The history of the little frame church on the corner of Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road began with a simple bequest from the will of Elizabeth Jones in 1822. She was the sister of Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, generally credited with the founding of the church. As a young lady, Elizabeth attended informal services at the home of Rev. William Maffitt but was frustrated by all the talk about a church and no action.
When Elizabeth died, the founding wheels began to turn in earnest. Her brother, Thomas, and her aunt, Martha Corbin Ball were determined to see her wishes fulfilled.
On October 17, 1846, Lewinsville Presbyterian Church was officially established by the Presbytery of Winchester. On January 3, 1847, with seventeen members attending, the official dedication of the church took place. A manse, stable and small schoolhouse soon followed. Rev. Levi H. Christian was called to be the first pastor and agreed to preach for $200 per year.
During the Civil War, the church was occupied for Union troops assigned to protect the Capital. All structures on the property suffered severe damage during the war. But the church was forced to wait until 1903 for the US Court of Claims to approve reparations for the damage. With $1760 received in payment from the government, the church installed electricity and made other desperately needed repairs.
The newly renovated building remained in use from 1908 until 1956 when a new sanctuary was erected. In 1961, an education building, Heritage Hall, was added, and remains in use today. In 1989, construction began on an expansion of the 1956 sanctuary. It was the most ambitious capital project undertaken by the church. In addition to an expanded sanctuary, construction included a new narthex, music facility, and administrative offices to accommodate an expanding program staff.
Lewinsville’s ministry has grown in many ways, including the sponsorship of Lewinsville Retirement Residence, adjacent to church property, and sponsorship of Chesterbook Residences, an assisted living facility on Westmoreland Street, McLean.
Lewinsville “seeded” five other churches through the years: Vienna Presbyterian in 1871, Falls Church Presbyterian in 1873, and First Presbyterian of Arlington in 1874. Immanuel Presbyterian and Chesterbrook Presbyterian were established by Lewinsville members in the mid-20th century.
And there is much more to learn. Church history is revealed more fully in Pilgrims and Pioneers Always, a recently completed update of Lewinsville’s history, available from the church office.
Since 1846, the Lewinsville congregation has borne witness to the good news in Jesus Christ at the corner of Chain Bridge and Great Falls. The church welcomes visitors who are searching for a home where they will be encouraged to nurture their faith, and share it with others in a ministry that reaches worldwide.
Pilgrims and Pioneers Always
by B. Roland McElroy
Lewinsville’s updated history book (prepared in 2013),
is available from the church office during business hours.
One per church family is free; additional copies available for $10 each.
Permission to broadcast the music in this video obtained from OneLicense with License #A-708462
Our Celtic Cross
The Celtic Cross in the narthex was presented to Lewinsville Presbyterian Church on Palm Sunday, March 22, 1959, by Grace H. Clarke in memory of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Mack. For years, it stood on the retable in the sanctuary and was moved to the narthex when the current wood cross was installed in 1991.
Early in the 6th century, a Christian community was established on the Island of Iona, a rocky piece of ground off the west coast of Scotland. The community became the primary center of teaching for the Christian Church in Scotland and parts of Ireland. In the center of town, a cross hewn from a local marble quarry was erected. It became known as the Celtic Cross. In the history of the church, it has always symbolized the ruggedness of the early Scottish Christians, especially those of the Presbyterian Church.
Our cross in the narthex is a replica of that first marble cross in Iona. It is brass and was fashioned by a skilled Scottish craftsman. The marble base is from the same Iona quarry from which the original marble cross was carved.
The Clarke and Mack families were pillars of Lewinsville Church for nearly three quarters of a century. Their names are found among the elders, trustees, teachers, deacons and major benefactors who sustained the church through decades of struggle and laid a foundation upon which the church continues to build today.
Quilts & Tapestry
Friendship Quilt of 1852
A Friendship Quilt was presented to Rev. Bittinger when he arrived at Lewinsville in 1852. The quilt was stitched by some of the women of the church and the names of 108 of members were inscribed in indelible ink in the crosses of the quilt. In some instances, the name of the farm or estate where the member resided is included. Undoubtedly the 108 names included participating youth from the Sunday School as well as registered members of the church. On the bottom of the quilt is an inscription of dedication: “Reverend Bittinger, Installed Pastor of the Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, May 30, 1852.” And on one edge of the quilt is written: “And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; And they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3.”
Regrettably, the quilt was lost for many years. By chance, a member of the Lewinsville congregation spied it in a missionary barrel, about to be shipped overseas by one of the Washington area churches. She recognized the quilt immediately and promptly returned it to Lewinsville. Unfortunately, due to its fragile condition, the Bittinger quilt is no longer displayed.
Friendship Quilt of 1952
The 1952 Quilt was made by the Ladies Aid Society to commemorate the 100-year span of time since the crafting of their first quilt. Altogether, 411 names are honored on it.
