The balance between power and prayer

Weekdays find Erin Houg working as scheduler for Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), but on weekends she has an unusual side job. Houg spends her spare time doing administrative work and technical-media support for the City Church, a nondenominational Christian church in D.C. that began in May 2006. That was one month after Houg and her husband,
Brian, moved to the District from Seattle as part of a 12-person “church planting” team.

Houg, 26, describes herself as a “missionary with 21st century flair.” She left her home to live out her faith in a new location, but unlike missionaries who serve overseas in more exotic settings, Houg still enjoys personal comforts like manicures and designer jeans. “I used to picture missionaries in the middle of Africa. D.C. may not be Seattle, but it definitely isn’t Africa,” she said.

Prior to her move, Houg worked a slew of different jobs. After graduating from high school at the age of 15 and receiving her associate’s degree from Shoreline Community College in Washington state at age 17, she had very little career direction. Her solution: “I picked probably five of the most random jobs you could ever have as a person, and I did them.”

In a span of eight years, Houg worked at a real estate agency, a wedding consulting firm, a vacation cruise line and a public relations firm. She also spent two of those years interning for The City Church in Kirkland, Wash., which sponsored the planting of its D.C. church.

Washington, D.C., is a town that hardly lacks for churches, but Houg said the City Church has a role to play here because it is not trying to compete with them.

“We moved with the understanding that we were not here to start our own thing,” she said. Instead, she said, her church plays a supportive role. The church’s website reasserts this view, with a statement by founding pastor Wendell Smith that it wants to function as “reinforcements for those who have labored here for years.”

The City Church meets on Thursday nights at Faith Tabernacle Church on A Street NE. It aims to meet the needs of young professionals, particularly Hill staffers, who are often in a transitional phase of their lives. The Thursday night service usually draws around 75 participants.

“It’s not easy to be in a city by yourself, not knowing anybody but maybe your coworkers,” Houg said, adding that this is something the church understands. “Our whole agenda is to cater to them. Our whole agenda is to see them flourish, to see their relationship with God grow.”

The church also has a young adults’ ministry on Sunday nights and an informal outreach ministry with a group of students at George Washington University.

As a young professional working on the Hill, Houg said she understands the struggles of the people to whom the church reaches out. She started working as an intern in Feeney’s office last August before taking an interim staff assistant position in the fall. She became Feeney’s scheduler in January.

At work, two of her biggest adjustments are the dress code and Congress’s formal office culture. “I was surprised at how sterile it really is. I would never need antibacterial,” she joked.

Houg said she sees herself playing the same sort of support role at her position in Feeney’s office that the City Church does in the wider community — making things run more smoothly. “I’m purely here for Congressman Feeney and the staff,” she said.