Historic Luther Place was founded in 1873 as a memorial to peace and reconciliation following the Civil War. Located in downtown Washington, DC, the building is the shape of a ship, symbolizing a vessel for God’s work, with the rafters in the shape of a keel. In 1972, Luther Place founded N Street Village, a ministry providing temporary and long-term housing, substance abuse treatment and employment services to homeless and low-income women. The Steinbruck Center for Urban Studies is a social justice and interfaith ministry of Luther Place founded in 2001 to educate people on the N Street Village model. Luther Place is a vibrant, welcoming and diverse community that practices “rainbow hospitality.”
Worship at Luther Place is creative and varied. The 9AM service offers contemporary worship and music, with accompaniment from keyboard, guitar, string bass, saxophone and percussion. The 11AM formal worship uses liturgies from a variety of traditions. Singing is accompanied by the pipe organ and supported by the Chancel Choir. Luther Place is also known for hosting creative alternative services such as the “bluegrass pet blessing” and “funky evening vespers.”
The arts are represented in worship through such things as grand Advent and Lent hangings and “live painting” during worship. Outside the doors of the church, Luther Place is known for is displays of “junk art” in their sacred commons.
Luther Place has been working to engage its outdoor space with
gardening and art, advancing a vision of the land
as a “Sacred Commons.” A Sacred Commons is a notion of place that is both
community oriented – open to all and available to all – yet sacred: sacred in its roots,
its development and in its offerings. Regular gardening, the installation of a new
garden, and the painting of a door of St. Francis are all part of bringing the Sacred
Commons to life. Luther Place seeks to create a space of peace, beauty and joy in the
midst of a frantic urban scene.
Building upon this existing ministry, while working with other ministries that use their common space, Luther Place hopes to expand its Sacred Commons. It will create and dedicating two new doors, including a new Martin Luther King Jr. Door and Dorothy Day Door, host outdoor art shows, and develop liturgies for use within the sacred commons.
1226 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington DC 20005
Congregational Project team members:
Rev. Karen Brau, Senior Pastor. Karen has served as senior pastor at Luther Place since 2008. Before this, she was pastor in the inner city of Baltimore, where she was instrumental in forming Amazing Grace Luther Church and the Amazing Port Street Project. In addition to working tirelessly with the various ministries of Luther Place, Karen likes to sing, dance and garden.
Jack Reiffer, Parish Administrator. Jack is “a pastor with gifts for administration.” He oversees the finances at Luther Place, and manages the building, serving as the contact for the various groups that utilize their facilities. Jack’s hobbies include singing in the Gay Men’s Chorus, and facilitating a support group for Gay Men in straight marriages.
Kristen Kane-Osorto, Coordinator of Community Life and Justice. Kristen works with both the Steinbruck Center and the N Street Village. At Luther Place, Kristen strives to fuse social justice theology to prayerful reflection and real action. She facilitates adult spirituality forums, SoulFeasts, social justice retreats, community organizing with the Washington Interfaith Network, bread making and tending the sacred commons.