For more than 60 years, Mount Vernon Unitarian Church has been the home of liberal religion in the Mount Vernon area. Founded in 1955, 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. For the first 20 years, Sunday worship services were held in the small but picturesque space that had formerly been the main room of the guesthouse. In 1983 that building and three acres of land were 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 weddings.
The Early Years
In 1955, a small group of people led by Joe Remington, a resident of Hollin Hills, invited neighbors to help form a new church. (See “The Founding of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church,” below.) They probably had a variety of reasons for wanting a church, but they were especially concerned about what their children would be taught in religious education classes. 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. A. Powell Davies were delivered by wire from All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington. 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 ommunity). 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 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, Rev. 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 Church of New York.
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.
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.
The new building, designed by the architectural firm of LeMay Associates of Reston, Virginia, 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.
The Meeting House was remodeled in 2013-14. The primary purpose was to expand and renovate the Commons, but the project also included new ADA-compliant restrooms and adding a sprinkler system throughout the building.
The project was the culmination of more than 10 years of planning, many hours of discussion, a series of decisions by the Congregation, and considerable expense.
The Commons expansion was the last and largest of three improvements approved by the Congregation at a special meeting in January 2012. The first, renovation of the kitchen, was undertaken immediately and completed in the spring of 2012. The second, a new permanent platform and choir risers, was constructed in February 2013.
Above the entrance to the remodeled Meeting House is a second decorative window, this one designed and constructed by Church member George Churchill, who died in 2012. He had created the window in 2008, confident that eventually it would be in place over the new entrance.
Our Minister, Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker, was called in 2008. Rev. Don Vaughn-Foerster served as Interim Minister in 2007-08. The previous minister, Rev. Louis Schwebius, resigned in February 2007. Other former ministers include Rev. Kenneth Hurto (1986-2000), who left MVUC to join the staff of the UUA and later became District Administrator of the Florida district, and Co-ministers Rev. David Bumbaugh (1969-1984) and Rev. Beverly Bumbaugh (1977-1984).
Our present Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth, Ann Richards, was appointed in 2012. Rev. Betsy Stevens was religious educator in the 1970s and 80s.
Former Ministers of Religious Education include Rev. Linda Olson Peebles (1997-2001) and Rev. Betty Jo Middleton (1984-1990). Upon her retirement after serving other UU churches in the area, Rev. Middleton returned to MVUC, where she is a Minister Emeritus. 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), serves the The First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn.
Our Director of Music, Mark Zimmerman, had served in that position in 2003-04 and returned in 2008. Yee Von Ng, Pianist, was appointed shortly thereafter, and is now also Summer Music Coordinator. Our first professional Music Director was Forrest Tobey (1992-2003). In recent years our Music Directors included Ted Spencer, Lisa Billingham, Michael O’Brien, and Melodie Feather.
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.
For 15 years, MVUC held a Coffee House, first in Hollin Hall and later in the Chapel. Begun as an initiative of several youth and the Religious Education Committee, it was coordinated by Linda Olson Peebles. The Coffee House, which featured auditioned performers as well as an open mike, was held every other Friday evening for 10 years and later was once a month. It drew 150-200 people month after month, attracting youth and adults from the wider community.
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, sponsored the event on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. They expected to have a series of sales geared to various holidays, but they quickly decided to limit the effort to one event before Christmas. Over the years it became an annual celebration, with nearly all members of the Congregation involved in one way or another. Throughout the year, the Every Thursday group prepares for the next Holiday Shop and a group of Quilters creates the hand-made quilt to be raffled that year.
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 now use it to raise plants and flowers for sale. Visitors are impressed with the great variety of activities and the openness to creative participation that characterizes MVUC. For example, to provide for sharing of different points of view, members of the Congregation lead Sunday services during the summer months and occasionally at other times.
Religious Education has been a fundamental element of our church life from the beginning. The founders wanted a Unitarian church because they were concerned about what children were being taught in Christian churches in the area. In her 2013 study of MVUC, Rev. Kate Walker said, “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 education program, with courses such as Building Your Own Theology offered periodically alongside classes exploring other faith traditions or dealing with current issues such as Immigration as a Moral Issue.
Music has been another important feature 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. Sunday services often feature talented musicians from within the Congregation and the Washington area. A group of musicians has formed a jazz band that meets regularly and performs at Sunday services several times a year, and the Hum and Strum group meets occasionally to sing folk songs accompanied by a variety of stringed instruments.
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.
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 continues to provide assistance to people who live in poverty along the U.S. Route 1 corridor. 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. In recent years we have contributed half of each Sunday’s collection to a local charity chosen by the Congregation for “Sharing the Plate.”
For at least three decades, our Church has worked to achieve equality for the LGBTQ community. In the 1990s, MVUC hosted a Gay-Straight Alliance for community teens because at that time, Fairfax County would not allow such alliances in the public schools. 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. Later, Joan Darrah led a national campaign culminating in 2012 with repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
In recent years, our church has cultivated a relationship with local Muslim groups. We have also sent delegations to Richmond to support state legislation intended to reduce gun violence.
