Shepherd Gate Church finally has its own home — a modern, new sanctuary on Pleasant Valley Road in Chantilly. And no one is happier than the Rev. Dan Duis.
"The acoustics are wonderful — I don't even need a microphone," he said. "And when you're singing, it sounds like you have a cathedral choir."
Founded in January 1986, Shepherd Gate is a mission church of the Christian Assembly of Vienna. It's non-denominational and emphasizes Spirit-filled worship and prayer, Bible-based teaching and genuine fellowship in the love of Christ.
For the past 16 years, the church was fairly nomadic — holding services at Floris Elementary, Franklin Middle School, Sullyfield Business Park and, most recently, Chantilly High. But now it has its own building on 10 acres at 4310 Pleasant Valley Road.
This Sunday, April 28, it welcomes the community. Dedication services will be at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., with an open house and reception from noon-4 p.m. For more information, see www.shepherdgate.org or call 703-961-1040.
The sanctuary seats 325, but the walls may be expanded to seat 650. "We opened Palm Sunday and had 250 seats and parking for 250," said Duis. "And all the seats and parking were taken."
Services are Sundays, 10 a.m., but Duis expects to go to two services soon. "We've got people walking here from the community, saying, 'We've been waiting for you to come,'" he said. "And South Riding is nearby and has no churches."
Besides the 10 acres, the church also has three more acres under contract. "It includes space for ballfields, swings and volleyball," said Duis. "This church is people- and kid-friendly. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can use it for meetings, and we're thinking of holding a Pleasant Valley Day for the community, maybe this fall. We want to be of service to the community."
Added Duis: I have a great heart for kids and teens, and part of our vision is to do things for kids after school — child care and sports — so children can come to a safe and wholesome place while their parents are at work."
The land and building cost $3 million altogether — $400,000 for the land and $2.6 million for the building. "It's rare to see a new church, nowadays, because of the difficulty with the zoning, the availability of land and the cost," said Duis. "And you need enough space for on-site parking."
Shepherd Gate's 21,000-square-foot building is a clean, modern design, and the sanctuary has a handicap ramp with railing on one side, leading up to the stage. An elevated, audio-visual loft is in the back wall of the sanctuary, and there's a projection area in the front. Besides church services, the stage will also be used for children's plays and interpretive dance.
"We built the sanctuary first because the heart of what we're doing is worship and the Word of God," said Duis. "And we also wanted a nice place for weddings and other events. There are even places for built-in, motorized cameras to make videos of the ceremonies."
The building also has a large lobby and kitchen, a staff office, child-care room, bathrooms and even a handicap shower. There's also a huge, enclosed, two-story area with 5,100 square feet above and 3,500 square feet below. It will eventually be developed into offices and a nursery for about 25 children on the bottom floor, and an area for youth and children on the top floor.
"This is the next phase, as finances are available," said Duis. "But it won't take long because the walls and roof are already here."
Outside that area will be phase III — an enclosed gym. Meanwhile, a patio in back may be used for a play area and for receptions. "Eventually, a window will be cut out from the kitchen to serve food into the gym so it could be used as a fellowship hall," said Duis. Then comes phase IV — a fellowship hall created along another side of the two-story enclosed area.
The pastor also has further plans. "My vision is eventually to have a walking path around the perimeter of the property, with worship stations where people can read about our missionaries and pray for those people while walking to the next station," he explained. "I figure that, while people are exercising physically, they can also be exercising spiritually."
Duis also noted that, at Shepherd Gate, "We don't pass an offering plate; there's no pressure or making people feel guilty. Instead, there's an offering booth in the back of the church, so people can give in private, if they want." It's divided into sections reading, "building fund," "tithe" and "missions," so parishioners may decide where their donations go.
A full-time pastor since 1974, Duis, 53, graduated from Randolph-Macon Men's College in 1971 and attended Wesleyen Seminary in Washington, D.C. While there, at age 25, he was called into ministry with Christian Assembly. He continued taking classes and was ordained by the Christian Assembly in 1975.
He and his wife Scotti have been married 27 years and have four children. Daughter Corrie is almost 24; their three sons are Matt, 21, Sam, 16 and Tyler, 14. They live on a farm in central Loudoun County.
As for Shepherd Gate, Duis describes it as basic, mainstream, Biblical doctrine. "We believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit — we're a conservative charismatic congregation," he said. "But our services aren't real demonstrative; they're very dignified. It's contemporary worship, done orderly."
The church's theme is "Making Christ known." Said Duis: "We want people to know of God's love for them and to know the Scriptures and have them become part of their lives, so they practice what they believe."