For almost 60 years, Mount Vernon Unitarian Church has been the home of liberal religion in the Mount Vernon area. Founded in 1955 with encouragement from the Reverend A. Powell Davies of All Souls Church in Washington, DC, the small but growing Congregation took a bold step just four years later by purchasing a ten-acre estate atop one of the highest points in Fairfax County – what we now call our “Holy Hill.” For more than 20 years, Sunday worship services were held in the small chapel that had formerly been the guesthouse. In 1983 that building, along with three acres of land, was sold to help pay for construction of the present Meeting House, which was completed in 1985.
With its unusual origin, our church setting is different from that of most churches. In addition to a modern Meeting House we have a hundred-year-old mansion, a Carriage House, a windmill, and even a greenhouse. The Carriage House, used for children’s Religious Education on Sundays, has also been the home of the Fort Hunt Preschool since shortly after the Church was formed. And because the grounds are so attractive, our property has hosted numerous weekend rental events, mostly picturesque weddings.
Mount Vernon Unitarian Church – The Early Years
By Lucy Walsh Phinney, 1994
In 1955, a small group of people led by Joe Remington, a resident of Hollin Hills, decided to start a Unitarian church. They had visited the Unitarian church that had recently been established in Arlington, and they were encouraged by the Rev. E. Powell Davies, minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC. Their first worship service was held on the last Sunday in September 1955 in Friendly House, a small chapel owned by the Girls’ Friendly Society, a subsidiary of the Episcopal Church. The Congregation of the “Mount Vernon Center of All Souls Church” began with 85 adults and 110 children and grew rapidly. In those early years, the sermons by Rev. Davies were delivered by wire from All Souls. Some members of a community madrigal choir that had been invited to perform at Sunday services were so impressed by the sermons that they became church members.
After just one year at Friendly House, church leaders decided they needed more space, so the Congregation began meeting in Hollin Hills Elementary School (now the Paul Spring Retirement Community). In a cafeteria decorated with screens made by church-member John Kofler and with sermons by Rev. Davies still coming by wire from All Souls, the Congregation continued to grow.
In October of 1957, the Congregation, which had now become the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church, purchased a house in Hollin Hills for use as a parsonage and called their first minister, the Reverend Ernest Sommerfeld. A year later, Board members Joe Remington and Mike Niccolls began looking for property for the church itself. Finding that land along the Potomac River was too expensive, they went to see Mrs. Merle Thorpe, owner of a large estate crowned by a mansion called Hollin Hall. Mrs. Thorpe, described as a gracious, charming, and dignified lady but in fragile health, had reluctantly agreed to her sons’ wishes that she sell the property and move to Washington.
The young Congregation could not afford to buy the entire estate but did purchase the top ten acres, with its formal gardens and existing buildings: the mansion (Hollin Hall), the guesthouse, the equipment garage, the car garage, the swimming pool, the greenhouse, and the windmill. The price was $150,000. The parsonage was sold, and Church members committed $25,000. The rest of the debt was covered by a first mortgage held by Merle Thorpe Jr. and a second mortgage held by two New York City Unitarian churches, All Souls and Community.
With five buildings to work with, allocation of space for church and community activities required careful planning. The main room of the guesthouse became the Chapel, which was used for Sunday services and various group activities. Measuring 30 by 50 feet, with heavy beams across the ceiling, the Chapel looked out over Fairfax County. Its kitchen was used by all ages. The swimming pool, though attractive, was considered too expensive to maintain, so unwanted equipment, including an old piano, was dumped into it, and it was filled in. The area was planted with grass and used as an amphitheater; a concrete stage was erected in 1974.
Hollin Hall was the home of ministers and their families until 1984. Church offices were located there for almost ten years, and rooms were made available at low rental cost to neighborhood groups who needed meeting space. The Women’s Group met there from the beginning, and Church records and unused equipment were stored in the basement.
The equipment or utility garage, known today as the Carriage House, was remodeled in 1967 to help meet the needs of the expanding church school, which at that time numbered 358 children. In 1969, the Fort Hunt Preschool moved into the Carriage House. From 1969 to 1974, the loft of the building was the site of the Children’s Theater. Taught as a Religious Education class, the theater presented original productions several times a year on a stage at one end of the long room. The car garage, called Junior House, accommodated classes for the older children on Sundays and for some of the Fort Hunt Preschool children during the week. For several years until 1975, the second floor was home to the Garret Gallery, a group of local artists. In September of that year, the second floor was converted into an apartment for student ministers.
