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Lewinsville Presbyterian Church was founded on October 17, 1846 at our current location – the corner of Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road. In 2021-2022, we are celebrating our 175th year through a number of activities and the written word.

The paragraphs below appeared in our Bulletin or Newsletter and provide a glimpse of life at Lewinsville over 175 years.

There was a time, not so long ago, when our Session consisted of twenty-eight elders!  It absorbed the traditional functions of the Board of Deacons and the Board of Trustees. The unicameral Session existed just eight years—from 1975 to 1983. Its meetings often extended into the wee hours of the next morning. One elder is known to have declared, “Meet as long as you like but I have to leave at 10 pm in order to have a job tomorrow that enables me to meet my pledge obligation to the church.” No one ever questioned his early departure. In 1983, they voted to reduce Session’s size back to eighteen. Still too large for many, so It was reduced again in the early 2000s, this time to the biblical number—twelve.  – May 29, 2022 Bulletin

In the early 20th century, the Lewinsville community was showing signs of commercial progress and might have become the center of commerce for the area had the railroad not come to town. The Great Falls and Old Dominion Railroad opened in 1906, connecting Georgetown with Great Falls, and locals loved it. The railroad was electric! The post offices at Langley and Lewinsville were soon closed and a new one opened in rapidly growing McLean. The railroad itself met its demise in 1934 with the acceptance of another major advance in transportation technology—the automobile. The automobile brought down the railroad but was the stimulus for a giant leap into the modern era for Lewinsville Presbyterian Church.  – May 22, 2022 Bulletin

SSS Founders at 40th Anniversary

The bulletin of October 24, 1971 contained what may have been the first reference to the Second Saturday Set. It was known at the time as the Young Couples Club. The announcement said they would kick off their 1971-72 season by “listening to and discussing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’” They would meet at the Dokkens’ residence on the Fourth Saturday of October to discuss the first half of the recording and would meet again in November to discuss the second half. The “rock opera,” which featured lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, met with mixed reviews in the Christian world when it debuted. – May 15, 2022 Bulletin

Bulletins first made an appearance at Sunday worship services on May 23, 1943. The hope was that they “would help create a more worshipful atmosphere.” In making the announcement, the pastor promised that, “as far as possible, we will omit making oral announcements as they always interfere with a spirit of worship.” In closing, he cautioned that in order to have an announcement appear in the bulletin, “it must be in the hands of the pastor by the Wednesday night preceding the Sunday it is to be published.” The bulletin of May 23, 1943 also reminded the congregation to consider the Prelude as part of the service, “a time for silent prayer and meditation.” Apparently, there had been complaints about too much talking as folks gathered. – May 8, 2022 Bulletin

Our church was only eleven years old in 1857 when Rev. C.B McKee recorded in his diary one Sunday evening: “The Session met at my house this morning to consult about Platt Crocker (town drunk) . . . Nothing was done in the Crocker case; Platt was not present. Preached this morning at Lewinsville and this afternoon at Falls Church. In the evening I went to the Methodist Chapel, heard Mr. Dixon preach from Numbers 32:23. Went home with Mr. (Miles) Munson. Thought nothing but little of Dixon.” A week later McKee preached at Lewinsville from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and noted in his diary: “Largest congregation yet.” Before the Civil War broke out, the congregation had grown from the original seventeen members to eighty-three under McKee’s leadership.   – May 1, 2022 Bulletin

American Legion plaque visible in upper left

For most of its 175 years, the church had no banners, flags or memorial plaques on display in the sanctuary. A “hymn board” mounted behind the choir was the only “new” item until 1923 when the American Legion presented Lewinsville with a large brass plaque, memorializing the fallen sons of Lewinsville whose lives were lost in World War I. The plaque was installed between two windows on the left side of the sanctuary near the front pew. Only a faded photo remains as evidence of its existence. Although impossible to make out any names in the photo, it is believed that one column of names represents those who died during the Civil War and the second column, those who died in World War I. – April 24, 2022 Bulletin

