How Church of the Atonement Seeks to Bless Their Community

by | Sep 28, 2023

Our Parish Vital Signs series continues with this article from Patricia Warr-Marshall, a parishioner at Church of the Atonement, DC, who shares the various ways the parish seeks to bless their community through community engagement, partnerships and direct services– all stemming from a deep and fluid understanding of community needs.

The Episcopal Church of the Atonement, located in Ward 7 of Washington, D.C. is an integral part of the Capitol View Community and has been for over 109 years. Sustaining a church for over a century has created a beloved and synergistic relationship with the surrounding community.

Ward 7 is often identified as one of the poorest Wards in the city. For Atonement, Ward 7 represents a vibrant and increasingly diverse community. We currently service the Capitol View Community in a myriad of ways, especially collaboratively with residents, non-profits, and businesses.

Food insecurity is prominent in our community. After receiving an increasing number of calls and drop-ins inquiring about the availability of food, in 2016 Atonement determined this as an area of need to address and opened a food pantry. As a partner with the Capital Area Food Bank (“CAFB”), we currently serve as a Ward 7 produce hub and distribution center. The produce hub operates every third Tuesday and provides fresh produce to other CAFB partner organizations in the immediate area. Atonement volunteers gather early to put together nearly 300 bags of produce to be picked up by the CAFB partners, who, in turn, distribute to individuals and families in their areas. Over the past three years, this hub has resulted in thousands of pounds of fresh produce being distributed to thousands of families in and around Ward 7. We have been additionally blessed with the assistance of volunteers from Christ Church, Georgetown. Each month, Christ Church provides volunteers to help pack bags of produce on produce hub Tuesdays. Every fourth Saturday, Atonement distributes non-perishables, meats, and some fresh produce to our neighbors in need. Again, many thousands of DC residents have received food since our pantry’s inception. Most of those served by our food pantry are seniors. In addition to food items, we offer toiletries and clothing when available.

In 2017, the East of the River Steelband moved its artist-in-residence program to Atonement. The East of the River Steelband provides a unique musical and high-quality arts experience for youth, centered on music education, youth development, and cultural heritage in the under-resourced communities of Wards 7 and 8. We have proudly supported its dynamic and talented band of youth. Atonement has hosted several performances of the steel band, supports its fundraising efforts, and simply enjoys the musical genius of the band. The East of the River Steelband has been an excellent community partner with Atonement.

Summer camps have also sprouted at Atonement. Last year Atonement hosted eGateway Capital Development Corporation Summer Camp. This past summer we hosted the Multi Media Training Institute’s (MMTI) Summer workshop along with the Capstone Group of Howard University summer youth program led by Mrs. Maria P. Jones. Children and young adults gained valuable insight into the world of film, both in front of the camera and behind it. Activities included screenwriting, filmmaking, production, and video making, as well as, acting and directing.

MMTI has partnered with the city to further workforce development efforts in our community. MMTI is offering training courses in media, IT, construction, entrepreneurship and job readiness. They have chosen Atonement as the center of operations for training.

Atonement also partners with neighboring schools to provide school supplies. Each year the Daughters of the King spearhead the collection and distribution of book bags and school supplies. Through donations from Washington National Cathedral and Atonement members, we are able to provide students and schools with the greatly needed supplies. This effort has continued for many years.
With the theme, KEEPING OUR MINDS, BODIES AND SOULS HEALTHY, Atonement hosted a Walk-A-Thon and Health Fair on Saturday, September 16th. This was the third year of our health fair and the second year of the walk-a-thon. Our church and broader communities came together to strengthen our bodies while walking. We learned different ways of taking care of our minds and bodies while enjoying a beautiful day with good food and fun activities for children and adults.

Atonement embodies the parish vital sign of Blessing Our Community through community engagement, partnerships, and direct services. We look forward to another century of service and partnerships. To God be the GLORY!

Patricia Warr-Marshall
Parishioner, Church of the Atonement, DC

This is one in a series of articles exploring how parishes around the diocese are implementing the Vital Signs of Parish Health.