The Good Steward and His Charity
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“Whatever I have given has been because I wished to give it. I gave for the pleasure it has brought me” ........... R.A. Long
It was not in Long’s nature to turn down a church appeal. The grander the project, the more magnetic its pull. Toward the end of his life, beset by lawsuits, clouded by financial uncertainty, he committed money and time to the National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. It stands today on Thomas Circle, the size of a cathedral.
The dream for a church suitable for the nation’s capital began in the minds of the Washington congregation. Nothing less than a prominent location would do for so inspirational a dream, and the congregation selected a site of fifty thousand square feet facing 14th Street, Thomas Circle, and Massachusetts Avenue. At first the building moved ahead only in hopes and prayers. The project required a leader, and far more money than the Vermont Avenue congregation could provide. Its members enlisted Long, who spoke for the project and urged the national membership to contribute, and started the campaign by pledging $100,000 if the Brotherhood sponsored the project.
Then seventy-six years old, and immersed in projects at Longview in Washington State, Long nonetheless committed himself to what was called the National City Christian Church Crusade, a campaign to raise $1.75 million. Long in 1928 contributed an additional $100,000, on condition that twenty other persons give a total of $200,000. By January 1, 1929, the amount received in pledges or collected was just over $1 million.
When the stock market crashed in October, construction was in progress, with $400,000 in uncollected pledges. The builders hesitated, and so Long, whom the church wisely appointed chairman of the building committee, put his name on $200,000 worth of promissory notes. Everything eventually moved forward.
The sanctuary, which was completed in 1930, had been designed by John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art. Built entirely of gleaming white limestone, its American Renaissance style compliments Washington’s monuments. The front facade features a huge columned portico. It is surmounted by a tall tower, capped by a bronze-covered dome from which a finial covered with gold leaf rises twenty-six feet to support a weather vane of bronze. It stands as a witness to Long’s loyalty, for without him its construction would have been delayed by years and it is doubtful that so grandiose a dream would have become a reality.
Window photos courtesy
of Lynne Morgan,
From “Robert Alexander Long,
by Lenore K. Bradley, 1989