April 4, 2019

Coming off the heels of an incredible second full day in DC, we awoke enthusiastic to plunge into the last full day we would spend here. As luck would have it, the weather was absolutely ideal—sunny and 68 degrees with a cool spring breeze.

A short jaunt brought the crew to a relatively new addition to the Smithsonian family of museums: The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Positioned just north of the Washington Monument, this iconic building was designed by the same architect as the Museum of the Bible just about a mile away. As we entered the museum, we were taken underground three floors on an elevator, symbolically sinking back in time, to a time of seemingly irredeemable darkness at the beginning of the African slave trade.

Shuffling through the three floors of pictures, documents, artifacts, and descriptions I was brought to tears multiple times as I tried to appreciate the unimaginable grief of the plight of the African American community in the United States and around the world. Similar to the unease I felt at the National Holocaust Museum the day before, it was difficult to move through the gravity of the content of the museum. How can something like this happen? How could anyone strip another person of their humanity for the sake of economic gain?

But among the atmosphere of deep despair something inspiring shone through the entire history of African American culture—faith. From the days of slavery through today’s continued race discrimination, the love of God and mercy of Christ never gave up. While physical freedom, equal rights, and simple dignity was taken away, no one had the power to take away faith.

An echo of what I learned at the holocaust museum rang in my head—God’s love prevails. Since the dawn of creation humankind has known evil and through these thousands of years, God hasn’t forgotten us—he hasn’t given up on us. I believe learning our history reveals so much truth if we are willing to let it sink in. It has been a humbling, enlightening, and inspiring journey through the history of our country these past few days. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience history through the lens of my faith.

After our time at the African American Museum, we spent the afternoon enjoying the pleasant weather and seeing some of the Capitol City’s famous spots including the reflecting pond, Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. All are reflections of the idea that we as a nation have struggled to achieve freedom and equality for all and there’s still work to do. We closed the evening with a dinner together at Carmine’s Italian and topped it off with some local gelato, all while talking about the lessons and emotions that struck us the most. Discovering DC with my family of faith has been even more moving than I expected and I can’t wait to return again in May!

St. Luke’s will continue to plan trips to Washington DC to visit the Museum of the Bible and other sites in the coming months and years. If you’re interested in going on a trip, please reach out to me!

Beth Armstrong
Director of Adult Ministries