By 1984, membership had grown to nearly 400. The Congregation voted to build a new meeting house with a multipurpose chapel, commons, offices, and kitchen. Two lots on Windmill Lane, including the site of the old guesthouse/chapel, were sold to help pay for construction. Other lots on Mason Hill Drive were also sold, reducing the property to a little over seven acres. To make room for the new parking lot, the old car garage, called Junior House, was razed. Designed by the architectural firm of LeMay Associates of Reston, Virginia, the new building was completed in 1985. The large meeting room was named the Remington Chapel in honor of founder Joe Remington. The stained glass window was designed and created by Church member Jane Kofler.
Mount Vernon Unitarian Church’s Growth and Change
In the years following purchase of the Thorpe estate, enthusiastic leaders looked for creative ways to raise the money necessary to sustain the young Church. In the summers of 1959 – 1961, the Church sponsored the Boxwood Concerts, held in front of the Chapel in a natural bowl-shaped area with a seating capacity of 2,000. The audience sat on blankets on the gently sloping lawn, and the guest artists performed on a stage below. Musicians of great renown played for these concerts, including guitarist Charlie Byrd, the Buffalo Bills, and pianist George Shearing and his quintet. Another venture sponsored by the Church was the Boxwood Theater Company. Each summer from 1965 into the mid-1970s, the group offered a series of outdoor performances in the circular garden in front of the mansion.
A fund-raising activity that began in the early days and still continues is Holiday Shop, with its many craft vendors, homemade foods, and noon lunch. The Women’s Group, later called Every Thursday, sponsors the event on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It was originally expected to be a series of sales geared to various holidays, but the planners quickly decided to limit the effort to one event before Christmas. Over the years it has become an annual celebration, with nearly all members of the Congregation involved in one way or another. The Every Thursday group – which also holds book discussions, has lunch together, and watches over the well-being of the entire Congregation – plans year-round for the next Holiday Shop.
Through the years, Mount Vernon Unitarian Church has sponsored many kinds of activities, including an annual used book and art sale, Great Decisions discussions of foreign policy, an international folk-dancing group, and informal jazz jams. A group of church members (sometimes called “Greenthumbers”) renovated the old Greenhouse and continue to use it to raise plants and flowers for sale. In September, there is a traditional Ingathering Picnic marking the start of another church year; in December, there is a crafts workshop with Christmas carols and imaginative piñatas.
Religious Education has been a fundamental element of our church life from its beginnings. The founders wanted a Unitarian church because they were concerned about what children were being taught in Christian churches in the area. Most households in the newly-built area had young parents, and families were larger then. In her 2013 study of MVUC, Reverend Kate Walker observes, “By 1957 there were 156 children, and another dozen in the nursery. For many years, the philosophy toward children was to let them find their own faith journey, resulting in minimal encouragement toward being a Unitarian Universalist. This may have contributed to a gap in generations of adults who grew up UU but are no longer affiliated with a UU church. Overall, however, faith formation for all ages has continued to be a priority for MVUC.”
In recent years, classes popular with children and their parents have included “Holidays and Holy Days,” “World Religions,” “UU Identity,” “UU Superheroes,” “Coming of Age,” (which includes a trip to Boston, home of the UUA), and “Our Whole Lives,” which helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. The Religious Education curriculum now makes extensive use of the “Tapestry of Faith” materials produced by the UUA.
MVUC has also been proud of its adult program, with courses such as “Building Your Own Theology” offered periodically alongside classes dealing with current issues such as “Immigration as a Moral Issue.”
Music has been another important aspect of our church program, both for special events and in worship services. Our Sunday services usually have music from the Christian tradition but often include songs from other sources. Through the years, we have hosted occasional concerts, some by our choir and others by visiting groups and individual performers. In 1992, the Church bought the Hoffmann piano that contributes so much to the quality of our worship services. In the late 1990s, we sponsored a small orchestra, the 21st Century Ensemble, and community chorus, the Windmill Hill Chorale.
