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Finding God on Every Corner: Deanwood

Deanwood marks the last DC metro station on the orange line before the train crosses into Maryland on its way to New Carrolton. The track is lined with decrepit CSX cars, and many of the neighborhood streets feature small houses with barred windows, unkempt lawns, and run-down chain link fencing.

But what the neighborhood lacks in money, it makes up for in churches. 

“In Deanwood alone I would say—my goodness, there must be 20, 30 churches in a 10 block area,” said Rev. Ronald Miner, Sr., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Deanwood.

He believes a lot of the “storefront churches”—the smaller, “newer” congregations (First Baptist itself is about 112 years old) have popped up in the last few decades as a crime-prevention measure: by providing neighborhood youths with positive things to do, they stay off the street and away from drugs and alcohol.

Just down the road at Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church, Pastor Freddie Davis has another theory.

“The reason you have so many churches in such a small geographic area is because people don’t go to the churches in their community, they go where they like the church.”

He says that members of the black community in particular are willing to commute to church the same way people commute to work. In his congregation alone he has people who travel from Baltimore or Fredericksburg, while three percent come from Deanwood itself, he estimates. 

Many of the churches also have programs catered toward the elderly or single mothers, providing them with meals, clothing, or just someone to depend on.

“It’s kind of like one team, and the idea is really to just reach out in a Christ-like way,” Miner said.

The high number of places of worship can be a surprise in an area with a reputation like this Northeast suburb. A woman waiting at a bus stop nodded at a parking lot behind her where she said someone had been murdered just last year.

But some locals disagree.

“If you was a victim one time, you’re going to think everything’s bad,” said Keith Woods, as he played cards with two other men in the Senior Room at the Deanwood Recreation Center (DRC). “We have a lot of great people from here—Marvin Gaye, Nannie Helen Burroughs.”

The DRC itself, located just across from the metro station, is just four years old and offers a playground, a library, a pool with a tall twisty slide, and senior center to residents of the neighborhood.

Even though visitors are required to show photo identification before entering the facility, it’s a sign that Deanwood is moving forward.

As Woods, who remembers when the area was still acreages of farmland, says, “It’s moving in a positive direction, but it’s not moving fast. It’s just moving.”



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