Meridian Hill's Spirit Carries On At Interim Home

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 17, 2008

The Meridian Hill Baptist Church is not just the shell of a building on 16th Street in Northwest Washington that was ravaged last week by one of the worst fires the District has seen in years.

"It is the body of the believers," said the Rev. Calvin E. Cage Sr., the church's pastor, as his congregation sang yesterday of its faith in God in its temporary home in Prince George's County.

He'll fix it for you, just for you.

He'll know just what to do.

So whenever you pray,

Let the Lord have his way.

And I know he will fix it, just for you.

The building in Mount Pleasant, said to be more than 100 years old, is boarded up, its stained-glass windows and roof secured. The 400-member church shared its back wall with a four-story apartment building that was largely destroyed Thursday morning in the five-alarm fire. Nearly 200 residents lost their homes, and the fire also displaced several congregations and community organizations that used the church.

Many of the congregation's services, religious and social, were transferred to a sister church, the Cathedral of Christ in Chapel Oaks, in Prince George's near the District's northeast boundary. Cage is also pastor there. The two congregations regularly work together but usually worship separately.

Yesterday, the sanctuary of Cathedral of Christ, on Sheriff Road, was filled with worshipers from the District and Maryland. Classrooms were overflowing during the morning's Bible study.

"Fire can't take it away. Rain can't drown it," the Rev. George Parks Jr., Meridian Hill's assistant pastor, said as he paced back and forth in the pulpit. "It is something way down on the inside," Parks said to nearly a quarter of the Meridian Hill congregation who had come to the suburbs for the service.

Wagging his finger, Parks instructed everyone to look at the person sitting beside them and say, "Neighbor, there is no religion in real estate." The members happily obliged. "Neighbor, we haven't finished yet," he said. The members echoed him, then began clapping their hands and shouting "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!"

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