, and a bowl of chilled orange-pineapple-banana juice. HHHHH

Overall Worship Power

Sunday services aren’t Westminster’s biggest draw—that would be Friday evening “jazz nights,” where a rotating cast of musicians plays free for all comers. According to Ruth Hamilton, attendance averages about 340 people weekly. Somewhat more sparsely attended are biweekly “labyrinth walks,” where chairs are cleared out of the church and replaced with candles and meditative music, allowing visitors to contemplate a maze tiled into the floor. “We’re not just welcoming Christians,” she says, rather “seekers, people who need peace.” HHHHH

—Mike DeBonis