Tuesday, July 25, 2017

History


It all started with four people and a dog

It all started with “four people and a dog” Pastor Roger says, “and they all lived at my house.” In 1997 Bishop Jones of the Diocese of Virginia brought Pastor Roger and his family down to Kingstowne from St. Matthew’s Church in Worcester, Massachusetts. The mission was to start a new church from

First Service, Cross Gate Lane 1997

scratch. Though the Franconia-Springfield area already had a huge number of churches, few were designed specifically to reach out to those who were “seekers”. At the time there were few seeker-targeted Anglican Churches in the world. So from the start we’ve had a vision of combining the best methods of new churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback with the focus on sacraments and God’s presence in our worship services.

Our first worship service featured a simple communion service with about a dozen people right before Christmas in 1997. It was held at the Schellenberg residence on Cross Gate Lane. Three of those in attendance are still with the Church after all these years. In the following year small groups met for Bible study, others met for strategic planning. Our first Open Houses were held in community spaces rented from Kingstowne (though with the instructions from KROC’s staff that while we could talk about God, we could not pray, or ask people for money in their property). At the time the Kingstonian featured articles about the church’s mission each month. That ended when the Board of Directors for Kingstowne decided to no longer accept our paid advertisements because they were considered offensive (they mentioned God).

When we first found open space for rent in a commercial building behind Kohl’s, we were told by the leasing agent that it was not available to us because the man who created Kingstowne, Mr. Halle, felt there was “no need for a church” in the area. A subsequent chat with Mr. Halle gave us permission to rent space and set up the church. All we needed was financial backing.

Large gifts from the Diocese of Virginia and from area churches only got us part way to our goal of signing the lease. At the last moment we needed another $75,000 to sign the deal. One day after the deadline the money showed up as an answer to a prayer. We received a generous gift from our brothers and sisters over at The Falls Church. All told the Falls Church (now The Falls Church, Anglican) added over $100,000 to get us started.

Worshipping in the construction phase

With all the challenges in getting settled in the area, it seemed to the Launch Team we had come to the right place … a community where many people must have been turned off by churches in the past. It was our mission to help turn them on to God.

Initial events in the community continued with the opening of our Spirit Cafe in 1998. Each week we met in a borrowed space, to host supper and a discussion group for interested community members. At the time the only worship services we were holding were a weekly communion service as a form of outreach to the residents of Springfield’s Sunrise Estates. Services began in our leased building on December 20, 1998. The following January we began offering two distinct Sunday worship services … one at 9:00 for those who wanted to have communion each week and deepen their faith, another at 11:00 for those who had questions and were unsure of their faith. Attendance in that first month averaged 12 people at the 9:00 service and 48 at the late service (which included the 12 from the early service who had come to set up chairs, make coffee, and provide the music …)

After seven years Church of the Spirit became self-supporting, with a budget over $350,000 a year. During many of those first years we baptised more adults than any other church in the Diocese of Virginia. By January 2006, the Diocese of Virginia accepted Church of the Spirit into full parish status. We are thankful to the churches in Northern Virginia who supported us, and for the Diocese, which together with the other churches in the area donated $500,000 in financial aid over those first years.

We look forward to what the next chapters in our life together hold. At this moment we are not sure about the future.We are unsure of what we will need to do if (or more likely, when) we are faced with the choice of remaining in the Episcopal Church (which is now largely out of communion with the rest of the Anglican churches worldwide) or remaining a part of the Anglican Communion. Much is in question these days. The Episcopal Church continues to drift into new theologies which deal less with helping other people find Jesus as the “way, the truth and the life” and more with liberation theologies and the UN’s Millenial Development Goals.

Yes much is in question these days, except what we teach as the truth of God … Since the General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 there have been many changes at The Spirit in how we relate to other churches, but not in what we teach. That has stayed centered on the Bible — just as it was back when we all met in one house …

You can get a complimentary copy of our Tenth Anniversary DVD “Ten Years, One Big Mission” by emailing us and requesting one.

Pictures from our earliest services at The Spirit


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