Dr. Mark Andrews, parish associate, came to us in 1995, carrying experiences only 62 years of ministry can bestow. There seemed to be no end to his talents. Who could have imagined that Mark would take the simple assignment of asking members and guests to register their attendance in the “little red book” in the pews and turn it into one of the most anticipated events of the worship service? He always began his pitch with a story that held a life lesson somewhere within it, but eventually Mark would use the story to introduce the exercise of signing one’s name in the pew pad.  – April 17, 2022 Bulletin

If you take the stairs down to Fellowship Hall, you will pass the cornerstone, laid in 1956, for a new sanctuary to accommodate the growing congregation. Few who pass the cornerstone today are aware that deep inside, a sealed copper box rests, holding several pieces of memorabilia that commemorate the day Elder Clemons Storm laid it. The copper box holds a large 1846 penny (founding year of the original church), $1.10 in new 1956 coins (representing the church’s 110th year), a picture of the previous church cut from plate, a copy of Rev. Franklin Gillespie’s church history, the most recent annual report, a list of members from 1852 (copied from the 1852 Friendship Quilt), and a 1956 Yearbook.  – April 10, 2022 Bulletin

In 1937, Elder J.P. Frech, Sunday School Superintendent started a fund to replace the old foot pedal reed organ that had served the church since the 1870s. A year passed and fundraising was far short of its goal. That’s when the Storm family stepped in and generously donated a two manual Moller organ. With the funds raised no longer needed, the Session decided to strengthen the building with additional floor joists to “bear the weight of the Moller organ.” Apparently, there was growing concern about the physical integrity of the original church structure as early as 1937. The reinforced floor joists did their job well, maintaining the integrity of the structure until 1956 when a new sanctuary replaced the little chapel. – April 3, 2022 Bulletin

The Lewinsville cemetery has always held a treasure trove of information for genealogists.  In the 1840s, it was the only cemetery in the immediate area, and as a result, there are people of all religious faiths buried there. The first known burial was in early 1846 when a young minister, Rev. Samuel S. Hawley, 31 years of age, was buried there. Indeed, there were seven other burials listed during 1846, all before Lewinsville church received its charter. At least one slave is buried in the Ball family plot. The inscription on her stone reads: “In loving memory of Belinda Brown, colored, the faithful friend and nurse in the Ball and Judkins families prior to and during the Civil War and the dark days of Reconstruction. Faithful unto death.” – March 27, 2022 Bulletin

By the early 1940s, many members had become aware that the varnish on the pews could become “exceedingly sticky in hot weather.” On one particularly hot day in the summer of 1946, a young lady attended church wearing a “dotted Swiss dress.”  When the service was concluded and she got up to depart, her dots remained on the pews.  The men of the church got busy and removed the varnish, revealing a beautiful grain in the wood that had been long hidden from view. They replaced the “sticky” varnish with a clear finish that never again attracted anyone’s “dots.” While at this work the men also removed multiple coats of paint that through the years had been put on the wide floor boards.  – March 20, 2022 Bulletin

When the Court of Claims in Washington finally ruled in 1903 that Lewinsville church should be compensated for damages suffered during its occupation by Union troops in the Civil War. The church received a check from the U.S. Government for $1,907.84. The building, of course, had been repaired soon after the Civil War ended, and all bills associated with those repairs had been paid thirty-eight years previous. The 1903 church held the money for a while before deciding to purchase new pews, new carpeting, two new pulpit chairs, and installation of electric lights. The oil lamp that sat on the edge of the pulpit served pastors well for sixty-two years but was finally retired when the lights came on. – March 13, 2022 Bulletin

On January 7, 1898, the Lewinsville congregation decided the church should be governed by a constitution. Mrs. Lydia Dutrow and Mrs. Albert Mack were asked to work with session to draft a constitution. It took the ladies less than forty-five days to complete the task. When the constitution was presented to the congregation on February 22, 1898, the result was a unanimous vote for acceptance. Although not carefully followed, according to oral history, it was in force until April 4, 1944 when a revised constitution was adopted by the congregation. Unfortunately, neither constitution can be found today.  – March 6, 2022 Bulletin

