Believing without Seeing
Believing without Seeing

Call in at 5pm EST

Dear Friend
of the Holy City:
Greetings my brothers and sisters in our time of quarantine. I know this is a tough time for everyone and I want you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Thanks to all who celebrated Easter with us last Sunday.


This past week Annabel Park agreed to serve as our new Vice President of the church. She has also been helping me coordinate these Sunday services. I apologize if anyone had problems last week. This week Annabel will manage the online process and here's her instructions:

Message from Annabel:
To register for the church service conference call, go to

If you have already registered, you don't need to register again. You will use the same number that you used last week. Please save the numbers for handy reference since you will be using them every week.

MaestroConference will send you a reminder email every week with your phone number and pin. Every participant is assigned a unique number and pin, so please don't share your numbers with others who want to join the call. Ask people to register.

During the call, participants are muted by default. To raise your hand to speak, press "1" on your phone dial-pad.

If you have any questions or have trouble calling in for the service,
please email, text, or call Annabel:  / 240-883-8647.
Social Hour
Last week we had a large and lovely social hour. Many of you asked theological questions and follow up thoughts from the sermon. One person commented that it felt like adult Sunday School.

Please feel free to check in on how you are doing during the social hour. Bring you own goodies.
Last Week's Sermon
I’m posting last week’s sermon below and will continue posting previous week sermons in the newsletter. I’ll try adding recordings if you request them. We are also working behind the scenes to update the website so all of this information will be available, and we can post sermons there soon.

You can also listen to services you missed by clicking the links below the Service Order on the right.

Service Order
Please save this newsletter and use the service order on the right-hand side . If you’d like to do a reading you can request in advance or I’ll ask for volunteers live.

Please take a minute and send in an offering.

You can mail a check to 1611 16 th St NW WDC 20009 or use PayPal

Please send me a photo of where you worship at home and I’ll include it in the newsletter as we each create our sanctuary.

Hang in there. I know these are challenging times. I’m glad we have each other and the Lord.


Physical Distancing

Social Outreach

Spiritual Connection

Your Pastor
Rev. Richard L. Tafel


Listen to the Recording of
Last Week's Service

Listen to the Angels at the Tomb

Happy Easter!

The Lord is risen!

And this Easter is like no other in our lifetime.

Like the disciples we are quarantined waiting for some good news.

We celebrate the empty tomb from empty churches.

There’s nothing normal about Easter this year.

And, that’s what really excites me today.

Something new is happening. Let’s not miss it.

This year, we are like the disciples. What don’t know what’s going to happen next. We don’t know who to believe. We look for the living among the dead. Our old ways of making sense are not working for us.

Much like the disciples the normal world we knew is gone. None of them imagined the new normal that was unfolding before them. We cannot imagine the world unfolding before us.

Part of us believe the women’s report of the risen Lord.
Part of us isn’t sure what’s happened.

We are in a challenging spiritual moment of seeing and not sure what to believe.

The Christian mystics offer us insights into making sense of our moment.

Swedenborg teaches us that before we can move into a new spiritual period of our lives, the old world must fall into chaos, and then be rebuilt. We call this period of chaos, suffering. We only grow spiritually by moving through it.

There is no Easter resurrection without the cross.

St. John of the Cross, a mystic, used one of my favorite phrases. He said to grow spiritually we must all pass through a long dark night of the soul.

There is no easy spiritual bypass, we all will move through chaos to new life. The only question is what we learn from the chaos?

In this unique and special Easter of 2020, we are part of something cosmic. The entire world is going through a long dark night of the soul, together. Things are falling apart so they can be put back together.

My favorite Franciscan priest is Father Richard Rohr. On Good Friday, I was fortunate enough to join other ministers in a time of reflection with him. He said many wise things, but I love his way of describing spiritual growth. He said, to grow spiritually, we must move from order, to disorder to reorder.

Think of Palm Sunday as order, the cross as disorder and the resurrection as reorder.

This cycle of change doesn’t just happen once in our lives, but it happens again and again if we are growing spiritually. Right now, for the only time in our lives, it is happening globally.

