Near where Hunter Mill Road empties out onto Chain Bridge Road, a congregation will celebrate the holidays with a new church building.
"We're ecstatic. This has been a vision that's been held by this congregation for 15 years or more," said the Rev. Donna Dearmore of Oakton's Unity of Fairfax.
The new church building for Unity of Fairfax, 2854 Hunter Mill Road, seats 300 in the sanctuary and expands classroom space. A canopy in front of the church frames the 105-year-old oak tree at the front of the church's five-acre campus.
The church decided to construct a new building around five years ago, as it was outgrowing its older sanctuary built in the 1960s. Before construction began, the church had built three trailers adjacent to the older sanctuary for classes and offices. Unity used the trailers for 10 years.
Having the new building allows the children's classes and the church offices to be in one central location.
"There aren't a lot of Unity churches in the area, and that's why it became more critical to expand our space," said church member Sandy Strauss.
The parking lot for the church was expanded, from about 100 spaces to 172 spaces. The church also widened Hunter Mill Road near the church entrance, allowing more cars to get in and out more freely.
"People were parking on the lawn before and on Hunter Mill Road," said project manager and church member Jean Lentz.
As the new building was constructed, the church held services at Fairfax High School for 1 1/2 years. Although its membership totaled around 600, it saw weekly attendance drop slightly, as churchgoers didn't trek out to the church's temporary location. But with the new sanctuary and larger fellowship hall, church members hope to expand and offer two services on Sundays.
"The energy of being in that building, when you envision something for so long and the dream came true" is thrilling, Strauss said.
Church members say the congregation has been enthusiastic about the new building and the church's future.
"It's wonderful, because we've never had anything this nice," Dearmore said.
Strauss agreed. "When you walk into the building, it's airy, there's lots of light. The congregation loves it."
The whole project, which includes the new building and the expansion of Hunter Mill Road, cost about $4 million. Designed by LeMay Erickson Architects, the new building covers 16,000 square feet, far larger than the 4,500 square feet of the older sanctuary.
The building is Phase 1 of a longer-term project to expand the church's membership and facilities. The second phase, which has no set date but may take place in four to five years, is the creation of a 400-seat sanctuary, with a 24-hour chapel and a meditation garden with a fountain. The current sanctuary would convert into more classroom space.
The original 1960s sanctuary will be available for rent for community groups and events. For now, both buildings will host church functions, including church dinners and holiday programs and candlelight services.
"It already feels like a sacred space," Lentz said of the new sanctuary.