Professional Leadership in the Community
Ministers. Our Minister, the Reverend Kate R. Walker, was called in 2008. The Rev. Don Vaughn-Foerster served as Interim Minister in 2007-08. The previous minister, The Rev. Louis Schwebius, resigned in February 2007. Other former ministers include the Rev. Kenneth Hurto (1986-2000), who left MVUC to join the staff of the UUA and now serves as District Administrator of the Florida district, and the Rev. David Bumbaugh (1969-1984) and his co-minister, the Rev. Beverly Bumbaugh (1977-1984).
Religious Education. Our present Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth, Ann Richards, was appointed in 2012. Former Ministers of Religious Education include the Reverend Linda Olson Peebles (1997-2001) and the Rev. Betty Jo Middleton (1984-1990). Upon her retirement after serving other UU churches in the area, Rev. Middleton returned to MVUC, where she continues to be a member. Rev. Peebles, who before becoming a minister had served MVUC as Director of Religious Education, was called to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia. Meagan Henry, former Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth (2009-12), left MVUC to join the professional staff of All Souls UU Church in Washington, DC.
Music. Our Director of Music, Mark Zimmerman, had served in that position earlier and returned in 2008. Yee Von Ng, Pianist, was appointed shortly thereafter, and is now also Summer Music Coordinator. In recent years our Music Directors have included Ted Spencer, Lisa Billingham, Michael O’Brien, and Melodie Feather. Our first professional Music Director was Forrest Tobey (1992-2003).
Leading by Example and Making a Difference – Social Justice at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church
Throughout its history, MVUC has been engaged in efforts to achieve social justice in the greater Washington area and beyond. In August of 1961, we invited the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to use our facilities for three weeks to train people for freedom rides and sit-ins. In the early 1960s, our Church sponsored “exchange parties” for children, held alternately in the Chapel of MVUC and the nearby segregated Drew Smith School in Gum Springs. During the late 1960s, church members led demonstrations in opposition to the Vietnam War; more recently, we demonstrated against the Iraq War. We have had a partner church in Romania since 1988, and in 2007 we added a partner church in India. In 1969, we were a founding member of United Community Ministries, which provides assistance to people who live in poverty along the U.S. 1 corridor, and in the 1980s we began holding monthly special collections for worthy community organizations. In 1985, MVUC started holding periodic blood drives in response to the actions of other area churches that were cancelling their blood drives and boycotting hospitals that provided abortions. The blood drives continue but are now conducted in cooperation with several nearby churches.
For more than two decades, our Church has worked to achieve equality for gays and lesbians. The Welcoming Congregation project, led by Peter Bloom from 1989 through 1997, was intended to assure that gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people would feel welcome to join our community. More recently, Joan Darrah led a national campaign culminating in 2012 with repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
We have also acted in response to environmental concerns. Our Church was certified by the UUA as a Green Sanctuary in the late 1990s. In 2007, we cooperated with Fairfax County in modifying our grounds to reduce water runoff to the local watershed. In 2011-12, we replaced the conventional HVAC equipment for the Meeting House with a renewable energy system that uses a geothermal installation for heating and cooling combined with solar panels to generate electricity.
Words of Our Earliest Ministers
Our first minister, the Reverend Ernest Sommerfeld, explained what he considered to be the purpose of our Church this way: “Our aim … is to support with intelligence, knowledge, and experience the values that give significance to our lives … to help build individuals who are humane. Humaneness is the first and last test of true religion … Our aim is to help individuals continue to grow mentally and spiritually as long as they live … Our aim is to help individuals learn to live with themselves and to be successful at the only point where success counts in the long run, which is in the fulfillment of selfhood.”
A few years later, in 1965, our second minister, the Reverend John Wells, who lived with his family in the Mansion, wrote in a letter to a friend: “I am so thrilled to be a part of this place. I love to see the sun rise from across the Potomac River in faraway Maryland. I love to gaze from the second story sun porch and see the hills of the original Mount Vernon Estate. I love to stroll at midnight among the boxwoods and watch the moon make shimmering patterns of black and silver. I glory in the magnificence of spring in all her radiant rebirth of flowering fruit trees and blazing azaleas. I walk lazily among the shaded pathways in summer. I roam more briskly as autumn turns oaks and maples into a fire-dance of color. I brave the cold of winter and revel in the contrasts of white snow, dark green boxwood hedges, and red bricks that pile up together to create our home. Yes, Rafael, this place is Home: Home to me, to Rollene, our children, and hundreds more who know, and love, and live here on our Holy Hill … There is a light on this hill [which] burns in the heart of all who come and catch the glow from the torch of liberal religion. There is a heart on this hill. It is a living, beating heart of an old estate made new and alive by the fellowship and communion of seeking souls.”