Protecting the environment is a priority of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church. We were 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. A geothermal installation for heating and cooling is combined with solar panels to generate electricity. In 2019, recognizing the immensity of the threat to our planet, we established a church-wide Climate Action Team.
Words of Our Earliest Ministers
Our first minister, Rev. 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, Rev. 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.”
THE FOUNDING OF
MOUNT VERNON UNITARIAN CHURCH
Joseph H. Kitrosser 2019
The founding of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church is unique among UU churches in the Washington, DC suburbs. It took place at a time when The Reverend A. Powell Davies of All Souls Church Unitarian in DC was helping start church communities near the newly constructed beltway, but MVUC is not one of them! Instead, our church was the result of efforts by a group of determined neighbors led by my father-in-law, Joseph (Joe) Remington.
According to Sally Joy Remington, Joe’s daughter who died in 2013, Joe tried to meet with Rev. Davies in 1955, but Davies’ secretary, Mrs. Jane Pfeiffer, was intent on protecting Davies’ health by limiting his appointment schedule. Mrs. Pfeiffer confirmed that fact when Sally and I met her in 2007 at the Baltimore Washington JUUbilee, A Celebration of the Legacy of A. Powell Davies and 50 Years of Unitarian Universalist Growth in the Region. Joe Remington
What was at first called “Mount Vernon Unitarian Center” was described in an article, “Coffee Under the Trees,” in the November 1955 issue of The Washington Unitarian published by All Souls Church. “As an example of advancing Unitarianism, this newest extension enterprise is a prize exhibit! Conceived by Rosemary and Joseph Remington, ably seconded by Marjorie and David Johnson, Anne and Gordon Howard, and June and Roger Batchelder, plans were developed last spring, several preliminary meetings held, an efficient organization perfected, and after many hours of dedicated effort by a considerable number of individuals, the enterprise was launched at Holiday House, Mount Vernon Boulevard, on Sunday, September 25.”
Joe gets further praise in the story “It Started on the Telephone” published in the April 1959 issue of The Washington Unitarian. “And a special award is due the man who made that first telephone call, Joe Remington! You started something, Joe, and we congratulate all of you as you enter upon this new era in the life of the Mount Vernon Church. We would like to receive a few more such telephone calls!”
According to Josh Remington, Joe’s son, Joe called the Unitarian headquarters in Boston for some guidance. The four families were especially interested in the religious education that would be provided to their children. Josh told me that, being close neighbors, the families formed a “critical mass” for researching various faiths. They found that Unitarian beliefs offered the freedom of thought they wished to impart to their children. Joe is credited with placing a notice in the January 1955 Hollin Hills Bulletin with the heading, “Unitarianism. Anyone?” Almost 100 people – about 50 families – from the Hollin Hills and Tauxemont neighborhoods joined the Mount Vernon Center of All Souls Unitarian Church. Rev. Davies helped by giving a lecture series and approved having his sermons ‘piped in’ on Sunday mornings over telephone lines.
At the time, founding member Chuck Dell was part of a group who traveled to the American Unitarian Association headquarters in Boston proposing the purchase of additional land from the Thorpe estate. Unfortunately, the AUA didn’t have the funds. Think of it: there might have been a UU sanctuary near the Capitol!
I wish to thank Ms. Mara Cherkasky, archivist at All Souls, who found the two articles from which I have quoted. As a member and friend of MVUC since 1976, I have written this story to preserve a history that’s close to my heart, having married “a daughter of the Church,” Sally Joy Remington. Incidentally, “Joy” was Joe’s mother’s maiden name.
The economic expansion of the federal government following World War II produced enclaves of liberally minded people. The resulting growth of Unitarian Universalism led to our faith playing an important role, which it still does to this day. Many people contributed to that growth. However, the credit for founding MVUC belongs primarily to Joseph Joy Remington.
HOW IT BEGAN
As told by founder Joe Remington
In February, 1955, a committee of three called on Dr. A. Powell Davies, Minister of All Souls’ Church in Washington, D.C., to discuss with him the founding of a new Unitarian Center in the Mount Vernon District… At that time, 25 Mount Vernon residents had expressed the desire to form a Unitarian Center. Dr. Davies approved the project and on April 15, a group of more than 100 men and women gathered in a public school auditorium to discuss with Dr. Davies and other leaders plans for such a Center.
– History provided to ministerial candidates by the Selection Committee, Joe Remington, Chair, 1957
In the Washington area, the Mount Vernon experience will certainly be described as original if not unique. For the first time a group of individuals, most of them not members of local Unitarian Churches – in fact, most of them not even professed Unitarians – petitioned All Souls’ for support and permission to organize an outlying center.
— Joe Remington, 1956
One thing led to another and finally I called All Souls. I talked with (the) secretary to A. Powell Davies and got a brush-off. …Later I called and talked with Laurence Staples, Executive Director … As a result, Roger Bachelder, Marge Johnson… and I went to All Souls in February of 1955… We met with Davies who was scowling. We presented our plan; he became alive and wholly involved in our efforts.
