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FairfaxVienna Presbyterian marks 150 years of service

Vienna Presbyterian marks 150 years of service

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Vienna Presbyterian Church began in 1871 with nine people – seven female members and two male elders – and in the decades since has ministered to people both in the local area and around the world.

The church celebrated its 150th anniversary Aug. 22 with sermons, testimonials, song and fellowship.

The celebration featured two worship services: a contemporary one featuring a band of six and a more “traditional” one with organ and brass music and the Chancel Choir.

“There was a marvelous, celebratory spirit throughout both services, with the congregation spontaneously clapping at different junctures,” said interim associate pastor Connie Jordan-Haas. “We celebrated with the refrain, ‘Happy Sesquicentennial.’”

Jordan-Haas asked members at both services to stand and then had them sit down as she counted upward regarding years of membership. A handful of members still were on their feet after she passed the half-century mark.

Courtney Vereide, who was raised in the congregation and now is in seminary, led the liturgy. Each service featured two elder members who gave witness as to what the church had meant to them.

Doris Ling told of the support she had received from the church and the personal growth she’d experienced. She especially was grateful for the church’s help when dementia and depression affected her family.

Cap Oliver discussed how Vienna Presbyterian had helped him grow in faith and become spiritually renewed after he’d returned from years of missionary service as a physician in Nigeria, where he worked with people suffering from leprosy and tropical diseases. (Oliver only recently gave up tennis at age 93, Jordan-Haas noted.)

Dan Walker, a member for 54 years – more than a third of the church’s history – remarked on how many young adults the church had sent into mission work and full-time ministry.

Walker mentioned being moved by his work with the church’s mentoring program at Cunningham Park Elementary School.

“Though there is always room for improvement, I believe there is much that we can be pleased with and I pray that we will do even more in the next 150 years,” Walker said.

Jonne Clemmer, who came to the church in 1969, told of her joy of singing in the church’s choir for decades.

“VPC has been blessed by strong leadership by our pastors, our ruling body, our educators and our members,” she said. “Who of the nine founders would have ever imagined local and international mission projects, or who could have dreamed of the creation of a vibrant program to help speakers of other languages become assimilated into Vienna?”

The celebration kicked off eight weeks’ worth of outdoor breakfasts between the church’s two worship services. The get-togethers are designed to create fellowship and opportunities for community and personal connection.
Designed for all ages, the breakfasts will feature games, music and food.

The church’s Friendship Class, a long-standing community for developmentally different adults, made a banner for the occasions.

The church opened its classic white-clapboard chapel at Church and Mill streets, N.E., in 1874 and grew over the decades to cover much of that block. Vienna Presbyterian in the late 1990s inaugurated its current capacious sanctuary.

Vienna Presbyterian throughout its history has been involved in mission work, both locally and internationally. It fed poor children at Vienna Elementary School in the 1950s, with lunches prepared in homes of female members, and continued until the School Board provided the service.

The church in 1948 also sent nearly 500 pounds’ worth of clothing – plus food, candles and Christian literature – to Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

The church’s next big event will be welcoming its new lead pastor, Rev. Dr. Hope Lee, who will begin her pastorate Oct. 4. Its longtime lead pastor, Rev. Peter James, retired in 2020 after 41 years with Vienna Presbyterian.

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