January 05, 2022
The Spirit of Foundry
For me, Foundry is a place and a spirit, a community and a cloud of witnesses.
I first entered the Foundry building as an undergrad at George Washington University. Thinking that it would be fun to learn to play a new instrument, I signed up for organ lessons with Dr. Eileen Guenther at Foundry. My organist-boyfriend and I became EG groupies. What a musician! I wound up leaving school and boyfriend, however, and wouldn’t return for 18 years.
In 1998, I was living at 16th and L. I wondered if Eileen Guenther was still at Foundry and she was! Back at Foundry, I found the music transcendent, and the preaching intellectually stimulating.
Together they stirred a powerful vibe in the eclectic congregation, which then included the President of the United States, the First Lady, and the First Daughter. I was raising my first Guide Dog puppy, and she attended church with me, becoming one of the few dogs who have taken communion with the President!
For the next sixteen years, I was involved in a myriad of activities at Foundry. I prepared the elements for communion, I was a confirmation mentor, taught Sunday School, helped organize after-service lunches, the Women’s Retreat and church picnics, served on the Church Council, in the ministry to help end homelessness, sang in the Gospel Choir, participated in reading groups, and, even now, I regularly attend a regular small group gathering.
Then in 2014, my partner and I sold our Washington home and discovered we could not afford another near my workplace. Our solution was to purchase far away in the countryside and rent a place close to my work. I was not happy about it. Spending the weekend out there meant missing Foundry. I wasn’t around as much. I couldn’t attend as much. I did, however, maintain relationships.
The pandemic kept me fulltime at our place by Shenandoah National Park. But I attended Zoom Jubalate choir gatherings on Sunday mornings and watched the service. Living close to the wilderness enabled me to develop an increasingly profound relationship with nature. After courses on nature and forest therapy, I have become a guide. Now I appreciate both homes -- Foundry and the Forest.
I have grieved not being physically present at Foundry. But the Foundry spirit is about deepening our relationships, with our Creator and our fellow human beings. This spirit transcends place, recognizes every person’s dignity and the power of collective love to change anything. In this spirit, all life is beautiful, and everything is possible.
Sarah Stiles became a member of Foundry in 1999. She is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University where she shares the Foundry spirit with young adults that they may love one another – and go out and change the world.