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Reid DC at The Howard Theatre

Source: Keanna Faircloth / Keanna Faircloth

There’s nothing quite like worshiping the Lord in a new, innovative, and cool way! Who says you have to confine your worship to the church sanctuary? In this new series, “Church Unconventional”, I will explore churches that are taking the worship experience to a new level.  First up, I checked out Reid Temple DC’s new service at the historic Howard Theatre.  I chatted with Rev. Russell St. Bernard (A.K.A. Rev. Russ) and got the scoop on this groundbreaking service that is bringing out folks across generations.

How and when did the concept of worshiping beyond the sanctuary walls come about for Reid Temple AME?

Reid Temple AME Church has always believed in serving beyond the walls of Church. Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Lee P. Washington, has given us the Church motto “Have Faith in God” coming from Mark: 11:22. Dr. Washington has always pushed the Church to trust God for what we can’t see but what we believe that God can do.  Over 9 years ago, Rev. Matthew L. Watley, our Executive Minister, told Dr. Washington that while God was blessing our Glenn Dale Campus in Prince George’s County, there was a need for a Church like Reid Temple in Montgomery County.  Dr. Washington agreed with Rev. Watley and Reid Temple North was born and started in a high school (Montgomery Blair High School).  God blessed Rev. Watley and the team to move out of the high school after a few years, to a building in Silver Spring, MD (12101 Tech Road) where 3 services were added at that location (8am, 10am, and 12pm).  Reid Temple DC is the result of another move of faith by our Church’s leadership. So doing worship outside of the walls of the Church (but more importantly listening to God and trusting Him) is part of our Church’s DNA.

How was the Howard Theatre chosen as a worship location?

Reid Temple DC started at the E Street Cinema on Easter Sunday 2015. God was kind with over 900 people coming to worship that day. As we grew in number, but also in process, it was always on our prayer list to find the best location for this new service.  In a few weeks, God opened the door for the Howard Theatre to welcome us in. We haven¹t looked back since!

Not only is it a cool and innovative concept to hold church at a historic performance venue such as the Howard Theatre, it seems as if it serves as an evangelistic tool. Have you found that the service has drawn in new visitors just based on its location?

Yes, the Howard Theatre is a very cool and innovative location for our Reid Temple DC service.  We fell in love with the Howard Theatre for a few reasons. One reason was the opportunity to do Church in a place where others might not think a Church should be.  Also, we use the technology of the Theatre to our advantage – from the sound to the moving lights and the video screens. However, one of the most important reasons that the Howard Theatre works for us as a worship service site is because it allows us to be in the heart of a community.  While the E Street Cinema was great, it was in a business district.  At the Howard Theatre, we have houses surrounding us which allows us the opportunity to reach those people…and of course Howard University is only 3 blocks away! :)  To this point we see new guests to our service every Sunday and several people have explained that they love how worship feels in the Theatre. So yes, the location does add value.

Describe the demographic of Reid Temple DC at the Howard Theatre.

Reid Temple DC at The Howard Theatre is honestly a mix of what God has allowed us to have at Reid Temple’s Glenn Dale and Silver Spring locations.  While we do have several young adult and young family professionals who attend, we also have many seasoned saints who attend the service and love it.  While the service is a little different from some of our other services that we have on Sundays (Reid Temple has 8 services each Sunday between Glenn Dale, Silver Spring, and now DC), the main push and reason for DC is to reach those who live near this service. We have people who have tried our other services but explain that those services are 30 to 40 minutes away from their home.  However, with Reid Temple DC at The Howard Theatre, worshippers come through Uber, train or bus, and some even walk to Church!!!

How does the flow of the DC service differ from traditional church service?

The flow of service is mainly the same from our other services. We have prayer, praise and worship and preaching (not always in that order). However, what sets Reid Temple DC apart is the use of technology in the worship service – from the lights to the audio as well as the screens.  Reid Temple DC is also a timely worship service (anywhere between 70 and 75 minutes long). Rev. Watley always says that you do not have to be eternal to be everlasting.  We also provide nursery care each Sunday for our students 2 to 5 years old. So parents with students in this age group can worship while their student receives a message from God in their own way.  Last thing I will say about the flow is even though the worship service might be a little quicker than some people are used to, it has all of the spirit and power needed to encourage and empower those who attend.

Are there opportunities for serving in ministries at Reid Temple DC?

Yes, yes and YES! Did I say yes already (lol)? At Reid Temple DC, our leadership is very clear that your coming to worship is only part of how you grow in Christ. A major part of Christian growth is your willingness to serve.  To that end, we have several areas where people can serve in DC – from the media and video team to the choir and band, also the nursery team, welcome team, dance ministry, spoken word ministry, parking lot ministry (yes we do have parking, we have three lots open to us each Sunday), setup and break down, outreach team, plus a few more areas. We are also always open to allowing people to serve in their area of gifting, which means that there might be an area of service that we have yet to identify but, would be willing to create.

Reid Temple is one church in two locations. With the success of Reid Temple DC at the Howard Theatre, are there talks of opening a permanent third location?

Dr. Washington and Rev. Watley have always said that we will do whatever is necessary in order for us to reach people where they are and help them to see God in a new way – all while having faith in God. With that said, we are focused on serving those in the community in Washington, DC and will follow God in whatever way He leads us.  Now I am not Dr. Washington, nor Rev. Watley, but I can imagine that Reid Temple is open to whatever doors God decides for us to go through next.

What does Reid Temple hope to accomplish with the DC service?

Reid Temple DC has the same focus as Reid Temple AME Church – to help others that we are blessed to reach to “Have Faith in God”.  As for tangibles for Reid Temple DC, we want to impact the lives of everyone who is connected to the service and make a lasting impact on the community for the cause of Christ!!!

That’s all for the first edition of “Church Unconventional” featuring Reid Temple DC!  Visit them at the Howard Theater every Sunday beginning at 9:50 am until 11:15 am for a refreshing worship experience.  The Howard Theatre is located at 620 T St. NW, Washington, DC 20001.  For more information, visit or email

I’d love to visit your unconventional worship service and feature your church! Interested?  Email me at