An inclusive, justice-seeking church

Christian Education

Christian Education at NYAPC

Learning about our faith, its tenets, its history, and how we might live that faith out in our everyday lives is a lifelong pursuit. Therefore, Christian education at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church intends to involve the entire church community—children, youth and adults, and people of all races, ethnicity, abilities and family configurations. Because we define ourselves in part by our hospitality, we try to incorporate variety, intergenerational opportunities, and experiential learning into all that we do. We currently have approximately 40 regularly attending children and youth and about 50 regular attendees of the adult church school classes. In addition, because our classes for children and youth are team-taught, adult participation in the church school program is larger than the numbers above suggest.

Christian Education for Children and Youth

Child Care/Nursery: We currently employ three kind, gentle and well-trained nursery workers certified in CPR and emergency care for infants and children. They care for our infants, toddlers and children four and younger. From September through May, the nursery is open from 8:30 AM to 12:45 PM. In the summer the nursery is open from 9:00 AM until noon. The times can be expended for special events.

Children in Worship: We welcome children and youth fully into the worship life of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

From September through May, children remain in worship until just before the sermon during the early [8:45 AM] service. After the Children’s Time, the children accompany Alice Tewell, the Associate Pastor, to her office for Worship Play or remain with their parents/loved ones in worship. Children under four most often are taken by parents to the nursery instead of Worship Play. Children attending the 11 AM service remain in the sanctuary after the Children’s Time. They may go to a space set aside in the sanctuary and equipped with children’s books, paper and crayons.

From June until September, children under four can remain in worship, unless their parents choose to take them to the nursery for child care.

Children and Youth in Church School

At 10 AM every Sunday from September through May, the children and youth of the church and their parents and teachers come together for Gathering Time. At Gathering Time, they praise God through prayer and song and share special happenings of the past week and of the week to come. The children, youth and parents then disperse to their individual team-taught, multi-age classes for the rest of the hour. In recent years, in addition to worship, church school and confirmation classes, the youth have been encouraged to participate in mission trips led by other churches in the area. Our youth also participate in Presbytery-wide events.


Confirmation is the process by which young teens are given the opportunity to join fully the community of faith. We hold to a two-year confirmation cycle at NYAPC. A confirmation team of adult teachers meets with the students on Sunday mornings during the church school hour. There the confirmation youth receive instruction on the confessions of the church, church organization, Bible study, and experiential learning relating to faith practices. Each year we also have at least one weekend retreat. To culminate the two-year process, the confirmands and their adult sponsors make a pilgrimage to a place during Holy Week that is important in the history of the faith. In recent years confirmation classes have attended Ghost Ranch in New Mexico and Scotland.

Child Protection Policy

Since 2003, the Session of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has had in place a policy to ensure the safety of the children under our care.

Christian Education Opportunities for Adults

Adult Church School Classes

From September through May, adults are offered a wonderfully varied group of church school classes during the hour between worship services, 10 to 11 AM. Usually there are two to three elective classes available throughout the church that touch on a wide variety of topics, including Bible, theology, international relations, poetry, art, social issues and public policy, urban affairs and church history. We are blessed to be able to offer frequently the wisdom of seminary and university professors and experts at the forefront of national political and policy scenes. Our Fall 2014 adult church school offerings area available here.

The Parents’ Group convenes near the elevators in the Park Level. There parents can share their challenges, hopes, and dreams of parenting children in the faith.

From June through August, adult church school continues but at 9 AM, preceding the one 10 AM worship service.

Bible Study Groups: In recent years a number of small Bible study groups have formed that meet regularly and nurture the spiritual life of our church. If you are interested in joining such a group or perhaps forming one, contact Alice Tewell at 202.393.3702, x221 or at In addition, the long-established Presbyterian Women Circle meets monthly at member houses throughout the Washington area. The Circle warmly invites new members to join. If you have any questions, please contact Barbara Dornan at 703.971.9047.

Spiritual Formation Groups and Silent Retreats: Spiritual formation groups form on both an occasional and regular basis at NYAPC. At this time, Rev. Roger Gench convenes a study group at 10 AM two Thursday mornings a month in the Docherty Center. At other times, he leads an Ignatian disciplines class. In the last year, we have gathered for two silent retreats at the Presbytery’s Meadowkirk camp facility in Virginia. If you have any questions, please contact Rev. Gench at 202.393.3702, x225.

McClendon Scholar-in-Residence Program: Through the inspiration and generosity of our former Associate Pastor, the late Jack E. McClendon, NYAPC is the host church for a scholar-in-residence program. The program brings in prominent scholars to inform and ignite the imagination and energies of the New York Avenue congregation and the Washington community around issues of faith and action. The intent of the program is that the presence of the scholar and the lingering of his/her ideas will suffuse and work to transform our community and our community of faith. Thus far, Professors Walter Brueggemann, Frances Taylor Gench, Larry Rasmussen, Charles Swezey, Ron White, Susan Thistlewaite, Brian Blount, and James Cone have served as McClendon Scholars.

Ways You Can Support New York Avenue’s Christian Learning Program

You can offer to teach children and youth: All of our classes for children and youth are team-taught, so we are always looking for people who enjoy and work well with children. You do not have to be an expert with either children or what you’re going to teach. You will usually be teamed with other experienced teachers. We use tested curricula. We hold teacher training sessions in the late summer. You can consult Alice Tewell on any issue that arises. You will not be alone. Contact Alice at 202.393.3702, x221 or at

  • You can offer to teach or organize an adult elective course: The Adult Christian Education working group and the Adult Church School Coordinator welcome ideas for courses and people who are willing to organize and teach them. Courses may be of any length, from one session to as many as six. If you have an idea or would like to teach or organize a series, please contact Alice Tewell (see above) or Paul Dornan at 703.971.9047.
  •  You can become a member of the Christian Learning Cluster: The Christian Learning Cluster helps to set, implement, and monitor policy and programs for the church’s Christian education program. There is always much to do, and we would welcome your participation. The Cluster meets once every other month. Contact Paul Dornan at 703.971.9047 if you are interested.