Year in Review: Churches build structure, support
Area churches and ministry outreach efforts experienced some physical expansion and increased support through 2015, and a nearby visit to Pope Francis in D.C. drew a wave of excitement.
Hundreds of volunteers used a two-week “build out” period in January to construct a new Kingdom Hall for the Shenandoah County congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Edinburg. Kelly Osborne, the church’s body of elders coordinator, said a new building was a better option than renovations to the old 1992 building.
“When you knock on thousands of doors, you end up tending to people who may have experienced loss or illness and have an impact on their lives,” he said. “This building is where it starts.”
St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Woodstock has seen a number of new developments in 2015 after what the Rev. Michael Dobbins termed a “growth spurt.” He said he had created a master planning committee with those needs in mind. The church acquired the former Shenandoah Valley-Herald building and other land nearby in Woodstock from the Diocese of Arlington in February and opened a new location for their thrift store in the fall.
Churches of all denominations combined their efforts to continue building up Family Promise of Shenandoah County, which will begin helping homeless families in a rotation system starting in January 2016.
“The call of Christ is to serve those who are in need,” Antioch Church of the Brethren pastor George Bowers said when Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Woodstock joined in the affiliate in February. “I think this is one of those ministries that crosses denominational boundaries and attracts anybody who seriously follows Christ’s word.”
The Shenandoah Valley Coalition for Christ, a conglomerate of various area churches, businesses and nonprofits working together, also moved toward some new beginnings this year. The coalition hosted a concert for Christian rock group Third Day at Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in July and opened up a new community center headquarters shortly after. The center serves as a base of operations for their Rapid Response Homelessness and Hunger team.
After struggles with permission to hold services in the Cedar Creek chapel near Marlboro, the newly-founded Christ Reigns Presbyterian Church set up at Cedar Creek Primitive Baptist Church in late September.
Pope Francis’ visit to D.C., New York and Philadelphia in September meant a massive influx of traffic into the metro area. The Catholic Diocese of Arlington distributed tickets to member parishes for randomly selected parishioners to see the Papal Mass and canonization of Junipero Serra in D.C.
“I was surprised and pleased and it’s really a historic moment and I’m happy to be there,” said Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church congregation member and papal Mass attendee Patrick Beltran. “I have a great deal of respect for this pope, so all in all it’s a pretty exciting time.”
Stained glass artist Charles Barone created a 1,284-piece window depicting St. Francis of Assisi in honor of the pope’s visit, which he said was blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Barone said that he hoped to accompany the window to Italy with his family in the spring to give it a permanent home wherever the pope may deign.
Many area churches packed shoe boxes full of gifts for children around the world in preparation for Operation Christmas Child, an outreach of evangelical organization Samaritan’s Purse.
Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org