Some of my favorite memories from working in the MCC Washington Office come from the lunches. We ate together in the main room of the office, seated around the table, talking through issues big and small, in agreement and disagreement. I was a two-year volunteer in the office, fresh out of my undergraduate studies and thrilled to be in the U.S. capital tracking and analyzing policy. The office, then located in the United Methodist building, had windows overlooking the U.S. Supreme Court. I often bicycled to work along the Mall, past the Smithsonian and Capitol buildings. Witnessing the heady trappings of political and economic power, visible and invisible, marked the focus of our work.
Yet there, in our charming – and dilapidated – office, seated around the table at lunch, we found another source of gravity that pulled us away from the powers and grandeur of the Capitol. The conversation partners included the regulars (full-time staff), part-timers depending on the day, shorter-term interns, volunteers and fellows, as well as visitors from any number of locales. It was here, at the table, where we wrestled with what biblical texts might mean in the context of the issues of the day; it was here where we disagreed and laughed together; it was here that we celebrated and lamented. While the act of eating together is itself powerful (Byron, I still remember “commensality”), the ways in which these honest conversations around difficult subjects were explored, drawing on our respective Anabaptist faith lenses helped maintain perspective and an even keel. What a privilege it was to sit around that table. Congratulations on 50 years, MCC Washington Office!
Photo: MCC U.S. Washington Office staff (April 1995)
Reina Neufeldt worked in the MCC Washington Office from 1994-1996.