My husband and I were introduced to Westminster Church by a dear friend, Margo, who enjoys the extraordinary jazz and blues concerts held in the sanctuary. We learned that there are over 2,000 talented musicians in the Washington, DC area. Westminster Church embodies everything that a place of worship could provide and is open to all. It is a holy place that is constantly evolving -- recognizing and embracing that all of us have unique gifts to nurture and share.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so you can test and approve what God's will is."
- Romans 12: 2

"Westminster was chartered in 1853, when the dome of the Capitol was still under construction with the help of slave labor. The Southwest part of the City was called Tiber Island and it was home to many immigrants and working people. It was here, in this fringe of the city that more established churches uptown decided to start a new mission. Westminster has remained true to that calling to serve those on the margins-from early help for freed slaves to the housing of poor homeless families, from starting a ministry for those with HIV/AIDS in the early days of the epidemic to opening the sanctuary to the sounds of Jazz, rejected as profane in so many churches. ..." Complete History of Westminster Church

1950s Rebuilding
Southwest, Washington, D.C.

"...In the 1950s, city planners working with the U.S. Congress decided that Southwest should undergo a significant urban renewal - in this case, meaning that the city would declare eminent domain over all land south of the National Mall and north of the Anacostia River (except Fort McNair); evict virtually all of its residents and businesses; destroy all streets, buildings, and landscapes; and start again from scratch. Only a few buildings were left intact, notably the Maine Avenue fish market, the Wheat Row townhouses, the Thomas Law House, and the St. Dominic's and Friendship churches. The Southeast/Southwest Freeway was constructed where F Street, SW, had once been.

The rebuilt Southwest featured a large concentration of office and residential buildings in the brutalist style that was then popular. It was during this time that most of the Southwest Federal Center was built. The heart of the urban renewal of the Southwest Waterfront was Waterside Mall, a small shopping center and office complex, which housed satellite offices for the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Arena Stage was built a block west of the Mall, and a number of hotels and restaurants were built on the riverfront to attract tourists. Southeastern University, a very small college that had been chartered in 1937, also established itself as an important institution in the area.

Following a proposal by Chloethiel Woodard Smith and Louis Justement, renewal in Southwest marked one of the last great efforts of the late Modernist movement. Architect I. M. Pei developed the initial urban renewal plan and was responsible for the design of multiple buildings, including those comprising L'Enfant Plaza and two clusters of apartment buildings located on the north side of M St. SW (initial termed Town Center Plaza). Various firms oversaw individual projects and many of these represent significant architectural contributions. Noted modernist Charles M. Goodman designed the River Park Mutual Homes complex. Likewise, Harry Weese designed the new building for Arena Stage and Marcel Breuer the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building (located at 451 Seventh Street, SW) to house the newly established United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Federal Building. The Tiber Island complex (the design of which was essentially replicated in the adjacent projects that are now termed Carrollsburg A Condominium and Carrollsburg Square), which was designed by Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon, won an American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1966. ..."

Jazz Night/Every Friday Night

"Jazz Night is a cultural arts program presented every Friday evening at Westminster, 6 to 9 pm. It includes D.C.'s finest jazz artists who help continue the heritage of classical, straight-ahead jazz. D.C. is a jazz mecca. Generations of the finest musicians, such as Duke Ellington, Shirley Horn, Billy Taylor and many more who emerged from DC, have helped create a lively community of vibrant jazz.

Jazz is the great American art form - America's classical music. It has been the soundtrack to our 20th century struggles for freedom, justice and wholeness as a nation and as distinct communities. At Westminster we value that heritage and keep it alive - for our elders who lived through turbulent times and for us, the descendants, trying to bring integrity to our lives.

Jazz is creative. Its uniqueness is found in the process of improvisation. It values individuality within the context of intentional harmony. We each have a voice but that voice only has meaning within the ensemble experience. Responding to the expressions of our brothers and sisters, our own pronouncements have power, significance and a sense of urgency. Jazz and Jazz Night is a metaphor for a community's struggle for meaning, unity and purposeful expression of love. To this experience and this process of individual and collective self-consciousness you are warmly welcome!" Jazz Night in DC

Doors open at 5:00. Admission $5. Youth 16 and under free. Food sales from 5:30-8:30 pm. (VISA and MC, check and cash accepted for food sales). Limited parking in the church lot, neighboring commercial garages, or on the street. Readily accessible by Metro. Take Green line and get off at the Waterfront stop. Take escalator up. Walk straight out and you will see the Safeway across the street. Continue walking about one block. Westminster Church is on the left as you are walking from the metro train stop.

A Bit About Jazz

"Jazz is a genre of music that originated in African American communities during the late 19th and early 20th century. It emerged in many parts of the United States of independent popular musical styles; linked by the common bonds of African American and European American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz spans a range of music from ragtime to the present day-a period of over 100 years-and has proved to be very difficult to define. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note, as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music, the brass band tradition, and African musical elements such as blue notes and ragtime. A musical group that plays jazz is called a jazz band. The birth of Jazz in the multicultural society of America has lead intellectuals from around the world to hail Jazz as 'one of America's original art forms'. ..." Jazz

Blue Monday Blues Night

"Blue Monday Blues is a project launched in 2006 by Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation. It happens every Monday evening from 6-9pm at Westminster Church. Blue Monday welcomes a great many of the area's finest electric, down-home artists who offer incredible live performances for a diverse audience of folks from around the D.C. area. Our hope is fulfilled weekly: that people will feel uplifted, affirmed and welcomed to dance, sing and enjoy the gift of life conveyed through these songs. Blues touches the great depths of life while lifting us to a place of joyful fullness.

Blues is a truly great American art form. With distinct influences from African, Caribbean and Southern U.S. origins it expresses the passion of people very familiar with adversity and hardship. Perhaps this is why it has such a compelling appeal: it affirms the human capacity of transcending these difficulties and reclaiming a new harmony. Blues is anything but sorrowful; it leaves you with a renewed sense of vitality and offers a new way of seeing things and confronting the world."

A Bit About the Blues

Blues is a genre and musical form that originated in African-American communities in the 'Deep South' of the United States around the end of the 19th century. The genre is a fusion of traditional African music and European folk music, spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. The blue notes are also an important part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect called a groove. ..." Blues

For More Information:

"This bi-monthly program is a public service of the Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation. The Saturday afternoon events, from 1-3pm, provide a opportunity to learn more about jazz and help preserve the unique American art form. The free program always features an author or artist who uses audio-visual resources to explore a particular area of expertise. Lively discussion follows with Q & A. Hearty refreshments are served along with the fun of door prizes. Book-signings are often part of the event. ..."
Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation "Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation is a public, non-profit organization chartered in the District of Columbia in 1997 under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Service Code Section 501(c)(3). It was established to promote broad-based community development in Washington, D.C., particularly as it relates to the near-Southwest quadrant of the city. Four strategic areas of community life are dealt with specifically to accomplish this larger goal. ..."
First posted: Jan 28, 2015
Last update: Jan 20, 2020