“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” Hebrews 10:25
This scripture speaks volumes about the history of our church. It is a history of home groups. Originally these “cell groups” as they were known, were part of Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, Virginia. Believers in these groups in the Manassas area felt God’s call to unite and form an actual congregation. It was this unity, provided by the Holy Spirit and supported by the Church of the Apostles, that lead the way to becoming a mission church in September of 1986, with the Rev. Ken MacGowan as our first Vicar. Within a year, we were self-supporting and took on full church status.
There were three church homes in the first 2 years, which involved renting space in public schools during the first two years and a private school at the beginning of our third year as a church. This required setting up and breaking down the worship space each Sunday. Obedience to the will of God was an integral part of the life of the church in this period of development. We learned that it’s not the building, but the people who are the church.
Our original Vicar/Rector, the Rev. Ken MacGowan, left for new ministry just after Thanksgiving, 1990. This meant that an interim rector was needed. In February 1991, the Rev. Alison Barfoot was called as Interim Rector. The true family nature of the church showed through when a group of people went to Pittsburgh to pack and move Alison to Virginia. The church went back to mission status in December of 1992, which facilitated financial support over the next three years. God replenished and revitalized our church, and we continued to grow and bear fruit.
During the interim period, our congregation entered into a disciplined time of prayer, healing, and reflection. In preparation for writing a parish profile, we conducted an extensive self-study, from which we gained fresh insights into who we were and what we were called to be. By the end of 1992, while identifying the gifts we were seeking in a Vicar, it appeared that the Rev. Alison Barfoot possessed those gifts. In April of 1993, Alison was installed as our Vicar. The next major milestone was in December of 1993, when our congregation moved into the current church home in Gainesville, formerly the Leading Creek Nursery, which was renovated for church use. Miraculous events brought the property to the church, and confirmed again that it was God’s will for us to establish a stable, permanent base of ministry in Northern Virginia.
This move into a permanent building helped immensely with the development of our life of service to show Christ’s love. The high percentage of young people in our church necessitated the building of dynamic youth and children’s programs. At the same time, there was a need to minister to the wider congregation and local community. This has been done through various ministries such as the grief and loss group, prayer chain, working with a local food closet, and the Discovery program which God used to strengthen and grow new believers. All of this resulted in a growing congregation.
After six years of faithful ministry at Church of the Word, the Rev. Alison Barfoot responded to God’s call to devote a greater portion of her ministry to missions. Alison departed Church of the Word in February 1997 to join the staff of Sharing of Ministry Abroad (SOMA).
In January 1998 the Rev. Robin Adams was called to be the third vicar of Church of the Word. Pastor Adams is an experienced pastor who served for 10 years in his native Ireland before coming to the United States to serve at a church in Tecumseh, Michigan for 8 years. A year after Robin’s arrival, we were totally self-supporting and no longer needed financial assistance.
In January 2005, we once again moved from mission status to full parish status with Pastor Adams now serving as our rector.
In December 2006, Church of the Word voted to withdraw from The Episcopal Church (TEC) and, after an enforced five-year period without denominational association, Church of the Word is now part of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic in the Anglican Church in North America.
Over his 20 years of ministry at Church of the Word, Pastor Robin Adams guided Church of the Word to expand its ministries and we have:
- implemented ALPHA as a program to draw new Christians and enrich and expand the faith of ongoing believers.
- started MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and AWANA programs.
- adopted Little Lambs Village Preschool, which had been using our physical facilities and brought it under the oversight of Church of the Word
Pastor Adams has now accepted a call to new ministry overseas and will be leaving after Christmas 2017. Although we will greatly miss the spiritual guidance that Robin and Donna Adams have provided us, we look forward to our continuing mission here in Gainesville, VA.