When Abraham Smith retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1996, the last thing on his mind was preaching from a storefront in one of the most depressed areas of the nation’s capital. But an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church asked the lieutenant colonel and ordained minister to create a new congregation in the district’s troubled Petworth neighborhood. Smith found he couldn’t refuse.
“I had no experience or knowledge or background other than what the Lord planted in my heart,” Smith said. He has pastored the Christ Our Redeemer AME Church for seven years now from a brick-faced storefront on Upshur Road in Northwest Washington.
No more than 30 people pack the tiny church on Sunday mornings, swelling their voices to the size of a large gospel choir, praising God for giving them life in a place where death may wait on the streets outside. “The men and women and children here, they don’t have lives,” Smith said. “They are walking dead today.”