This idea that we must have chaos before the Lord can help put things back together again has been described as a spiritual house cleaning. Imagine you are completely cleaning out a house. You start by taking everything out on the pavement and piling it up there. You clean the house. You decide what goes back in and in what new ways. You dump things in the trash you no longer need. The period of chaos and disorder is unnerving. You can’t even sleep in your house. But when you put it all back in, in new and useful ways, it becomes a special and joyful place to live.

This Easter, the entire world and each one of us is being given the chance to reorder things.

This time of chaos gives us a chance to see everything with new eyes.

We get to see the false beliefs we have held.

We believed money, class, status and large properties would protect us.
We believed that I get mine and you get yours.
We believed we can hate different races, nations and people with different politics.
We believed those who control the markets are the most valuable.
We believe our faith saved us and condemned others.
We believed we will never die if we work out and eat well.

What we’re learning in this great unveiling is just the opposite.

We now know that your lack of healthcare is my lack of healthcare.
We now see that you your lack of an income is my lack of an income.
We now see when I say I hate you, I am hating myself.
We now see borders don’t separate us.
We now see that those we pay the least are the most valuable.
We now see that all faith paths are good.
We now see that physical death is something we all will face.

There are many responses to lessons during this unveiling in our collective long dark night of the soul.

Our political and business leaders will seek to get us back to normal.
Get back to work.
The stock market will rebound.
Let’s pretend this didn’t happen.
Let’s convince ourselves that it can never happen again.

I feel a lot of that. I want my 401k to improve. I want our church’s endowment to keep paying out. I want my old jobs. Most of us do.

But here is the tough lesson of Easter 2020.

If we rush back to normal, we’re missing the most profound global spiritual lesson of our lifetime.

If we simply move all that junk back into the house, there was no reason for the cleaning.

The truth is that we really can never go back to the old normal because we now we know it was never true. We’ve seen how the magic trick worked.

These past weeks, I’ve spoken to many people about their plans.

Yes, most talk about the date that things go back to normal.

Others of my doer friends speaks about the new world they hope to create.

Let’s try this.

Let simply be in this moment of Easter 2020 trusting we are in God’s hands.

Don’t rush back. Don’t rush forward.

Stay right here and listen. Listen to the angels at the tomb.

Why are you looking for the living among the dead?

Now that we’re on the sidewalk and our house has been unpacked, what will we leave out there when we return?

How will we reorder our life to serve others?

The suffering we feel is the recognition that we were never in control.

Resist those voices of fear and anxiety. They come from the hells.

Instead, listen to your angels who speak to you at the tomb today.

Don’t look for the living among the dead.

Stop the things that don’t grow your soul. Begin the things that will.

Resist the temptation to forget what we saw and what we learned.

Trust in the Lord.

That is the hope of Easter.

A photo take by member Maria De Los Angeles at the Basilica in Washington DC. She named it "the tenderness of now."
Home Altar

Order of Worship

Light your own candle.

Set up your Bible or holy book at home.

Opening the Word
Open your Bible at home.

You will be on mute when you arrive and we will "greet" you as you come in the door.

Welcome from Rev. Tafel

Rev. Tafel will greet everyone and ask for readers of the texts.

Everyone will be unmuted.

All: Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
whose face is hidden from us by our sins,

and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts:
cleanse us from all our offenses,

and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires,

that with reverent and humble hearts we may draw near to you,

confessing our faults, confiding in your grace, and finding in you our refuge and strength;


