Every week for nearly 40 years, 89-year-old Rita Warren, a lifelong religious activist and retired factory worker, has brought her six-foot-tall Christ mannequin to the US Capitol. We tagged along.
Warren, who lives in a group house in Fairfax (above), bought her Jesus statue for $240 at a Baltimore novelty shop in 1979. She took it to Capitol Hill daily until about ten years ago. Now she’s a fixture only on Thursdays.
The mannequin’s body is held together by reams of duct tape—blame the four-decade commute. But Warren applies Maybelline’s Fit Me foundation (shade 125) to the face and brushes the hair to make sure it looks “perfect.”
“Her enthusiasm is infectious—and plus, what else do I have to do?” says Bob Stief of Fairfax, who, along with David Bryant of Alexandria (above) and Brian Fitzpatrick of Centreville, drives Warren to the Hill.
Stief, who met Warren at a church dinner 21 years ago, rolls the statue to its spot on the southeastern corner of the Capitol plaza. They used to place it on nearby steps, but the wind kept knocking it over.
Why this vigil, you ask? Warren wants stricter laws against abortion and to institutionalize prayer in schools. “Jesus said, ‘Put me on the Capitol.’ I listened to that voice.”
Camera-toting tourists flock to “the Jesus lady” and her Messiah statue all day long . . .
. . . as do members of Congress who have come to know Warren over her years outside their offices. Here she asks Ohio Republican representative David Joyce to take her inside so she can use the bathroom.
“As long as the Lord gives me strength to walk, I walk,” says Warren, a member of Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax. “As long as I have these three wonderful men to help me, I will do this.”
This article appears in the September 2017 issue of Washingtonian.