Ethiopian Orthodox Church Grows in Sterling

By Mark Gunderman

The Debre Haile Kidus Raguael Church was established in 2010 under the Washington, DC, and its surroundings archdiocese of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

It obeys, adheres to and follows the administrative structure of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church—The Mother Church—in Ethiopia, as defined in the Canon Laws of the Church. The church recognizes and accepts the spiritual leadership of the Holy Synod based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The official name of the church is Debre Haile Kidus Raguael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The origin of the church establishment started, in its miniature form, with the help of two Christian companions forming a prayer group called Tsion Mariam (Mary of Zion in Hebrew). Then after, with an additional four members, the Tsion Mariam prayer group officially started on Sept. 4, 2005. The one biggest reason which compelled them to start this prayer group was that there was no Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church around the Dulles Airport area and people had to drive 30-40 miles to find and attend a church in DC or Maryland. The very first meeting of these six people took place at the parking lot of TC Williams High School and on this first meeting day, the name of the prayer group was chosen and various committees were formed.

In September 2005, the Tsion Mariam prayer group got the blessings of the then regional archbishop His Eminence Abune Kewestos and continued the spiritual service until March 2010. Then after, on March 7, 2010, with the blessings of His Eminence Abune Abraham, the successor archbishop of DC and the surroundings archdiocese, Debre Haile Kidus Raguael Church was officially established. On this very same day, the first Parish Council of the church, comprised of nine members, were also elected to oversee the church’s administration.

On September 2010, with the prayers and blessings of the then archbishop His Eminence Abune Abraham, the church began spiritual services at 655 Spring St. in Herndon with 170 parishioners. At this location, the church stayed for only two months and due to the growing number of members, the church moved in to a repurposed warehouse located on Shaw Road in Sterling. In September 2014, the church bought a building from Gilford Baptist Church at 1001 Ruritan Circle in Sterling. The Church currently has 380 active members.

The highest governing body of the church is the Holy Synod, which is the assembly of Archbishops and bishops who are members of one body in the holy apostolic church chaired by His Holiness the Patriarch. The authority of the Holy Synod extends to the entire Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches inside and outside Ethiopia. The church abides by the regular notices of spiritual and secular legislative guidelines of the EOTC Holy Synod.

Debre Haile Kidus Raguael Church

About The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church – The Mother Church

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of the ancient apostolic churches established in the first Christian era. According to Eusebius’s History of the Church, Ethiopian Eunuch /acts, 8:26-40/, was the first apostle of the country. This Eunuch returned to his land and began to spread the good news that the long awaited Messiah had come and fulfilled the Prophetic writings and that salvation was the gift of God to all who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Other Ethiopians believed and the Christian Church began to flourish in Ethiopia. So the first Missionary to Africa was this African convert to Christianity who traveled back to Ethiopia and preached Christianity in 34 A.D.

Starting from that time, Ethiopians accepted Christianity and the structural church was established in the 4th century. The E.O.T.C accepts only the first three Ecumenical Councils: Nicene 325 AD, Ephesus 431 AD and Constantinople 381 AD as legitimate and canonical.

The EOTC is one of the few Churches of Christendom where the worship of the primitive church has been preserved. It is an ancient church which upholds the Apostolic Teachings. The largest pre-colonial Christian church of Africa, the Ethiopian Church has a membership of between 40 and 45 million, the majority of whom live in Ethiopia and therefore is the largest of all Oriental Orthodox churches.

The term “Ethiopia”, which means “burnt face” in Greek, was first used by Homer and Herodotus to refer to the place between south of Egypt and Indian Ocean because the area was inhabited by people having that color. Ancient Egyptians used to call the place south of their country as “Land of the Cush.” Prophet Moses used the term to refer to that place because he grew up in Egypt learning their language and culture.

Ethiopia’s monarch, the Queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, so she traveled to Jerusalem in great faith and in search of righteousness. That was why Our Lord Jesus Christ praised her in the gospel saying that she “shall rise up in the judgement with this generation and shall condemn it: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). The queen brought Solomon’s religion to Ethiopia, which was a decided Judaic country from around 1,000 BC and the earliest Jewish community in the world besides Israel itself.

Judaism was practiced in Ethiopia long before Christianity arrived and the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible contains numerous Jewish Aramaic words. The Seventy Scholars, who lived in the second century B.C. and translated the Holy Bible from Hebrew into Greek, used the term “Ethiopia” to refer to the place that Moses called “Cush”. This term has been mentioned more than 40 times in the Holy Bible.

Spiritual Services:

Church programs like the Liturgy, sermons, and other spiritual services are mainly conducted by the Clergy of the church who are ordained according to EOTC Canon.

The weekly spiritual services schedule is as follows:

Sunday: 4 AM-11 AM – Morning prayers, Liturgy and Sermon

Sunday: 12 PM-3 PM – Sunday-School program

Sunday: 12 PM – 1 PM – Youth program

Sunday: 9 PM – 11 PM – Kids program

Friday: 6 PM-8 PM – Prayer and sermons/bible study

Tuesday through Saturday: 7 AM-11 AM – Morning Prayer and Confession

For more information about Debre Haile Kidus Raguael Church, contact the Church Secretary at or call 703-651-6819.

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