If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Amen


Acts 2:14a,22-32
P eter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16
Conserva me, Domine
P rotect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; *
I have said to the Lord, "You are my Lord,
my good above all other."
2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, *
upon those who are noble among the people.
3 But those who run after other gods *
shall have their troubles multiplied.
4 Their libations of blood I will not offer, *
nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.
5 O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; *
it is you who uphold my lot.
6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; *
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
7 I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; *
my heart teaches me, night after night.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; *
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; *
my body also shall rest in hope.
10 For you will not abandon me to the grave, *
nor let your holy one see the Pit.
11 You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Swedenborg Insight
To believe what is taught by the Word (or by the church’s theology) without living by it appears to be faith, and some people even suppose they are saved by it, but that faith by itself saves no one. It is a mere religious persuasion, the nature of which I will now describe. Religion is a mere persuasion when the purpose behind people’s belief in and love for the Word and the church’s theology is not service to their neighbor, or in other words, service to their fellow citizen, their country, the church, heaven, and the Lord himself. So their purpose is not living rightly, because life consists in serving these types of neighbor. Instead their goal is affluence, high rank, and a scholarly reputation. People with this kind of religion focus not on the Lord and heaven, then, but on themselves and their worldly advantages. ( Secrets of Heaven  §9363–64)

John 20:19-31
W hen it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


Press one on your phone to raise your hand to ask a question.

This is an opportunity to ask questions. Please keep your questions brief so everyone can ask their question.


Community Prayers
Here you can simply say your intention with a word or phrase. There's no need to explain details. The Lord knows what's on your heart. All of us will respond together after a prayer is made by saying,
"Lord Hear Our Prayer."

Pastor Prayer
Lord's Prayer (in unison)
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11  Give us this day our daily bread.
12  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


Social Time
Please stay as long as you like to update each other on how you are doing. Rev. Tafel will stay until the last person has shared.
Welcoming New Members

We are excited to welcome three new members into our church community. You can read more about them below.

A critical part of Church of the Holy City's mission is to reimagine church as we know it to provide greater service to humanity. To accomplish this goal we need you. We welcome members from a variety of beliefs and perspectives who are guided by a good heart and a desire to serve the Lord. Membership is open to people around the world, so please consider joining our community and helping us serve the Lord by being of our greatest use.

Please consider joining and supporting our unique mission in the world. Contact Rev. Tafel at We need you!

Scott Brickman is the managing director of Long Grove Capital an investment firm which invests in a broad array of businesses. Mr. Brickman is the retired Chairman and CEO of the Brickman Group, the nation’s largest landscape services company which under his leadership grew from a handful of regional branches to 170 branches throughout the country employing over 12,000 associates. Mr. Brickman also serves as a senior advisor to Kohlberg and Co. and the Conscious Leader Group. He sits on the boards of LandCare, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Aegis and Product Lab.
Active in philanthropy with a focus on poverty, homelessness and education. Mr. Brickman sits on the board of Catholic Charities, The Don Bosco Cristo Rey School, Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, and is a member of Venture Philanthropy Partners.
Johnny Guidry is o riginally from New Orleans, Johnny attended Louisiana State University where he majored in French and Spanish Language and Literature. Seeking a future in international business led him to a 13 year career in hotels, most recently as the Director of HR at the Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square and then Bloomingdale’s in Tysons Corner.

A series of personal difficulties led him to seek spiritual development, a path that ultimately freed him to change his life trajectory. In 2019 he became a personal coach with an emphasis on his clients’ spiritual and career growth. Johnny has lived in Washington DC since 2015. His joys include tennis, solo trips overseas, and wandering through the DC to find touches of beauty. He first attended Church of the Holy City on Christmas Eve 2018.
Tony Raffa is a young entrepreneur focused on creating social impact and redefining the social sector

Tony Raffa works at Marcum-Raffa Social capital advisors which is a strategy company that helps social impact companies around the world grow and scale their impact. Tony established Zombie Coffee & Donuts 6 years ago as a social enterprise to be a catalyst for positive change. Through its unique business model, Zombie provides a way for non-profits in its communities to fundraise through its giving back program and has raised thousands of dollars for over 100 non-profits to-date. 
Tony graduated from the University of Georgia and returns there often to lecture at classes and assist with the Society of Entrepreneurs at the university. He has been featured in many articles about social entrepreneurship and the power of giving back. 
Annabel Park was appointed to fill the vacant Vice President position as a church officer. Here she is picture with Rev. Tafel at the Swedenborgian Convention last summer.
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