Mt. Vernon Baptist Church - Crystal City

1927-07-01 00:00:00


The need for a Baptist Church to serve a growing community in the Highlands/Aurora Hills section of Arlington, Virginia, began when the Baptist Board of Missions and Education asked Dr. George T.W. Waite and the Reverend E.H. Puryear to do a study of the community’s Baptist interests.

1928-03-01 00:00:00


Reverend Puryear organized a group of 15 persons to begin Baptist meetings and prayer. The first meeting was held on March 17, 1928 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Williams. More meetings were regularly held in the homes of other parishioners which resulted in the Baptist Society of Virginia Highlands and Aurora Hills being formed. Mrs. Williams raised cash pledges totaling $500 to begin a church. In September of 1928, a church was formally established with a constitution and by-laws that took on the name “Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.” The church held an election of officers, and the first pastor was Reverend Puryear. Deacons at that time were J.B. Williams and H.P. Timmons. Pastor Puryear served on a part-time basis, but the group was able to meet and conduct Sunday services. With the installation of educator V.F. Gregory, the church started a Sunday school. The first meeting was attended by 36 church members.

1929-07-01 00:00:00


The Church borrowed $400 from the Potomac Baptist Association of Virginia to buy five lots of property with frontage at 935 south 23rd Street In Arlington, Virginia, the church’s current address. The loan was paid nine years later.

1930-07-01 00:00:00


At this time, economic conditions during the Great Depression made it difficult for a handful of faithful church workers to consider the construction of a church building. However, with the Potomac Baptist Association as co-sponsor, $3,000 was borrowed from the Alexandria National Bank of Alexandria, Virginia, to begin erection of a church building. The loan was to be for 30 days, but due to the severity of the Great Depression, the loan was extended to five years. There were times when the payments could not be made, yet the bank did not foreclose on the struggling church. The construction of the church building was a brick structure that was erected in an excavated space and was covered with a roof. Essentially, it was a basement. Inside the large space was a centralized wood stove, and at one end of the space there stood a pulpit. The other far end held formerly-used movie theater seats for the congregation to use.

1935-07-01 00:00:00


The Reverend Willard R. Pierce became Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.

1940-07-01 00:00:00


Just before the $3,000 loan was finally paid, a new construction program was started to complete the erection of the church building.

1941-07-01 00:00:00


The beautiful completed church building of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church was dedicated on a Sunday afternoon in June 1941 by Dr. Fredrick W. Boatwright, President of the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.

1947-07-01 00:00:00


Both the adjacent house and lot east of the church building were purchased.

1953-01-01 00:00:00


On January 15, 1953, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church’s first pastor, Reverend Puryear, was guest speaker at the burning of the mortgage deed that represented all of the church property, eliminating the debt owed by the church. In spite of the transient nature of the community area, the church and Sunday school had grown to 449 members. The Sunday school had an enrollment of 400 people. The Virginia Highlands/Aurora Hills area of Arlington was having serious growth with the coming of a larger U.S. Government, private sector corporate headquarters and military and civilian personnel. High rise buildings and single family housing were being added to the area. It became necessary for Mt. Vernon to add to its building space to accommodate greater membership and church mission activities. An education building had to be considered. To fund such a grand project, a creative investment and insurance program was conceived. The church established a plan with Houston L. Spivey and Jean A. Roland of the Columbian National Life Insurance Company; Robert M. Roundtree, a loan trustee; and Harry L. Crawford of Washington, D.C., who had campaign managing expertise. This plan allowed any subscriber to purchase shares in the plan at established amounts that gave investors a $1.50 return on every dollar of shares purchased, and also covered them with a life insurance policy whose face value was a much greater amount than the cost of the premiums. This meant a subscriber not only used this plan to secure the future of his or her family, and assured the Insurance Company of additional interested policy holders, but it also provided the resources for the new education building to be built. The plan was conceived to cover subscribers for 35 years, at which time they would receive the maturity benefits of their investment. If they died prior to the completion of the 35-years maturity, the insurance policy kicked in and provided a good return for the individual subscriber’s surviving family.

