Letters from the rector and wardens of St John’s Lafayette Square following arson attack

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1 June 2020

Dear Parishioners,

We are writing from the Parish House where we’ve been able to fully assess the damage from last night’s protests.

As we know many of you have already heard, there was a small fire in the parish house basement. Thankfully, it appears to have been contained to the nursery—though, as you might imagine there is smoke and water damage to other areas of the basement.

We’re very happy to report that the rest of the church and parish house is untouched except for some exterior graffiti, which the city’s graffiti team has already covered up.Fire investigators are still working, but once they are done, we have a crew standing by to secure the buildings.

Please know how grateful we are for the support and messages we’ve received in thepast days. Please continue to pray for our community and our country.

In peace,

Rev. Rob Fisher, RectorPaul Barkett, Senior WardenJeff Hanston, Junior Warden

1 June 2020

Dear St. John’s Community,

It has been a difficult night. If you have not seen it yet in the national news, a fire was set to St. John’s nursery tonight, but I am happy to report that the fire is completely out. I have just returned home from the church, and it is 1:58am as I begin writing this note.

My family and I had in fact left town on Friday for what we hoped would be a long weekend of R&R. We were essentially camping, almost totally off the grid. This morning our plan was to drive to where there was cell reception and watch the Pentecost service together. However, word got to me that the protest activity was intense and growing, so we quickly changed plans and drove back here as fast as we could.

In the car I was in touch with the wardens and also Bishop Mariann, with whom we have begun plans for making St. John’s a place for offering a ministry of presence—against racism and for God’s healing and compassion in the days ahead. I hope that many of you will join in this. (Please contact help@stjohns-dc.org to join this effort!)

The protests that began peacefully grew to something more, and eventually a fire was lit in the nursery, in the basement of Ashburton House.

Like many of you perhaps, I had little access to information about how bad the fire was while it was happening. It felt horrible to see glimpses of smoke rising by the stairs to our entrance on national TV, and then to have it confirmed with an up-close video showing the flames in the basement.

Fortunately, it was in fact completely extinguished. I just assessed the damage as best I could, in the semi-dark and with a flashing, bleating alarm system that I could not figure out how to shut off. My ears are still ringing, and I am still coughing a bit from various fumes I inhaled. But I am happy to share with you that I could see no other real damage besides that one room, and quite a bit of graffiti and debris around the exterior of the church. Protestors easily could have done a lot worse to our buildings, but they chose not to do that.

(The damage I saw to other nearby buildings illustrated this point.)

None of this changes our purpose to be an instrument for God’s work through all of this, and in fact now more than ever. I pray for our collective wisdom, grace, courage and compassion as we move forward into what God is calling us to do and be next.

To the many of you who have reached out in various ways—thank you!

Shalom,Rob+ [The Rev. Robert Fisher]