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The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is a Presbyterian Church (USA) located just blocks from the White House that has played a signficant role in several key moments in U.S. history.
The church was home to Abraham Lincoln and his family during the time of the Civil War. Lincoln had a close, personal relationship with the pastor of the church at that time, Phineas D. Gurley, and Mrs. Lincoln and the couple's sons also attended the church. The church building now holds an early draft proposal of a compromise that was an immediate predecessor to the Emancipation Proclamation. The Lincolns paid pew rents to the church, which was the practice at the time. Visitors can view the pew where the Lincolns sat.
In the 1940s, the church's senior pastor was Peter Marshall, a Scottish immigrant who became a widely-known religious leader, and who was Chaplain of the U.S. Senate from 1947-1949. The story of his life was made into the movie A Man Called Peter in 1951.
In 1954, the pastor of the church, Rev. George Docherty, preached a sermon to a congregation which included President Dwight Eisenhower and the national press corps. There had been 14 attempts to insert the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance up until that time, and Docherty spoke freely from the pulpit in favor of the addition. Eisenhower later said that he agreed with the sermon, kicking off the final groundswell of public opinion that led to the joint resolution of Congress signed into law June 14, 1954. The insertion is widely seen as an anti-Communist measure, seeking to differentiate western democracies from atheist Communist states.
Today the church draws members from throughout the District and surrounding areas, and serves a variety of social missions. On Thursday nights the oldest tutoring program in the city meets on the church's fifth floor, and in recent years the church has taken an active role in advocating for DC's homeless population.
Located at 1313 New York Avenue NW, the church offers services at 8:45 and 11am from Labor Day through July 4 and one service at 10am in the summer. Historic tours of important artifacts are conducted after each service. The church's sanctuary is currently under renovation and will re-open on Easter, 2009.