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St. Augustine's Episcopal Church
                600 M Street, SW
            Washington, DC 20024-2441


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The church of St. Augustine's in southwest Washington, D.C. houses an art historical mystery – its large stone baptismal font with carved symbols of the Evangelists. The font is probably 11th century, perhaps from Britain, perhaps from Normandy. Although long removed from its original context, it is still used for baptisms today.

The font was a gift to the church when it was built in 1965. The Rev'd Al Shands found it being used as a planter in a garden in New York, and arranged for St. Augustine's to have it. The brothers who owned Hogate's Restaurant gave it to the church when it was dedicated on Palm Sunday, 1966. Hogate's had been the meeting place for the congregation during the construction of the church.

The font sits in the church's narthex and so it is the first thing visitors and regulars see upon entering the church. You can't get anywhere in the building without having, first, to wend your way around it. It is for us a constant reminder of our baptisms.

We also use the font for the new light on Easter eve. Tissue paper and lighter fluid make one heck of a symbolic statement!

When we have a baptism, we all process from the nave to the narthex, and back to the nave, so the ancient notion of the whole congregation joining the newly baptized on the pilgrimage is at work.

If anyone has any knowledge about fonts such as this, please contact John Talbott at 202-554-3222, or through the ECVA site - info@ecva.org.

Story and photos by The Rev. John Talbott, Rector

    © 2002 The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts