The History of St. Thomas'
St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church was born of the
foresight of the Potomac Area Strategy Committee of the Diocese of Virginia.
The Committee, with the consent of rectors of the neighboring parishes, agreed
that a new congregation be formed, and the Diocese of Virginia purchased the
present site of 5 acres for $17,500 in January 1960.
The Rev. William A. Opel was appointed priest
in charge, and in summer 1961 a meeting was called of known Episcopalians in
the immediate area to discuss the organization of the new church.
for the new church, which still did not have a name, was held on Sunday, July
30, 1961. Construction began thereafter
on a rectory and church structure using the modular, A-frame “Church of the
Sixties” design developed by the Diocese of Virginia for new congregations. Until
the new church was available, services would be held at Andrew Chapel Methodist
Church, and the first service of the new St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church was held there
at 4:00 p.m., on September 10, 1961.
The first service in the new sanctuary, still
under construction, was held on Christmas Eve, 1961. Plywood occupied the windows, kerosene heaters provided
warmth, and light was by candles. Among the families present were: Bird,
Dvorachek, Henninger, Henshaw, Lee-Thorp, Marcus, Mote, Hudson, McBroom,
Pringle, and Sims.
St. Thomas was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Samuel
B. Chilton, Suffragan Bishop of Virginia, in a service in which other Episcopal
leaders took part on Sunday, September 9, 1962. The current sanctuary is the only remaining part of that
original structure, which also included a wing housing two or three classrooms,
a low-ceilinged meeting hall, and a kitchen area. In 1965, a sacristy, seven new classrooms, office space and a
combination choir room and library were added, and the parish hall and kitchen
were modified to give more working space.
In 1966, St. Thomas’ achieved parish status
and thereby became a separate congregation. In this same year, the Rev. Opel
exchanged parishes with the Rev. Alex Methven in London. The Rev. Methven was later called and
served again as Rector of the parish, from 1968 to 1969.
August 1969, the parish called the Rev. Robert W. Dickey to St. Thomas’ from
the Diocese of Delaware, and he served as rector until September 1986. In his 17 years here, the parish
flourished, drawing on the expanding housing development and population growth
west of Tyson’s Corner. St. Thomas’
reached its peak average Sunday attendance during his tenure. Also during this period, St. Thomas’
supported numerous programs that enriched both families within the parish and
the broader community. In 1976,
the Rev. Peter Gray began as St. Thomas’ part-time associate, teaching adult
Sunday morning Christian Education classes, preaching and celebrating communion, and working
with the parish’s outreach committee. He continued his professional association with St. Thomas’
until December 2004, and remains part of the parish family.
In 1988 the parish called the Rev. John W.
Morris. In his 17-year tenure as rector, St. Thomas’ continued to evolve into
the church it is today. The lay leadership expanded and took on strong
independent roles in music, outreach, and education. New staff were added. Barbara Everhart became our first
Minister for Children, and the children’s program prospered. The Rev. Anne
McNabb became St. Thomas’ first Assistant for Youth and Young Adults. Substantial capital programs were also
undertaken in the mid-90’s to expand and renovate St. Thomas’ physical facility.
The renovation included building a
narthex to welcome visitors and parishioners, creating a workable kitchen and spacious
parish hall for parish and community events, and providing an education wing
with the capacity to stimulate and engage teachers and students in lively
activity. At the end of this
renovation period, a newly acquired church organ was rebuilt and installed to enrich
the music program that has always been central to the life of the parish.
In July 2007, the parish called the Rev. Dr.
Stephen Edmondson as Rector. Since
then, the Rev. Betsy Baumgarten and the Rev. Justin McIntosh served,
successively, as Assistant Rectors for Children, Youth, and Young Adults. In this time, the Rev. Deacon Marty
Hager, one of the first vocational deacons ordained in the Diocese of Virginia,
also began his ministry at St. Thomas’.