1954-09-01 00:00:00


With a guaranteed plan in place to raise the funds for the construction of a new education building, a cornerstone for the building was laid in September of 1954.

1966-07-01 00:00:00


Pastor Pierce retired after 31 years of fruitful and dedicated service to Mt. Vernon. The Reverend W.D (Jack) Turner became the church’s seventh Pastor. (There is currently no available record of the pastors who served the church between Pastors Pierce and Turner.) The Highlands/Aurora Hills area felt the impact of new government workers coming into the area and the newly developed project known as “Crystal City.” This new urban growth was like a tidal wave rolling over suburbia. Every facet of human life and activity was forced upon the area to accommodate this greatly increased population. With this new environment came devoted Christians and non-believers seeking God’s Gospel. Mt. Vernon found itself surrounded with fields of opportunity to serve God and to give witness of the good news.

1969-07-01 00:00:00


The church received a gift of $30,000 and established a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Remington.

1972-07-01 00:00:00


Under the chairmanship of John Carpenter, the church adopted a new constitution that gave stronger recognition to the deacons.

1977-07-01 00:00:00


Bill Godfrey led the leaders of the church to adopt recommendations for long-range planning. These recommendations aided the church through difficult years when the community went through changes of going from a suburban to an urban environment.

1982-07-01 00:00:00


A $10,000 memorial was given to the church in the names of Lawrence M. Beale and Josey Beale. Shortly thereafter, $10,000 was received as a memorial to Alice Sanborn Campbell.

1984-07-01 00:00:00


An Associate Pastor was installed to assist in the ongoing plans for ministry and evangelism that was administered for the Highlands/ Aurora Hills community and abroad. Mt. Vernon, because of an internal organization that met the certification of the U.S. State Department and the Commerce Department’s Agency for International Development, was the recipient of thousands of tons of surplus food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The church sent food to Haiti, Mali, Guatemala and planting seeds to Kenya and Brazil. It also resettled five Cambodian families (24 persons) throughout Northern Virginia, and resettled a Kurd family of four from Turkey and the border area of Iraq. The church provided kits of prepared food for walk-in street people who came asking for food. The church organized “families” of 8 to 10 persons who had monthly meals together. It also explored family religions, values, culture, rules and structures that helped form individual views of self and expectations in marriage and other relationships. An associate pastor was called who had responsibility for music, education and out-reach to the community. The church worked to maintain a close relationship with other congregations within the area, including the Saint Charles Cathedral and the then Jewish Community Center. Joint services were held on Holy Days and special events. The church had strong ties with the Macedonia Church in Green Valley that addressed racial concerns and family friendships. Bible study groups were held by the Church in the party rooms of several nearby apartment buildings. It also sponsored bike trips for the youth of the church and surrounding areas. It was at this time that the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church entered the computer technology age.

1990-07-01 00:00:00


Soon after the departure of Reverend Turner, Steve Vornov became the eighth Pastor of the church. At that time, the church attendance was around 60 to 70 persons.

1994-08-01 00:00:00


In the spring of 1994, Pastor Vornov left the church. At the time of his departure, there were dissension and turbulence within the congregation. Attendance dropped to a low of 30 to 40 persons. Around August-September, the Reverend Bruce Miller accepted an interim pastoral position while a search for a new pastor continued. Eventually, Reverend Miller was offered the position and he accepted. Some aspects of the earlier tension and disagreements remained a problem for the church. Reverend Miller tried to bolster and renew the church. He supported a coffee social that met for six months in the church. He also urged a group of new graduates from George Mason University to meet for a year at the church. None of these efforts positively changed the church attendance or attitudes.

2000-03-01 00:00:00


In the spring, Reverend Miller announced that he was resigning. The attendance had fallen to a steady 30 members. The Reverend Martha Phillips had been serving the church as an unpaid intern. She was asked to serve as pastor until a regular pastor was called. Reverend Phillips was still attending the Leland Seminary as a full-time student. In September, Reverend Phillips was asked to be the full-time pastor of the church. She accepted. There was much concern at this time that the church might close because attendance was so low, and Pastor Phillips was new to the position as pastor. The church with prayer and a few new members did manage to carry on.

