Metro riders have probably heard a man with a booming voice singing hymns and songs of worship at station entrances near Dupont Circle, Farragut and downtown. Andrew Lewis is the 50-year-old owner of that voice, and he’s been spreading his sharing his message with morning commuters for the past three years.
“The Lord spoke to me and told me to step out here on the streets and do full-time ministry,” Lewis said. “That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, reaching out by singing praise and worship.”
Ask Lewis what he does for a living and he’ll tell you: this. He keeps a donation box close by while he belts out holy praises at the top of his lungs.
Despite not having any formal musical training, Lewis shares this message through song. Though his message isn’t always well-received, Lewis said his goal is to be heard, even if people aren’t listening.
“I don’t have any complaints,” he said. “I’m doing what I’m passionate about, and that’s key. Regardless of what I’m going through, I know who my source is. That’s what got me through the fire.”
“The fact that I can reach people in the great capacity I have over the last three years is a blessing in itself,” said Lewis. “We’re in a world where not everyone believes, so I know what I’m up against. For the most part, it’s been a great journey.”
The Richmond native was ordained as a Baptist deacon in the summer of 2009. At the time, he lived in Newport News, Va., and worked with the ministry at the Providence Baptist Church.
About month after his ordination, Lewis was preparing to make dinner late one night by heating up some vegetable oil in a stockpot. He left the room for a moment and came back to find a disaster.
“When I came back into the kitchen, the apartment was on fire,” Lewis recalled. “I didn’t have a fire extinguisher and I wasn’t really thinking, so I pitched some water on it. It was just instinct.”
That panic-driven instinct resulted in an explosion that covered Lewis in hot oil. He was able to exit the apartment through a window and seek help at a fire station across the street, but he was badly burned.
After a full day of being blind in both eyes, skin grafts, surgeries and five months of recovery, Lewis was well enough to leave town. He bounced between Virginia and New York before settling in D.C. three years ago.
Though Metro riders have gotten used to his morning gospels, Lewis said his journey is coming to an end, at least for now. In December, he’ll move back to Richmond to care for his elderly mother and try to find other work.
In terms of the rest of his future, there’s only one thing Lewis knows for sure.
“Even if I’m not singing, the ministry will always be in my life because that’s just who I am,” he said. “I just want to keep reaching people and letting my light shine.”
Witches, Wiccans and other Pagans will gather at Dupont Circle for the annual Pagan Pride Day celebration on Sept. 20.
The all-day celebration in the circle will bring together multiple orders and sects of Pagans from the D.C. area and will feature several speakers and live entertainment. The centerpiece of the festival is a harvest ritual at noon which will be conducted by Connect DC, a Wiccan public ritual group, in celebration of Mabon, the autumnal equinox.
The tentative event schedule includes two speakers, though only one is booked so far. Debby Morris, a minister in the Circle Sanctuary Wiccan church in Wisconsin and an interfaith community leader will give a speech on how Pagans can work with leaders of other religions and faiths.
The other speaker has not been announced, but Angela Roberts, the local coordinator for the event says that they typically try to bring in a speaker from a non-Pagan religious tradition that nonetheless has some commonalities with Pagans. Last year, a representative from the Hindu American Foundation spoke about the common concerns of Hindus and Pagans.
The festivities are open to all people, and Roberts says one of the goals of the event, which was first held in 2001, is to spread awareness of the often misunderstood faith.
“One of the reasons we do Pagan Pride Day in such a public area with a lot of walk-through traffic is so people who know nothing about Paganism can come by, find out what’s going on and learn that there’s this whole other way of thinking and being in the world,” Roberts said.
Additionally, Roberts hopes that the event can give those interested in Paganism an entry into the community.
“We have a lot of people who come to Pagan Pride in D.C. who are new transplants either for school or work or whatever, and this will present a point of entry into the community,” she said. “From there they can find a group or people to do things with throughout the year.”
In addition to the second speaker, the organizers are still working to confirm the entertainment for the day. Entertainment at past festivals has included magic, comedy and music shows. Though there are ritual elements of the celebration, Roberts says that the main focus is to bring together Pagans from around the area and engage with the non-Pagan community.
“Being Pagans and Wiccans, we don’t proselytize, we just say this is what we do and we’re your neighbors,” Roberts said. “We’re here and we’re having a good time and you can have a good time with us.”
Admission is free but organizers request that people bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to So Others Might Eat, an interfaith organization that provides food, clothing, and health care to poor and homeless people in Washington.
Photo via Facebook/ DC Pagan Pride