Remodeling of the Meeting House – Mount Vernon Unitarian Church Refreshed
A construction project to expand and renovate the Commons is expected to begin in summer 2013. The project is the culmination of over 10 years of planning involving many hours of discussion, a series of decisions by the Congregation, and considerable expense, along with several disappointments and revised expectations. The Commons expansion is the last and largest of three improvements approved by the Congregation at a special meeting in January 2012. Funding for the three projects was expected to come mostly from the money remaining from an earlier capital campaign originally intended for a larger remodeling program. The first, renovation of the kitchen, was undertaken immediately and completed in the spring of 2012. The second, construction of a new permanent platform and choir risers, was completed in February 2013. The third phase is the expansion and renovation of the Commons.
A larger, quieter Commons will be a more comfortable setting for conversations with friends on Sunday mornings. It will also provide a more suitable place to welcome the stream of newcomers who through the years have added so much to the wealth of talents and ideas that make our Congregation such a wonderful community.
• The Remington, Howard and Johnson families place a notice in Hollin Hills Bulletin announcing the possibility of beginning a Unitarian church.
• The first meetings with the Reverend A. Powell Davies take place at the Girls Friendly Society.
• Joe Remington is elected Chair of the Board.
• Charter Sunday for the “Mount Vernon Center of All Souls Unitarian Church” is September 25, 1955. The first worship service is held in the Girls Friendly Society House. Nearly 100 people join.
• Rufus Wright is elected Chair of the Board.
• Meetings begin in the Hollin Hills Elementary School.
•Edward Liscombe is elected Chair of the Board.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian Church is chartered as a Unitarian Church in Alexandria, VA with the American Unitarian Association.
• The Reverend Ernest Sommerfeld of Springfield, Massachusetts is called as first settled minister.
• Ralph Politte is elected Chair of the Board.
• Chuck Dell is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Congregation purchases the top ten acres of the Merle Thorpe estate. Initial cost: $150,000.
• With purchase of the Thorpe estate, John Stevens begins his life-long career as church sexton.
• The Fort Hunt Nursery School is organized.
• Jim Lansburg is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church is criticized by the Washington Post for substituting a sledding party for services on a snowy Sunday.
• The Church holds Boxwood Concerts with nationally-known performers.
• Joe Remington is elected Chair of the Board.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian Church houses the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) training institute. The Board of Trustees is threatened with legal action by Fairfax County.
• Steve Leo is elected Chair of the Board.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian Church receives the Holmes Weatherly Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association for its work with CORE.
• Al Weinstein is elected Chair of the Board.
• Rev. Ernest Sommerfeld resigns.
• John Wells, a student for the ministry at Howard University, moves family onto the hill and begins preaching.
• The church begins to hold two sessions of worship and religious education on Sundays.
• Members participate in the People’s March on Washington, DC.
• Jim Southerland is elected Chair of the Board.
• John Wells is ordained by MVUC to Unitarian Universalist ministry and settled as second minister.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian Church mobilizes efforts to aid residents of Gum Springs with regard to housing, sanitation needs, and the establishment of a community center.
• Dick Michaels is elected Chair of the Board.
• Reverend Wells joins other Unitarian Universalist ministers in answering Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to come to Selma, Alabama. MVUC participates in efforts to pass landmark civil rights legislation.
• A Mason Hill developer offers a lot on Fort Hunt Road in exchange, but the Congregation votes to remain on the hill.
• With 330 children enrolled in Sunday morning classes, the Congregation hires its first paid Director of Religious Education, Virginia Knowles, who lives with her family in the apartment above the guest house/Chapel.
• Elsa Porter is elected Chair of the Board.
• Saul Baran is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Carriage House is remodeled to help meet the needs of the expanding church school, which has 358 children. The Church offices are moved from the Mansion to the Carriage House.
