A previous version of this article quoted a pastor from the Church of Christ who incorrectly characterized the beliefs of Mormons. An LDS spokesman said that the church views Christ as "the son of God, the Messiah and the savior of mankind."
Full Up, Fed Up On God's Avenue
Saturday, May 24, 2008
If 16th Street is famous for leading straight to the White House, it is also God's Boulevard, with at least 45 congregations lining the seven-mile stretch between Lafayette Square and Silver Spring.
But love thy neighbor? Not this time.
The Mormon church's plan to build another house of worship, one with a steeple-topped tower that will rise 105 feet, is inspiring less-than-holy thoughts among residents who recoil at the prospect of a new flock traversing their streets.
It's not just the traffic and parking congestion that they predict the Mormons will bring to 16th Street Heights, their lush residential neighborhood north of Mount Pleasant. And never mind that the area already has a dozen or so congregations, not to mention a host of other institutions such as schools and day-care centers.
But a tower that's the equivalent of 10 stories high?
"What are they trying to prove?" said Stuart Peacock, a lawyer who resides around the corner, his narrowing eyes punctuating his disgust. "It's too much."
Gloria Eblan, a software engineer who lives across from the property, at 16th and Emerson streets NW, envisions the kind of raucousness associated with a throbbing nightclub, not a church. She insists that a jackhammer-thumping construction project, followed by a weekly parade of chattering congregants will disturb her ever-precious peace.
"I don't want to come off as the anti-Christ, because I'm not. I just have my apprehensions," said Eblan, a crucifix around her neck. "The noise is going to drive me crazy. We're just trying to live our lives."
Dozens of homeowners have expressed opposition to the new church with lawn signs that read, "Too Big, Too Much, Too Many." And the Mormons are finding little support from the neighborhood's clergy, including one pastor who said his objection is rooted not in architecture, but theology.
"They don't accept Jesus as the Messiah; they accept him as the prophet," said Edward Wilson, pastor at Church of Christ, a block from the Mormon site. "It's wrong, I disagree with it, and I wouldn't want them in the neighborhood."
Mormon leaders have been surprised by the opposition, in part because so many churches are located there. But they said they're confident that their reception will improve once they build their two-story brick church, which will host two Sunday services and seat 240. The church will offer underground and aboveground parking, which the Mormons promise will minimize the congregation's affect on the neighborhood.
As for the steeple's height, they said it is a stylistic flourish necessary for an attractive church. "If you take out the steeple, it looks like a big home," said Jeffrey Holmstead, an environmental lawyer who serves as first counselor for the Mormons' Washington stake. "We want something that will be a credit to our church and the community."