Last Saturday, it was exactly 135 years to the day in 1868, that a small congregation of local Episcopalians held their first service in a converted cheese factory on the corner of Grace and Vine streets in Herndon. On Nov. 1, a couple hundred parishioners came out to celebrate St. Timothy's anniversary and officially dedicate a modern new addition.
"In the 135 years since then, St. Timothy's has grown and changed location, but the mission has remained the same — to help people discover the love of God," said the Rev. Bradford Rundlett, the church rector.
With devout parishioners from Herndon, Reston and Sterling on hand, church officials and local dignitaries celebrated what Anne Crocker, the church historian, calls "the little chapel that grew." "The story of St. Timothy's parallels the story of Herndon, the tiny village that grew," said Crocker. "The handful of devout Anglican folk and their caring ministers who established this church in 1868 did so with much determination and faith when Herndon was just a dusty stop on the railroad in the hinterlands of Fairfax County."
Held in the bright sunlight of an unseasonably warm Saturday fall afternoon on the grounds of its sprawling Van Buren street location, the festivities helped ring in a new era for the venerable church, as officials cut the ceremonial ribbon on St. Timothy's new 5,000-square-foot education building addition. "This is a fantastic day. I am so blessed to be here. Actually this is the third grand opening I have seen. We just keep growing," Crocker said. "This one is really special because this new addition will really allow us to accommodate more children."
The new addition, complete with larger classrooms will greatly expand the space of St. Timothy's preschool which currently houses about 500 students, said Tina Pinkard, the church's junior warden.
For members of the 450-household congregation, like Bob Guest, Saturday's community celebration and open house was "like a gift." "It has been a long time coming, but we are all in it for the long haul," said Guest, who has been a member for almost 20 years. "The wait was worth it."
ST. TIMOTHY'S HAS a long tradition of outreach, officials said. The Closet, a clothing exchange, began at the church in the 1970s. A young deacon from St. Timothy's started Fairfax County's first homeless shelter in 1984 which was run out of the church's hall until the Embry Rucker shelter opened in Reston. The church's new wing will help serve the larger surrounding area and the "residents of the community seeking shelter in crisis," Rundlett said. Church officials said that approximately 1,600 people pass through the doors of St. Timothy's every week. St. Timothy's hosts traditional functions like Sunday services and midweek choir rehearsals, but it also is home to more than a dozen addiction recovery groups, child care, tutoring classes, boy scout meeting and every Friday, more than 150 members of the Muslim faith use the Herndon church for worship.
Herndon Mayor Richard Thoesen called St. Timothy's a "beacon of light," and said that the Herndon church represents the best that our county and its "tolerant and caring people" have to offer. Thoesen said the new addition would allow church members to explore "new levels of prayer and human outreach."
Thoesen's predecessor, Del. Tom Rust (R-86), a member of St. Timothy's since 1967, agreed. "This is not just a building, not just a place of worship," Rust said. "This is, has been and will always be a center of activity for our community ... This new addition gives each of us a greater opportunity to serve our community and provide more for our neighbors in need. We've been here for 135 years, but this is only the beginning. Let's all be a part of that new beginning."
BY 1995, due to the increased use by the church and the community, St. Timothy's needed more space and the church's physical surroundings were "just plain wore out," said Allen Ashforth.
The weekend-long celebration was the culmination of eight years of planning, financing and building, officials said.
"You don't realize how shabby a place has got until you get a facility like this," said member Rose. "This is such a great day."
After years of overuse, Ashforth, who chaired the church's fundraising drive, said it was time for members to "pick up the torch." "St. Timothy has always led the way in helping those in need in Herndon and the surrounding area," said Ashforth, chair of the church's fundraising arm, dubbed "Building Tomorrow's Heritage." "St. Timothy's is one of the oldest ongoing establishments in Herndon. The founders had a dream, a mission and a need to do God's work. We are just continuing the legacy our church's ancestors started in 1868."
St. Timothy's senior warden Glen Pfadenhauer said the church had "toiled for 10 years" but that the wait and work were worth the end result which, he said would be used by generations to come. "We could not have taken on this addition without a solid foundation," Pfadenhauer said, thanking the hundreds of people who helped with the new building.
Pfadenhauer paid special tribute to Ashforth, who chaired the church's multi-million dollar fundraising drive. Calling Ashforth the "Christopher Columbus" of the church's mission, Pfadenhauer said Ashforth convinced many skeptics that such a project was possible. "Columbus convinced the King and Queen of Spain that they should fund his trip, a trip that many said could not be done. He convinced them to invest in his dream," Pfadenhauer said. "Allen Ashworth empowered us to invest in this dream and this journey."
For his part, Ashworth deflected the praise. "I just did what I have learned in sales," Ashworth said. "If you don't ask, you don't get. All I did was ask."