2002-07-01 00:00:00


Reverend Phillips informed the church that she was going to have to leave due to health issues and burnout. For over two years she had worked full time as pastor and, at the same time, as a student at Leland Seminary. She stayed until the church found a replacement, the Reverend Caspar Green. Things seemed to go well for the church and the earlier tension and disagreements had been resolved with a church body that was spiritually uplifted.

2003-09-01 00:00:00


In the fall of the year, Reverend Green had to leave the church to return to New York State for personal reasons. Once again, a pastoral search was in progress to replace him. Various substitute pastors gave sermons on Sundays. Reverend Phillips spoke occasionally and then more frequently and she was asked to return as senior pastor.

2004-07-01 00:00:00


Reverend Phillips again took up the role as pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. She requested the Board of Directors to allow her husband, Dan Phillips, to be assistant pastor. He was employed by the U.S. Government and attending the Leland Seminary part time. He was anticipating his retirement from the government and would then be available to assist the pastor. The church agreed to this arrangement and began to address its long-term maintenance and financial issues. The church began to lease space to other churches and other entities such as a private school, a weight watchers group, etc. This significantly bolstered its operating funds. Approximately $200,000 was invested to renovate the heating and cooling systems, roofs, floors, parking lots, and drainage capabilities. A full-time custodian was hired. The church then sold its parsonage during the time of highest real estate value in the area. The sale of this property also provided additional operating funds. The church increased its mission support from 5 percent to ten percent. It also increased its operating budget from $100,000 to $200,000. The attendance grew slightly and there was a significant improvement in spirit and morale.

2009-08-01 00:00:00


In August of 2009, the Reverends Phillips left the church to accept a pastoral position at the Caroline Valley Community Church in Brooktondale, New York. The Board of Directors approved Reverend Dan Cruz as acting pastor of the church. He immediately led a search committee to obtain a permanent pastor. Pastor Cruz did a masterful job of keeping the church afloat by solving many of its issues and administering to its missions and congregation.

2011-07-01 00:00:00


As the church began to grow once again, Pastor Feemster had the leases with the other tenants of the church rewritten. This was necessary to ensure that the expense to operate and maintain the buildings and the ongoing cost obligations of the property would be fairly shared. Many of the lease holders decided to move from the church and go elsewhere. At this time, there is space leased to one church, a private school, a weight watchers group, and a basket weaving class. The attendance at Mt. Vernon is now between 50 and 60 steady members and growing. All that Pastor Feemster has organized for the church’s missions have begun to have a positive affect on the church’s growth and its missions.

2014-07-01 00:00:00


Mt. Vernon dedicated and maintains a safe haven for the first responder community known as R.E.S.T. Stop East (Restoring Essential Servants Together) R.E.S.T. Stop East is a place where first responders may find respite and experience renewal. R.E.S.T. Stop East, a tangible extension of the First Responder Ministry at Mt. Vernon, is an expression of gratitude for the courageous women and men whose repeated exposure to danger and evil during the routine of their vocational lives is our shield from harm. It is our deposit into a life from which much has been withdrawn. At R.E.S.T. Stop East first responders can find cold water, hot coffee or tea, bathrooms, or a snack while on duty. They may access Wi-Fi, catch up on paperwork, or glance at an inspirational article or chapter. R.E.S.T. Stop East is our Stewardship. In concert with business in our community, we collaboratively answer our call to serve those who serve others.

2016-08-01 00:00:00


Mt. Vernon Baptist Church Preschool, a religiously exempt preschool and child day care program, opened. Approved enrollment 45 students.

2016-09-01 00:00:00


Laurence K. Dash was licensed and installed as associate pastor, Mt. Vernon, Minister of Education and Minister of Finance.

Mt. Vernon Baptist Church - Crystal City

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