One of Loudoun’s oldest congregations will be celebrating new beginnings Sunday when the cornerstone will be laid for its new church.
The Church of Our Saviour at Little Oatlands was forced to find a new home after the traditional and conservative parish broke away from the Episcopal Church on doctrinal and social disagreements, including the parish’s use of the 1928 Prayer Book, four years ago.
The congregation won’t be moving far, just 2 miles up Rt. 15 closer to Leesburg.
Rector emeritus, the Rev. Elijah White has been a key supporter of the new church, now known as the Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands.
Calling it a step forward, the freehold site “will be a solid base for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in a beautiful expression to the traditional Anglican prayer book,” White said.
The 24-acre site offers tremendous possibilities for future growth, including a cemetery and a school, he said.
Once the move to the new building is made next year, White said,
“We will continue what has always worked, which is to preach the Bible, pray the real prayer book, and sing hymns people know.”
The divisive fight between the Diocese of Virginia and the Church of Our Saviour ended in a 2011 legal settlement by which the parish was allowed to continue to worship in its present buildings for a monthly rental of $500, but to vacate the premises by March 2016.
Senior Warden Stephen Price, a parish member for 20 years, is buoyant about the new church site. Formerly a vineyard and Christmas tree farm, the 24-acre property is ideal for the 60-family parish, with plenty of space for outdoor activities.
“The walls are going up as we speak,” Price said in a recent interview.
The construction may not be complete by the March deadline, but Price said there are two large rooms in the property’s farmhouse that could be used for services or permission could be sought from the Diocese of Virginia to continue the parish’s rental of the existing church until the new building is ready.
Historically, the parish was part of the Oatlands community, that also comprised the Mountain Gap school on the west side of Rt. 15, and the two existing church buildings, the brick one dating from about 1878 and the 1906 white frame building that is the parish hall.
“E.O. Russell, clerk of the court, lived on Lime Kiln Road opposite the church, and his wife was postmistress,” Price said. Also close by was the Carter Mill, part of the farm buildings originated by George Carter, the founder of Oatlands Plantation.
“There was a sense of real community,” Price, who served on Loudoun’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, said.
Price has a connection to the new property, remembering when his family would visit the farm, then owned by the late Marian Czarnecki, to cut their Christmas tree. The vines in the former vineyard are too far gone to retain, but the conifers that line that property to the north and south are flourishing.
The property’s 25-year-old cottage is in use as the parish rectory, and the older farmhouse, with a log section that is about 200 years old, is perfect for offices, meetings and prayer and study groups. A barn at the back finishes out the existing structures’ complex.
The new church will be 3,600 square feet, sized to seat 120.
“On an average Sunday, we get attendance of about 60,” Price said, noting the question that is always asked when building anew: Do you plan for what you have now or will it be a bigger space for the future?
The total construction and design cost is $1.7 million, with another $1.8 million for acquisition of the property. The parish has all but about $400,000 in hand, and some items, including pews, are being donated.
“I’m most pleased with the design,” Price said, noting the building has flexibility. “For instance, we can put in a belfry later on,” he said, adding the building should last the ages.
Sunday’s cornerstone dedication will follow the 9:30 a.m. service, at the church. At 10:30 a.m., parishioners led by the rector, the Rev. James A. Basinger, will drive to the new property for the ceremony.