— Joe Remington, Nov. 15, 1964
• 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 Rev. 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.
• MVUC is chartered as a Unitarian Church with the American Unitarian Association.
• Rev. 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.
• MVUC 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.
• MVUC receives the Holmes Weatherly Award from the UUA for its work with CORE.
• Al Weinstein is elected Chair of the Board.
• Rev. Ernest Sommerfeld resigns.
• John Wells, a Howard University student, 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.
• MVUC 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.
• Rev. 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.
• Rev. David Bumbaugh is settled as the Congregation’s third minister.
• MVUC’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 moratorium on the Vietnam War.
• MVUC 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 MVUC 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 MVUC 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.
• The Board approves a proposal for Shared Ministry from Rev. David Bumbaugh and Beverly Bumbaugh and they begin their co-ministry.
• Rufus Wright is re-elected Chair of the Board.
• Beverly Bumbaugh, Co-Minister, is ordained by MVUC.
• 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 re-elected Chair of the Board.
• 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 Rev. David Bumbaugh and Rev. Beverly Bumbaugh resign.
• Rev. Judith Walker-Riggs is appointed Interim Minister.
• Rev. 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.
• Rev. Kenneth Gordon Hurto of Des Moines, Iowa, is installed as minister.
• Wendy Burns is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church takes turns providing overnight housing and meals to homeless people.
• Hinkley Porter is elected Chair of the Board.
• Larry Jackley is elected Chair of the Board.
• The Church becomes a member of the regional UU 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.
• The 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.
• Alexandria Campagna Center makes Hollin Hall the Decorator Showhouse.
• The Good Companions group begins meeting twice each month to hear 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 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.
• 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.
• 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, with Herb Tyson as webmaster.
• Rev. 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.
• 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 Long-Range Plan, 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 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, Director of Religious Education, 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 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 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.
• Rev. Don Vaughn-Foerster is appointed Interim Minister in August 2007.
• Lauck Walton is elected Chair of the Board.
• 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.
• Mark Zimmerman returns as Music Director.
• Yee Von Ng is hired as Pianist.
• Reid Adler is elected Chair of the Board.
• In July 2009 Branka Bijelovich is appointed Church Administrator.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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. Dianne Brown is 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.
• 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 is appointed 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 work on 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.
• Custodian Norman Comfort retires. Derick Spencer is hired.
• The congregation adopts a statement of concern about Climate Change.
• Ken Pilkenton is elected Chair of the Board 2014-15.
• Office Manager Anne Bredeck resigns to spend a year in India.
• Susan Samuels is hired to be Data and Administrative Assistant.
• Rev. Kate Walker is on sabbatical leave January-May.
• Pam Koger-Jesup is elected Chair of the Board 2015-16.
• Alice King begins a two-year term as Intern Minister.
• The Congregation observes its 60th Anniversary in a celebration planned by Ruth Heimburg.
• The Commons remodeling project is completed.
• Rev. Kate Walker is awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree by Virginia Theological Seminar.
• Doug MacCleery is elected Chair of the Board 2016-17.
• Alice King completes her term as Intern Minister.
• Carolyn Dunlea is elected Chair of the Board 2017-18.
• Four new underground pipes are installed to correct a malfunction in the geothermal heating and cooling system.
• Carol Graves retires. Carolyn White is appointed Church Administrator.
• MVUC becomes debt-free as a result of a final Capital Campaign chaired by Joan Darrah and Al Robbert. The campaign raises enough money when paired with about $300,000 from the Endowment Fund to retire the debt of about $500,000 remaining from the capital improvements completed in 2015. The Endowment Fund is able to make this contribution because it has reached its target of a million dollars and expects to receive another $700,000 from the estate of Gertrude Kornfeld.
• Ann Richards is on sabbatical leave beginning in January.
• Marty Bredeck is elected Chair of the Board 2018-19.
• Linda Walton becomes Chair of the Board 2019-20.
• Beginning in March, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all meetings – including Sunday Services, are no longer permitted to be held in-person. Most are held instead using Zoom video conferencing.
• In October at a Congregational meeting, the congregation votes to ordain Affiliated Community Minister Eleanor Piez and Intern Minister Tyler Coles.
• Lynette Millet becomes Chair of the Board 2020-21.
• Rev. Dr. Kate Walker announces that she will be leaving MVUC because she has been called by the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania beginning August 1.
• Dr. Kate Walker’s June 13 goodbye service is held under a rented tent in the parking lot due to continuing Covid-19 pandemic gathering restrictions.
• Rev. Christian Schmidt begins 2-year interim ministry.
• Dave Breen becomes Chair of the Board 2021-22.
This publication builds upon the original histories of Hollin Hall and Mount Vernon Unitarian Church compiled by Lucy Walsh Phinney in 1994. Church members and friends are indebted to her for creating this precious legacy.