After the church opened its doors officially in January 1847, the crossroads connecting Falls Church to Great Falls began to grow. Tom Detrow’s blacksmith shop on the corner opposite the church soon joined Mankin’s General Store. A one room schoolhouse sprouted near the church as well as a parsonage. An official U.S, Post Office was established in the general store in 1857, and meant no one had to walk to Langley to mail a letter. Trouble arrived when a tavern was added to the crossroads, and caused the church’s first major controversy. On Sundays, tavern noise was such that the congregation circulated a petition to have the tavern shut down. The issue was resolved when tavern owners agreed to close while worship services were underway. – February 27, 2022 Bulletin

In 1891, Mrs. Henry Pierce Viles, a Georgetown artist and active member of Washington’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and close friend to Lewinsville pastor Rev. William H. Edwards came out to visit and spoke at an evening meeting of the congregation. Not long after her visit, she presented Lewinsville with an engraved silver baptismal bowl, and a complete communion service, including two bread trays, two goblets and a flagon. Her gifts are still in use today and adorn the communion table every time the Sacrament is served. There is no record of the congregation showing its appreciation for her visit with an appropriate gift.  – February 20, 2022 Bulletin

From our 175th Anniversary Notebook: In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Lewinsville in 1946, Mrs. Archer Haycock gave silk Christian and U.S. flags for display in the sanctuary. The war was over and a spirit of patriotism was running high. The flags were dedicated Palm Sunday, April 14, 1946. There is no record of any flag on display prior to 1946. Mrs. Haycock’s gift has been replaced at least twice in the years since, and each time, a memorial gift has made them possible. In 1967 new flags were donated exclusively for outdoor use during services in “The Chapel in the Church Yard.” That story will come from another page in the Anniversary Notebook. – February 13, 2022 Bulletin

When the original white clapboard church was disassembled in the fall of 1955 to make way for a new sanctuary, a few pieces of its supporting structure were found to be free of termites and were put aside for a future unknown use. Bayard Evans, a member and neighbor, claimed them for use in his Evans Farm Inn, next door to Lewinsville. They became part of the decor in the restaurant’s basement bistro. Years later, when the restaurant was demolished to make way for a new housing development, Pastor Gary Pinder reclaimed the wooden beams for Lewinsville. They were stored in the basement of the old manse until Pinder asked Elder Stan Grimm, a noted craftsman, to create a cross from the saved beams. The cross he constructed was installed on the church lawn in 2002. Regrettably, the carefully crafted cross succumbed to termite damage and was replaced nearly a decade later. Again, pieces of the original cross were saved and used as emblazoned enhancements on the arms of the new cross. – February 6, 2022 Bulletin

Lewinsville is known for sending out members to start new churches. “Why not right here,” someone said. Thus, no one was surprised when Session made the decision in 1978 to allow the fledgling Korean Central Presbyterian Church to hold worship services at Lewinsville. Their services and Sunday School classes were always held on Sunday afternoons. The original 40 Korean families quickly outgrew Lewinsville’s facilities and moved in 1985 to a 12-acre site in Vienna. By 2010, the KCPC moved again to an 80-acre campus near Centreville, Virginia where today it serves a congregation of more than 4,500! – January 30, 2022 Bulletin

Lewinsville’s original 1846 church was a white clapboard chapel, warmed by a single potbelly stove, with room for over 100 congregants in the pews.  An oil lamp, precariously balanced on the lip of the pulpit, enabled the pastor to read Holy Scripture. That small lamp provided the only illumination in the chapel until electricity was installed in 1908. The chapel, with its “Quaker-hard” pews, served as the home for Lewinsville Presbyterians for 110 years. A strong emotional attachment to the chapel grew during those years and made the decision to build a new sanctuary in 1956 all the more difficult. Indeed, the controversy surrounding that decision nearly caused an irreparable divide in the membership. – January 23, 2022 Bulletin

Speakers are visible on the roof near the base of the chimney.

