Church History

Who is The Church of the Saviour?

The Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC is a network of nine independent, ecumenical Christian faith communities and over 40 ministries that have grown out of the original Church of the Saviour community founded in the mid-1940s. The current ministries and faith communities are the result of an alternative approach to “church” and church structures which is the hallmark of the Church of the Saviour.

Mary & Gordon Cosby

Mary and Gordon Cosby

The Church of the Saviour, envisioned by Gordon and Mary Cosby in the early 1940’s, was incorporated in 1947 in Washington, D.C., when they and seven others became its first members. From the beginning, church members sought to embody Christ in intentional and sacrificial ways, welcoming radical diversity and calling all to be ministers through the generous sacrifice of time, energy and resources.

Interpreting the call to discipleship as the integration of two journeys in community–an inward journey to grow in love of God, self and others and an outward journey to help mend some part of creation–the church became the catalyst for numerous helping ministries primarily in Adams Morgan, a neighborhood two miles north of the White House.

In 1994 The Church of the Saviour became a “scattered community” of 8 small faith communities (today there are 9). Each of these churches is independently incorporated and seeks to embody its own unique vision, missions and structures, while striving to maintain an “integrity of membership” in the spirit of the founding church. The churches share a membership commitment as well as similar formation processes, which often include participating in a mission group and taking classes in the church’s School of Christian Living, as well as joining the community in its ongoing life of worship and celebration. Formation for an intern member might last as long as one to three years. Annually, after a period of intentional discernment, all members renew–or withdraw–their covenantal membership.

“Integrity of membership” helps members to really choose whether or not they still are called to the challenges and joys of this way of journeying with Jesus and Jesus’ friends. At the heart of the church’s model is Call–each one, together with others, discovering unique ways to carry part of God’s dream. In small mission groups, members gather around a shared vision for embodying healing and hope–the outward journey–and the group then becomes accountable to one another for the inward journey, including ordered practices in the areas of prayer, study, money, health, work life and so on. In this way the mission group members, and all with whom they are in relationship on the outward journey, help each other find fullness of life.

Today, more than 60 years later, Gordon and Mary Cosby and others continue to play with new ways of becoming the authentic Church.

Gordon Cosby and Dale Lature

Gordon Cosby and Dale Lature, talking over issues in recent years.

What might happen if people started coming together in small groups, not drawn by their “sameness” but deliberately organized around perceived differences–of race, economic class, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc.–and from that point of diversity vulnerably opened their lives, told their stories, unmasked their shared addiction to a societal system that has kept them alienated, and then together began to take steps toward healing and justice?

Being with others on a deepening inward and outward journey, listening for Spirited callings and creating structures to support and enable the dreams that are given, are at the heart of The Church of the Saviour “tradition.” Rather than having set programs or methods, this is an organic model for being Church, seeking always to embody more deeply the essence and nature of Jesus Christ, who brings good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed–proclaiming an era of Jubilee for all God’s family.