• Harvey Paige is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church provides support for the Poor People’s Campaign and initiates a project with Fort Belvoir to establish open housing in area rentals.
• Margaret Odell is Director of Religious Education.
• Harvey Paige is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• The Reverend David Bumbaugh is settled as the Congregation’s third minister.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian ChurchC’s hilltop becomes a haven for the counterculture; members form a security patrol to guard the property.
• The Church participates in a nationwide service calling for a moratorium on the war in Vietnam.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian Church joins with other area churches to help establish United Community Ministries.
• Marge Witting is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church provides housing and bail money for anti-war demonstrators.
• Dan Fulmer is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church initiates a lifespan, intergenerational religious education concept.
• Margaret Odell is ordained by Mount Vernon Unitarian Church to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• Betsy Stevens is appointed Director of Religious Education.
• Beverly Southerland is elected Chair of the Board.
• Ralph Slawson is elected Chair of the Board.
• Ken Krogh is elected Chair of the Board.
• Church daughter Marianne Politte is ordained by Mount Vernon Unitarian Church to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• The Boxwood Theater Company, sponsored by the Church, holds its performances on an oval concrete stage built over the filled-in former swimming pool behind the guesthouse/Chapel.
• Phil Schwimmer is elected Chair of the Board.
• Meadville-Lombard Theological School student William Holway serves his internship at MVUC.
• Don Hearth is elected Chair of the Board.
• Church daughter Lisa Wiggins is ordained by MVUC to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• Rufus Wright is elected Chair of the Board.
• Beverly Bumbaugh begins her co-ministry with Rev. David Bumbaugh.
• Rufus Wright is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Beverly Bumbaugh, Co-Minister, is ordained by Mount Vernon Unitarian Church.
• Meadville Lombard Theological School student Donna Morrison serves her internship and is ordained.
• Mike Wise is elected Chair of the Board.
• Mike Wise is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Church member Eric Bovet is ordained by MVUC to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• MVUC helps found the Accotink Unitarian Universalist congregation in Burke-Springfield, Virginia.
• Ron Brandt is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Chapel is dedicated to Joseph Remington.
• Church daughter Wendy Colby is ordained by MVUC to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• Ron Brandt is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Minor Anderson is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Congregation sells nearly three acres, including the old Chapel, and breaks ground for a new Meeting House.
• Betsy Stevens, Director of Religious Education, resigns.
• Minor Anderson is elected Chair of the Board.
• A Service of Passage moves the Congregation from the old Chapel to temporary quarters in Hollin Hall.
• Construction begins on the new Meeting House.
• Co-ministers Reverend David Bumbaugh and Reverend Beverly Bumbaugh resign.
• The Reverend Judith Walker-Riggs is appointed Interim Minister.
• The Reverend Betty Jo Middleton is called as Minister of Religious Education.
• Trudy Wright is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Meeting House is dedicated in March.
• Tom Colin is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Reverend Kenneth Gordon Hurto of Des Moines, Iowa, is installed as the fourth settled minister.
• Wendy Burns is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church takes turns providing overnight housing and meals to homeless people and begins on-going advocacy for low-cost housing.
• Hinkley Porter is elected Chair of the Board.
• Larry Jackley is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church becomes a member of the regional Unitarian Universalist Affordable Housing Coalition.
• Larry Jackley is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Rev. Betty Jo Middleton, Minister of Religious Education, resigns.
• Linda Olson Peebles is appointed Director of Religious Education.
• Reid Swanson is elected Chair of the Board.
• Jan Cook is elected Chair of the Board.
• Starr King School of Religion student Marlene Walker serves her internship and is ordained.
• Mount Vernon Unitarian Church houses participants in the National March for Women’s Lives.
• The Church hosts a spring concert for Affordable Housing.
• Forrest Tobey is appointed Music Director.
• The Church begins publishing a monthly newsletter, The Windmill.
• Gary Fitzpatrick is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Congregation votes to become a Welcoming Congregation.
• The Church buys a Hoffmann piano and plans a series of concerts to pay for it.
• A retirement fund is established for John Ernest Stevens, who has been Sexton since the Church was founded and had worked on the property since 1926, when he was a teenager.
• Jack Hinman is elected Chair of the Board.
• MVUC cooperates with the Alexandria Campagna Center to make Hollin Hall the Decorator Showhouse.
