Church Hopping Across Virginia

by: 

Kathryn E. Darden
Dec 31, 2008

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Recently I had the opportunity to go to Virginia on business, so I packed my brother, my dog
and a couple of suitcases into the back of my brother's truck, and off we went! We decided to take the long
way up Interstate 81 and then across the top of the state to Washington, DC, to see the area where
we spent five years of our childhood.

Among my favorite things to do in any town is to note the churches, especially the
older, historic churches. I have scrapbooks full of photos of beautiful old church buildings across
the U.S. Virginia with roots dating back well over 300 years provides ample opportunities to view old,
historic churches. Interestingly enough, most of these old buildings house active congregations,
many of whose roots stretch back to when the church was established.

One of the first churches we stopped at on this trip was the beautiful old Methodist Church in
Abingdon, Virginia. Located near the Barter Theater and across the street from the Martha
Washington Inn, this lovely old church blends in well with the historic buildings that surround it
and is still holding services today.

Located at Bailey's Crossroads in Falls Church Virginia, is St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Founded in 1857, this is the church my family attended when I was a child and I sang there in the
"Angel Choir." The modest church building still resembles the church of my childhood memories, complete with traditional stained glass, white columns, red bricks and happy children, although one wing looks suspiciously new. A long line of small tikes
was walking across the parking lot to play in the church playground as the church now boasts a
Day Care for little ones. The church sign features the slogan: To Know Christ and Make Him
Known.

Alexandria, Virginia, is home to historic Christ Church, pictured above. This was one of my mother's favorite
haunts when we lived in Falls Church, along with the National Cathedral, and I spent many
happy hours in childhood with her visiting both churches on numerous occasions. Christ Church
has been in continuous service since it was built in 1773. Both George Washington and Robert E.
Lee were active members during their lifetimes and the Washington family pew is clearly marked.
The present congregation honors their roots in the past and are actively planning for the
future.

Officially founded in 1744, Winchester, VA, boasts several historic churches. Christ Episcopal
was built around 1828 in the Gothic Revival style. The building remains virtually unchanged since
the Civil War. It was not damaged during the conflict since the Union Army held services there,
forcing some loyal Confederates to attend Kent Street Presbyterian! Grace Lutheran Church
was constructed during the years 1841 - 1843. The church served as a hospital during the war ad
had to be renovated. The Gothic-style front with its prominent spire were completed in 1875 and
a bill was presented to the Federal government in 1908 for war damage, which was granted. In
1838, some 40 members of the Kent Street Presbyterian Church left the congregation to start a
new church. First Presbyterian Church was erected in Winchester in 1841. Reverend Dr.
Andrew Hunter Holmes Boyd served as pastor during the Ciivil War. This church was used as a
hospital by both sides and was not seriously damaged during the war.

Mount Jackson, Virginia is home of the Union Church. Built around 1825 on land donated by
Reuben Moore, the red brick church stands in cemetery the center of the small town. Tradition has
it the the little church building was used as a hospital as well as a stable during the Civil War.
Signatures of soldiers were discovered on the church walls during renovation in 1986 when the
church was restored and its doors opened to the general public. In 1989, the Union Church was
placed on the Virginia Historic Landmark.

Next time you plan a vacation, consider leaving a little time to visit a church or two in the area. So much of our nation's history revolves around churches that they not only provide an interesting glimpse into the lives of other believers, but into the history of the towns they serve.

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