Long before there was “livestreaming” of worship services, Lewinsville broadcast music and worship services to the community via the Schulmerich Tower Music System, a gift from the family of Dr. Jackson B. Anderson, prominent McLean physician. The gift was dedicated on Palm Sunday, 1946, the 100th Anniversary of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church. It was described as “a system that can be heard over a distance of four miles radius, although it has been heard as far as six miles away. It has already been used to amplify the entire Easter service to an overflow crowd on the church lawn.” The system, no longer in use, was installed to “bring the ministry of word and music to the entire area for many years to come.”  Our neighbors are probably pleased that it is no longer in use. – January 16, 2022 Bulletin

One of the more interesting characters in Lewinsville’s history is Miles C. Munson, perhaps best known as the Lewinsville Elder who served four Presbyterian churches in Northern Virginia. In addition to Lewinsville, Elder Munson helped establish Falls Church Presbyterian, Ballston Presbyterian, and First Presbyterian of Arlington. At Ballston, he also taught a Sunday School class. Altogether, he held the office of Elder for 50 years. His vocation was Clerk in the Pay Division of the U.S. Treasury Department, a post he held 47 years. He also owned a farm near the present intersection of S. Glebe Road and Columbia Pike. When he died in 1914, he was buried next to his wife, Kate, in Oakwood Cemetery of Falls Church. Elder Munson lived 83 years.  – January 9, 2022 Bulletin

Upon the 1842 death of prominent Fairfax physician Dr. Mottrum Ball, his heirs began making plans to establish a Presbyterian church on a small corner of their inheritance adjacent to Barrett’s Crossroads. For many years, his wife, Martha Turberville Ball, and her niece, the late Elizabeth Lee Jones had dreamed of such a church on the site. Working with Commander Thomas ap Catesby Jones (brother of Elizabeth), and his wife, Mary Walker Carter, they carved out 2.5 acres for a church on the forested hillside, and filed for a charter from Winchester Presbytery.  The charter arrived, dated October 17, 1846, and construction began in earnest. The new Lewinsville Presbyterian Church was dedicated January 3, 1847—and the rest is a 175 year history of ministry and service from faithful Christians on Lewinsville Hill.   – January 2, 2022 Bulletin

A Lewinsville Christmas in 1857: Rev. C.B. McKee, noted in his diary that it snowed on Christmas Eve, 1857. One of his members dropped by the day before with a “turkey and two minced pies.” He concluded his Christmas Eve entry with, “I have a sense of gratitude to the Lord for placing me among such a kind people.” Christmas day was quiet and uneventful, according to his diary. “Not a soul called upon us today,” McKee wrote. And so, he spent a good portion of Christmas day preparing his sermon for the following Sunday. For dinner he went to the home of a parishioner and stayed until midnight. “But the conversation was too much of a worldly nature—this always grieves me.” – December 26, 2021 Bulletin

Our little white frame chapel sat nearly alone at Barrett’s Crossroads when it was dedicated on a snowy Sunday, January 3, 1847. Across the street, Mankin’s General Store could be seen through the trees.  A couple of horse-drawn carriages were tied up outside the church. Several congregants arrived by foot, and were late. Another came on his mule. Inside, a single pot belly stove struggled to keep the chapel warm. Elder Amzi Coe had arrived early to light the fire. Rev. Levi Christian preached that first Sunday, and although his sermon topic is not recorded, its length was likely a full hour—typical for the time. Just 30 feet wide and 40 feet long, the new Lewinsville Presbyterian Church quickly became a cherished spiritual refuge for the 17 Presbyterian founders. – December 19, 2021 Bulletin