• The Good Companions group begins meeting twice each month with talks by invited speakers.
• Helen Patterson is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Memorial Walks, envisioned by Ken Krogh and others since 1972, is constructed as “an enduring memorial dedicated to remembrance of those we love.”
• Sally Joy Remington is elected Chair of the Board.
• Sally Joy Remington is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Linda Olson Peebles is ordained and called by MVUC to be Minister of Religious Education.
• A new structure for the Program Council is used on a trial basis, with six program coordinators replacing the traditional monthly meetings of all committee chairs.
• Mark Hayes is appointed Intern Minister.
• The choir produces the opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, in December.
• The Congregation approves the new structure for the Program Council.
• A “White Paper” by the Long Range Planning Committee analyzing the Church’s past, present, and possible future is presented at a Sunday service on May 17, 1998.
• Kris Rosenthal is elected Chair of the Board.
• Gail Collins-Ranadive is ordained by MVUC to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• In his second year as Intern Minister, Mark Hayes helps establish Caring Associates.
• Two issues are published of a new Journal of Opinion edited by Jay Holmes.
• Scott Shepard is elected Chair of the Board.
• The first concert is held to benefit the Bryant Early Learning Center of United Community Ministries.
• Ellen Spero is appointed Intern Minister.
• The Long Range Planning group chaired by Kay Sargent submits its final report with 81 recommendations. Three Implementation groups are formed.
• Scott Shepard is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• The Welcoming Congregation Committee sponsors Safe Haven meetings between gay and straight teens.
• Ministerial intern Ellen Spero is ordained by MVUC to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• Rev. Kenneth Hurto resigns to join the staff of the UUA and Rev. Linda Olson Peebles resigns to accept a call to the Arlington UU Church.
• Mike Walker is elected chair of a Ministerial Search Committee.
• A new windmill is installed and dedicated to replace the old, ruined one.
• The Church establishes a website, www.mvuc.org.
• The Reverend Walter Braman becomes Interim Minister.
• Janice Fitzpatrick is appointed Interim Religious Education Administrator.
• The Congregation approves a thorough revision of the Bylaws prepared by a committee chaired by June Stumpe.
• Ron Brandt is elected Chair of the Board.
• Walter Braman begins a second year as Interim Minister.
• The Board decides to stop characterizing organizations such as the Fort Hunt Preschool as “instrumentalities” because the term is undefined.
• Ron Brandt is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Hope Stallings Andonovska is appointed Director of Religious Education.
• To fulfill a major recommendation of the LRP group, the Facilities for the Future Task Force is appointed to plan for new construction, with Bill Clontz as chair.
• Linda Jemison is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Music Committee decides to begin offering special Sunday services rather than holding evening concerts.
• Rev. Louis Schwebius is called as Minister in April 2003.
• The Congregation votes to undertake renovation of Hollin Hall including improved access, kitchen renovation and air conditioning and to pursue exploration of an addition to the Meeting House.
• Dr. Forrest Tobey resigns.
• Mark Zimmerman is appointed Music Director in September 2003.
• The Religious Education Council adopts Way Cool Sunday School, a model used by some other UU churches, which is designed so that the same lesson can be taught to all classes K-6 in an age-appropriate way.
• Karen Tyson is elected Chair of the Board.
• Steve Phinney serves as Intern Minister.
• Upon completion of renovation, Hollin Hall is rededicated in June 2004.
• Hope Stallings Andonovska resigns.
• Barbara Gay Stoddard is appointed Interim Director of Religious Education.
• Janice Fitzpatrick, Religious Education Assistant, resigns.
• Jim Kerr is appointed Religious Education Assistant.
• Donna Bledsoe becomes Business Administrator.
• Lisa Billingham is appointed Director of Music.
• A Capital Campaign is held in fall of 2004 featuring an all-church dinner at the Radisson Old Town. With UU Fund-raiser Larry Wheeler as consultant, the campaign raises pledges of 1.28 million dollars.
• Ric Sears is elected Chair of the Board.
• Michael O’Brien is appointed Music Director.
• The Social Justice Council sponsors a workshop by the Rev. Richard Gilbert and decides to follow his plan to have social justice task forces approved by the Congregation.
• Church member Stephen Phinney is ordained by MVUC to the Unitarian Universalist ministry.
