The Debre Mehret St. Michael’s Church was founded on May 30, 1993. Initially, the Church was established in a small room by about 30 parishioners on the initiative of Komos Abba Melaku Getaneh (Abune Fanuel) in the Woodner Building located on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.
At that time, the services consisted of lessons from the Gospel and liturgy of atonement. As the number of parishioners attending continued to increase, a decision was taken to establish a church. The selection of the Ark became the primary focus. Three names of Arks were placed in a ballot and solemn prayers were held for seven days followed by liturgical prayers on the seventh day. When the ballot was drawn, the name of St.Michael was picked. After the nomination of St. Michael was announced, further prayers continued. While we were in the process of searching for a building to rent, the Art of St. Michael arrived from Ethiopia. On October 3, the fifth month after the service took place, in collaboration with the clergy of the St. Mary’s Orthodox Tewahedo Church, in a colorful ceremony.
While praying for God’s help to provide us with deacons, as it was very difficult to hold liturgy service with only one cleric, Deacon Samuel Befekadu, and Deacon Kassahun Gebre Selassie, who were concurrently studying and working, joined our Church. Two weeks later, Arch Diligent(Like Tiguhan) Fikre Adugna Gelaye, a student at Christian College of Southern Africa arrived from Harare, Zimbabwe, by the will of God and the gracious support of some people, to serve our Church.
As the first building, we rented could only accommodate 100 people and the membership had doubled, six months later we were obliged to rent a larger space for 200 persons at a higher rate. Again, within a short time, the new space was becoming crowded and the parishioners had to stand in the corridors and stairwell. The parishioners patiently endured for three years the inconvenience of attending the services in this manner during the cold winters and the hot summers. Noting the increased number of parishioners, as of January 7th, the eve of the Ethiopian Christmas, and the proprietors of the building decided to rent to us the largest room they had at a monthly rate of $2,500.00. It is gratifying to mention here that, whenever we acquired a larger space, the number of the parishioners increased two-fold, and even the latter space rented became too crowded. After extensive discussions by the Clergy and the Administrative Committee on how to solve the problem, a unanimous decision was reached to acquire an edifice. The preliminary task was to institute a fund-raising program. A Fund-raising Committee, which would work in close collaboration with the Administrative Board incorporating Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia States, was formed in January 1997.
After extensive discussions, the Clergy and the Administrative Board proposed to use the budget($102,000.00), which was set aside for the purpose of acquiring religious vessels and providing various ecclesiastical activities, towards a down-payment on the mortgage payment. Since the mortgage payment would be on a long-term basis, the parishioners were asked to make voluntary contributions toward the down-payment by completing pledge forms, in accordance with individual ability. As St. Paul taught us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a Cheerful giver.” By the Grace of God and in fulfillment of their spiritual obligations, within three months, the parishioners made donations toward the down-payment of a large building, costing $600,000.00, in Bladensburg (Earl Place) on the North Eastern section of Washington, D.C. The Building was purchased on payment of the first ($125,000). By the Grace of God and through the guidance of St. Michael, the conversion of the building was commenced. To convert the building in accordance with the regulation and the laws of the country, a tender was posted, so as construction companies could place their bids. Mr. Ayalew Debebe, a member of our parish, who is the owner of Ayu Construction, offered a bid for $185,000 to complete the renovation. In addition to completing the conversion, he donated his know-how, time and money to remodel the Shrine which, as you can see today, has been magnificently constructed. We would like to take this opportunity to offer our deepest gratitude in God’s name to Mr. Ayalew Debebe of Ayu Construction for his tremendous contribution and support.
All these things have been made possible by the Grace of God, the insight of the clergy, and the love and goodwill of the congregation.