In 1966, Lewinsville Trustees paid $91,000 for four acres of land adjacent to church property. The purchase was made with a prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide them to its best use. A committee was formed. Ideas considered for the site included a home for runaways, a retreat for retired pastors, space for a new sanctuary, even a parking lot. But there was no consensus around any suggestion. The committee was disbanded and another appointed. The second committee unanimously recommended a home for the elderly. Even then, there was some hesitation when church leaders worried about our ability to fill it. If the project failed, the church would owe $4 million. Fear was replaced by Faith, the same Faith that enabled Lewinsville to overcome every obstacle it had ever faced. LRR opened at full capacity in September 1980. – December 12, 2021 Bulletin

Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, having suffered severe damage during the Civil War, applied for compensation from the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, DC. When the claim was finally heard in 1903, Martha Jones, daughter of founder Commodore Jones, was present to attest to the damage suffered. “The parsonage was destroyed,” she told the court. “The church and school house so damaged that nothing but the frames of the buildings were left standing. Windows, doors, siding, fences, and seats from the church were either taken from the premises or destroyed. It was not possible to hold a service in the church, the whole place being dismantled: seats, pulpit, carpet, stove, windows and sides having disappeared.” The Government paid $1,760 to return the church to “usable condition.” – December 5, 2021 Bulletin

The 1940 Lewinsville Presbyterian Church that installed Rev. Franklin Gillespie that year was, in his words, a “self-centered” church that “did not support the work of the presbytery or the larger church.” Indeed, total giving beyond local church expenses totaled $80 per year with $5 designated to Foreign Missions. Gillespie was paid $1,800 per year. Under his leadership the church adopted its “first ever annual budget of $3,200 with 10 percent going to benevolences.” Some members questioned their decision to hire this “starry-eyed young dreamer” who dared to recommend such a budget.  Today, Lewinsville supports nearly 100 mission initiatives beyond its doors. – November 28, 2021 Bulletin

For many years, the story told around the church was that pastor William R. McElroy left all church records on a trolley in 1923, and the upset over losing the records forced him to leave. But the “real reason,” according to an interview with longtime member Frances Kennedy in 1990, was wrapped in a Session debate over whether dairy farmer Albert Mack should be invited to join Session. Mack was mentioned in a newspaper story about dairy farmers who “watered the milk.” McElroy said he didn’t think anyone who watered the milk was qualified to serve on Session. McElroy didn’t know it but every dairy farmer on Session watered the milk. And that’s why he was asked to leave. – November 21, 2021 Bulletin

As the community was growing rapidly around them, the congregation of 1955 split into two camps—those who wanted to remain in the small white frame church of their ancestors and watch the rest of the world grow around them, and those who said, “We don’t think that is our mission.”  The latter group of stalwarts could not see the future but knew Lewinsville must prepare for it and let God reveal their future in his time. The new church was dedicated at Easter 1956, and the rest is truly our history. – November 14, 2021 Bulletin

The church operated with no prepared annual budget until the arrival of Rev. Franklin Gillespie in 1939. Expenses were paid from receipts only. Financial assistance for survival came from the Presbytery. The largest recurring expenses in the early 1900s were wood for the pot belly stove, oil for the pulpit lamp, and wine for communion. – November 7, 2021 Bulletin

On Thursday, May 23, 1861, the Lewinsville precinct voted 86 to 37 in favor of remaining in the Union. Lewinsville members who voted to reject the bill of secession were Jonathan Magarity, James Frizzell, Mason Shipman, James and Jackson Magarity—all men of considerable influence in the community. (You have seen these names on streets in our community)The church remained loyal to the Union, and, indeed, became an outpost for troops charged with defense of the Capital city. – October 31, 2021 Bulletin

For many years, the Ladies Aid Society provided the only funds from the church to support mission programs, and all such funds were generated by community dinners the ladies hosted at the church. The major beneficiaries of their gifts were Home Missions, Foreign Missions and the Freedman’s Society. – October 24, 2021 Bulletin