• The garden gates are restored by the Memorial Walks Committee.
• Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first church service.
• Joanne Masterson is elected Chair of the Board.
• Meagan Henry is appointed Director of Religious Education.
• In the “Shoe Leather Campaign” organized by John Henrehan, volunteers distribute 20,000 leaflets to area homes inviting people to visit MVUC.
• Michael O’Brien resigns as Music Director in December.
• Jim Potter is elected Chair of the Board.
• Melodie Feather becomes Interim Music Director in January 2007.
• Rev. Louis Schwebius resigns in February 2007. Church members and visiting speakers offer Sunday services for the remainder of the regular church year.
• Fairfax County constructs two rain gardens and makes other modifications in MVUC grounds as a demonstration project on management of storm water.
• Business Administrator Donna Bledsoe resigns in July 2007; Ron Brandt becomes volunteer interim Administrator.
• The Rev. Don Vaughn-Foerster is appointed Interim Minister in August 2007.
• Lauck Walton is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Rev. Kate R. Walker is called in April and begins her ministry in August 2008.
• A statement opposing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” proposed by MVUC is adopted by the UUA as one of six official position papers.
• Church member George Churchill spends much of the summer working in the garage behind the greenhouse creating a textured-glass window to be placed over the new entrance when the Meeting House is eventually remodeled.
• Melodie Feather resigns as Music Director in July; Mark Zimmerman returns as Interim Choir Director.
• In December 2008 Yee Von Ng is hired as pianist.
• Reid Adler is elected Chair of the Board.
• In July 2009 Branka Bijelovich is appointed Church Administrator.
• Beginning in September 2009, MVUC adopts a three-year schedule of monthly liturgical themes for worship services.
• The Church begins a small-group ministry program.
• Joan Darrah is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Congregation adopts new statements of Mission and Vision.
• In late spring 2010 AT&T quietly abandons its investigation of possible installation of a cell phone tower on MVUC grounds.
• The Communications Council is established in May as a new program of the Program Council, with Bill Clontz as chair.
• Kären Rasmussen serves as Intern Minister 2010-11.
• Becky Brandt is elected Chair of the Board.
• SST installs geothermal equipment for heating and cooling the Meeting House and solar panels to generate electricity. The installation, completed early in 2011, is to be paid for with monthly payments to SST for 20 years.
• Carol Graves is appointed as Church Administrator in spring 2011, replacing Branka Bijelovich, who had departed in November. Birgit Robbert offers to serve as volunteer bookkeeper.
• The Adult Religious Education Committee is folded into the Lifespan Spiritual Growth Council and the title of Meagan Henry’s position is changed to Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth.
• Yee Von Ng, choir accompanist during the regular church year, is appointed as Summer Music Associate to organize and play for summer services in summer 2011.
• The Membership Council is established as a program of the Program Council, with Dianne Brown as chair.
• Amanda Casey is appointed as the new Rentals Coordinator replacing Nina Tisara.
• Eric Pourchot is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Congregation votes to use funds remaining in the Building Fund for three projects: renovation of the kitchen, construction of a new permanent platform for worship services, and enlargement of the Commons. The kitchen is renovated in the spring of 2012 under supervision of Wendy Burns and Tamara de la Camp.
• The Congregation also approves incorporation. Becoming a corporation affords better legal protection and allows MVUC to buy, sell, encumber or transfer land without Court approval. It also enables MVUC to receive grants and to invest in the UUA Common Endowment Fund.
• The Endowment Committee, led by Joan Darrah, establishes the Legacy Circle, composed of those who have committed to make a future contribution to the Endowment Fund.
• Meagan Henry resigns to accept a position at All Souls UU church in Washington, DC.
• Ann Richards serves briefly as interim and in October is confirmed as Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth.
• A new platform for Sunday worship services and other ceremonies is completed in February with leadership from Aesthetics Chair Jeanne Gayler.
• Contractor Harry Braswell begins construction for remodeling the Meeting House.
• Kristine Erickson is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Board approves a plan for achieving long-term financial viability recommended by the Pillars and Foundations Task Force.
• Remodeling of the Meeting House is completed. The remodeling project to expand the Commons was designed by architect Bob Larson under supervision of a committee chaired by Doug MacCleery.