Dear Friends, Comrades, and Co-Laborers in Christ,
As 2019 comes to a close, we’ve been thinking back on the many joys this year has brought. When we got married in 2016, we spent a lot of time discerning what we hoped our life together would look like and how we would prioritize values of hospitality and community in our little nook on the Northeast corner of Washington, D.C. Over this last year, we have felt like some of those hopes are starting to take shape as we settle into the roles and rhythms we hope will continue for many years. We continue to exist as an intentional community of hospitality and prayer called the Hiding Place, as we continue to believe that welcoming the stranger as if they are Christ is our resistance to principalities and powers of darkness that rain down oppression and injustice on the world’s poor.
One of the biggest highlights for JoLeah was finishing her Master’s Degree in Social Work. After two years of balancing internships, employment, and online coursework, in May JoLeah walked across the stage at Morgan State University with her mother and sister in the audience. Armed with her graduate license, she accepted a job as a school-based therapist with Mary’s Center, a DC-based nonprofit. JoLeah offers individual and group therapy to middle school students at a middle school close enough to our house that she can bike to it. JoLeah continued to expand her knowledge of herbal medicine (she completed an introductory herbal medicine course in 2018), creating several different tinctures and herbal remedies. The other big highlight for JoLeah was a celebratory trip to Ecuador with her friend Chareese. Hiking in the Andes, spending time at the beach, and trekking around the rain forest helped scratch her itch to travel abroad.
While JoLeah finished school, Brian spent most of the year balancing work, school, and gardening. He served as administrator for our church (Peace Fellowship), music director for another church plant, and taught piano lessons to 14 students. For the fourth year in a row, he ran a camp for neighborhood kids called Kingdom Camp through our church, employing young adults as counselors and serving almost 40 kids. At the end of the summer, Brian stepped down from his church roles in order to be able to commit more time to developing our urban farm and to writing pursuits. He completed a Permaculture Design Certificate, which will give him skills to develop our property sustainably. This fall, Brian began work on a thesis as part of his final requirements to finish a Master’s Degree in Theology at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute of Theology, where his brother and father are both professors. He has had the rare opportunity to take multiple classes with each of them and serve as a TA and Research Assistant for his father. He is hopeful this will lead to more opportunities to teach at the congregational-level in and around DC and to the opportunity to publish his writing on hospitality and husbandry.
Together, we traveled in the summer to Seattle to visit dear friends and hang out in Olympic National Park, and then spent the week of Thanksgiving visiting JoLeah’s family in Texas accompanied by our two energetic-yet-adorable dogs Luna and Merea and our friend Yi. We hosted three fantastic and well-attended concerts on our backyard stage, something that has become one of our favorite things to do together. Our fledgling urban farm had its best year so far, as we produced and sold honey from our hives, eggs from our chickens, and a great year all around for our vegetables. The local racoons partied a bit too hard when the Nationals won the World Series and we lost all of our chickens in one night! We were saddened, but life must go on with the farm and we have since added new ones who we hope will start to lay eggs again this spring.
We continue to make space in our house for hospitality. In addition to preserving a room (our “Christ Room”) for folks in need of a place to stay for a bit, we’ve been blessed to have a family from Harrisonburg live with us since March—they started as a family of 4 and gave birth to their 3rd child right here in our house in June! Though we had not met until a year ago, they have become dear friends and we will miss them when they return to Harrisonburg in the spring to open a bakery and develop a community of their own. In addition to their friendship, we have been spoiled with the artisan whole-grain breads and pastries that have been the fringe benefits of hosting a baker working at Seylou Bakery and Mill, a unique spot in DC that is getting national and global recognition for its innovation in the local food movement.
We look forward to 2020 for several exciting new ventures, including building an addition onto our house to allow Brian’s music teaching to have dedicated space and for us to be able to offer retreat space. Our prayer and meditation garden will hopefully (finally) get finished and we look forward to opening it up to the neighborhood as a source of peace and healing. We have been blessed with wonderful next-door neighbors who have been like second parents to us and have taught us what hospitality looks like in daily life, and we hope to grow to be as kind and generous as they have been to us.
We hope that you will pray for us, visit us, and partner with us as we literally dig deeper into our calling to be rooted in our neighborhood.
As Advent moves toward Christmas, we have felt drawn into the mystery of this season. There is so much darkness in the world, and evidence suggests that 2020 will continue to be a time where it is easy to despair. Yet the scandal of the Incarnation is a bold declaration that the darkness has not overcome the Light. It compels the darkness to retreat and invites the joyful response of all creation. We sing and plant gardens; we rejoice and continue to believe, though we have considered the facts which say otherwise, that resurrection is at work in our world and in our lives, and that these small acts of love resonate deeply in the eternal life we have entered into with Christ.
Brian and JoLeah Gorman
The Hiding Place 2019