THE ORIGINS OF DEBRE GENET MEDHANE ALEM ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHIDO CHURCH
The Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church was established by the early Ethiopian exiles who had left Ethiopia due to lack of religious, political and social freedoms. Within a few short years of starting their new life of exile, a dozen or so Ethiopians began to consult each other on the urgent need for a place of worship where all Ethiopians could practice the teachings and liturgy of our ancient Christian faith and to obtain spiritual sustenance and moral guidance. These pioneers contacted nearby churches and rented church halls for a few hours on Sundays when the hall was not in use by the mother church. It was in such halls that the congregation worshipped for over two decades. When the congregation's number outgrew one rented hall, we moved to a church with larger halls. In this manner we moved at least five times in the last twenty-five years.
As the years went by, the congregation's hope of returning to Ethiopia anytime soon started to fade. So a more sustained attempt was made to establish a permanent church in the Washington area. Led by Abba Petros (His holiness Abune Meqarios), in 1979, a group of worshipers, numbering perhaps 50, decided to incorporate our assembly as the Mahbere Memenane zahti Amanuel church and some years letter this name was changed to Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, and registered as a non-profit organization under the laws of Washington, D.C. With the help of the Almighty and the continued spiritual leadership of Melak Genet Lisaneworq Wowbu and the clergy, the church has grown significantly in numbers and spiritual influence. It now has about 500 due paying members. Much larger numbers, far exceeding a thousand, attend special mid-night Easter and Christmas services, as well as the twice a year feasts of Our Savior (Medhane Alem). The congregation raised sufficient money from its members to buy a large piece of property (about 4.3 hectares) to build its first Church in Temple Hills, MD. After almost two years of preparation to obtain the necessary land use and building permits from Prince George's County, official ground breaking took place on September 14, 2002. The construction was finally completed and the Church was inaugurated on November 9, 2003.
Over the years, Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been the center of Ethiopian spiritual life in the Washington area. The Church has performed invaluable service for the Ethiopian community. Every Sunday, hundreds of Ethiopians obtain spiritual rejuvenation by attending Mass, conducted in conformity with the centuries old teachings and liturgy of their ancient Church. Dozens partake in Holy Communion every Sunday. Hundreds attend special Christmas and Easter services amidst the exhilarating chants of their ancient faith. Thanks to Debre Genet Medhane Alem Church, hundreds of Ethiopian families have been able to have their newly born infants baptized to join the ancient faith of their ancestors. The Church has similarly presided over the marriages of hundreds of young Ethiopians, performed in accordance with the centuries-old teachings and traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. The priests and deacons of Debre Genet Medhane Alem Church perform the age-old services for the dead, known as fethat, at the funerals of members of our congregation. Clergy from our Church visit the sick and the bereaved to provide spiritual comfort and sustenance. It is the Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church that has spearheaded religious and community festivities traditionally conducted at important dates in the calendar of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, such as Meskal (the finding of the true Cross), or Timket (the feast of Epiphany). Under the leadership of our Church, hundreds of Ethiopians have attended "Ethiopia Day" ceremonies under large tents festooned with the Ethiopian national colors at the United States National Mall in downtown Washington, D.C.
Perhaps the clearest evidence of the valuable contributions that Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has made to the Ethiopian Community in the greater Washington area is the example it set for enabling other Ethiopian Orthodox churches to be established. We can proudly say that our Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been truly the trailblazer and torch bearer of our Faith for all Ethiopians in Diaspora.