A conscientious effort was made to include the names of every family and family member on the official church roll in 1952.
The quilt, approximately fifty-six square feet, is displayed in the stairwell connecting St. Andrews Hall on the main level and Fellowship Hall in the basement. Framing was provided by Frances Grimes for preservation purposes.
It originally hung on the back wall high over the sanctuary until renovations began in the early 1990s. Once the new addition was dedicated, it was moved to St. Andrews Hall. Framing was provided by Frances Grimes for preservation purposes.
McGuire Quilt of 1982
The 1982 quilt was not made for a special occasion. It was simply a gift to the church. Hand-quilted by Nancy McGuire, it depicts the original church and the “new” church completed in 1956 and the “breezeway” completed at a later date.
The Lewinsville Tapestry of 1996
This Tapestry was dedicated on October 6, 1996 in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Lewinsville, and represents the life and heritage of the church since its organization in 1846. It was conceived and designed by Duane and Betty McKenna and took nine months and required more than 900,000 stitches by eight stitchers working more than 5,000 hours.
THE FIRST CHURCH was built in 1846 and served continuously as the home of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church’s congregation until 1956. Stitcher: Carol Kaffenberger
THE BELL CHOIRS have brought ringing to go with singing in Lewinsville’s music ministry and include participants ranging from young children to senior citizens. Stitcher: Nancy McGuire
THE SINGING CHOIRS with participants from among young children, junior and senior high school youth, and adults form an important part of the life of the church. Stitchers: Katie Cummings and Karen Steel
WORLD MISSION from McLean to the greater Washington area to overseas is an important part of Lewinsville’s ministry through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and our special forms of outreach. Stitcher: Caroline Van Wagoner
THE MINISTRY at Lewinsville encompasses Sunday morning worship services, Christian Education and every facet of church life as well as outreach into the community. Stitcher: Bettie Vodra (McElroy)
THE LEWINSVILLE RETIREMENT RESIDENCE opened in 1980 and has been home to hundreds of senior citizens in the years since, and forms another outreach of this church to the community. Stitcher: Anne Clare
THE CEMETERY predates the original sanctuary and has been the final resting place for persons in the church and community for more than a century and a half. Stitcher: Karen Steel
THE PRESENT CHURCH represents a number of building efforts during the past 40 years, including a new sanctuary, Heritage Hall, a new narthex, St. Andrews Hall, and new offices to undertake our ministry. Stitcher: Betty McKenna
1812-1828 – William Maffitt (served before church was organized)
1846-1848 – L.H. Christian
1848-1852 – F.N. Whaley (Licentiate)
1852-1857 – B.F. Bittinger
1857-1859 – C.B. McKee
1859-1861 – E.B. Smith
1862 (July) – C.B. McKee (Visiting Preacher)
1865 – A.L. Taylor (Visiting Preacher)
1865 – Henry Snyder (Visiting Preacher)
1866-1870 – H.P. Dechert (Stated Supply)
1871-1873 – David Hoge Riddle, Jr. (Pastor)
1873-1875 – John Brown (Pastor)
1875-1876 – Jeremiah Odell (Stated Supply)
1876-1880 – Samuel Murdock (Stated Supply)
1880-1881 – Edwards H. Cumpston (Stated Supply)
1881-1884 – Harrison Clarke (Pastor)
1885-1886 – Joseph E. Nourse (Stated Supply)
1886-1895 – William H. Edwards (Pastor)
1896-1897 – French W. Fisher (Pastor)
1897-1900 – David W. Montgomery (Pastor)
1901-1903 – French W. Fisher (Pastor)
1904-1907 – Edward H. Bronson (Pastor)
1907-1912 – Nelson H. Miller (Stated Supply)
1912-1918 – James W. Nourse (Stated Supply)
1919-1923 – William R. McElroy (Pastor)
1923-1939 – James Harvey Dunham (Stated Supply)
1940-1947 – Franklin B. Gillespie (Pastor)
1948-1953 – James F. Lundquist (Pastor)
1954-1957 – Howard Newman (Pastor)
1957-1969 – John Graham (Pastor)
1962-1965 – Walter H. Boyd (Assistant Pastor)
1965-1968 – John Graham Stevens (Assistant Pastor)
1968-1978 – Gary G. Pinder (Associate Pastor)
1971-1977 – William J. Tatum (Pastor)
1978-1985 – Gary G. Pinder (Co-Pastor)
1979-1985 – John Smith (Co-Pastor)
1986-2005 – Gary G. Pinder (Senior Pastor/Head of Staff)
1987-1995 – Tad Wicker (Associate Pastor)
2002-2018 – Emily Berman D’Andrea (Associate Pastor)
2008-2015 – Deborah A. McKinley (Senior Pastor/Head of Staff)
2015-present – Scott Ramsey (Senior Pastor/Head of Staff)