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INSIDE STORY: Touched by an angel at D.C. congregation

WASHINGTON — There’s an angel singing behind me.
I’m sitting on the second row at the 13th Street Church of Christ, a predominantly black congregation in the nation’s capital.
On the pew right behind me is a young woman with a remarkable voice. When I sneak a peek, I notice that her eyes are closed and her hands lightly clapping as a heavenly melody pours from her.
“I’m so glad that Jesus lives in me. I’m so glad — so glad — that Jesus lives in me. I’m singing, glory hallelujah, Jesus lives in me.”

My friend Lisa Brewer, whose husband, Greg, serves as a deacon at the Wilkesboro Church of Christ in North Carolina, encouraged me to visit the 13th Street church during a recent trip to the Washington area.
“You will find the warmest welcome ever there! We LOVE that congregation,” Lisa Brewer told me in an e-mail.
So I took a Metro train from my hotel to a subway station near the 13th Street church in northwest Washington.
When I walked into the church building, brothers and sisters in Christ greeted me with friendly smiles and loving handshakes. I immediately felt at home.
Guess what, Brewer was right about this congregation!
She was right about something else, too: The services run a good two hours at the 13th Street church, not counting Bible class. However, the incredible singing and preaching make it seem like 10 minutes.
Minister Graylon A. Freeman, a Detroit native with three decades of preaching experience, wears a bright red sports jacket as he steps to the pulpit. He takes his lesson from Psalm 124 and preaches on escaping the snare of the Devil.
He strolls into the audience. He calmly, at times comically, touches on common temptations: buying drugs on the street, sleeping with someone who is not your spouse, losing your temper, getting drunk, spending more money than you make.
“The Devil knows what entices us. The Devil knows what’s going to trip us up,” Freeman says. “Amen?”
“That’s right,” the crowd echoes.
Freeman’s voice rises in a crescendo as he declares the Good News.
“Whatever it is that’s binding you up. Whatever it is that has enslaved you. Whatever it is that’s tripped you up. But blest be God!” the preacher exclaims. “The snare has been broken!”
About 150 people worship at the 13th Street church on a typical Sunday. Many ride the subway or drive from the suburbs to attend services here.
Rodney Broadnax, who sat beside me on the second row, has been a member since the Navy transferred him to the area in 1995.
“I like the atmosphere for my family,” said Broadnax, who has a wife, Kelly, and a daughter, Kirby 12. He grew up at the Woodin Boulevard Church of Christ in Dallas.
The 13th Street church, started in 1934, has outgrown its facilities. There’s a “For Sale” sign outside the building. The congregation has bought property about seven miles away in southeast Washington.
“Our ministries are really hindered here if we try to have any type of activities, Gospel meetings, revivals or special fellowships,” Freeman told me after the service. “There’s no parking whatsoever.”
Lisa Brewer came in contact with the 13th Street church through her son, Zack, 21, an international studies major at American University.
“Zack has found a wonderful spiritual confidante and adviser there in brother Freeman,” Lisa Brewer said.
Zack is white, but race made no difference at the 13th Street church.
The congregation reaches out to university students — regardless of color — through its SAFE ministry, which stands for Student Academic Family Enrichment.
“Black, white, Hispanic — we have all kinds of nationalities, and they come from literally all over the world,” Freeman told me.
Sherice Nelson, the angel behind me, came from California. She grew up at the Southside Church of Christ in Richmond, Calif., north of Oakland. She’s attending graduate school at the University of the District of Columbia.
And yes, Nelson, 22, has loved singing for as long as she can remember.
“Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” is her favorite hymn.
“When I was little, like 4 or 5, I used to get the songbook from church and sit on the toilet and sing. And I’d be there for hours,” she said with a chuckle.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
  • Feedback
    Bobby, I’m so glad you got to visit; I wish everyone could! Congratulations on your recent awards. Much love to you and Tamie and those wonderful kids. 🙂
    Lisa D. Brewer
    Wilkesboro (NC) church of Christ
    North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
    June, 1 2010

Filed under: Inside Story

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