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Chantilly Baptist Breaks Ground for Expansion

July 25, 2002

During a special worship and groundbreaking ceremony, Saturday afternoon, members of Chantilly Baptist Church's choir sang a hymn about how God can move mountains.

It was especially fitting, since it marked the start of the church's expansion to build a new sanctuary — and it was a long time coming.

"There were some mountains to move, but I had no doubt [the church and its building committee] would get them moved," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. "Kate" Hanley during the event.

"Today is a significant milestone for the church," she said. "Your steadfast efforts to enhance the spiritual lives of those around you are commendable, and Fairfax County is proud to have Chantilly Baptist Church as a member of its diversified community."

Actually, said building-committee member William Carper, it's the culmination of the Rev. Leroy Payton's dream. He was pastor there for 31 years before dying two years ago. "He was the one who got the building fund started," said Carper. "It was because of his vision and drive. I think an awful lot of credit and praise goes to him."

Carper also acknowledged the efforts of building-committee chairman Odis Graham and honorary chairman Betty Sampson. And the current pastor, the Rev. Jerry Bryant, said both Carper and Graham "have done a yeoman's job." Payton's widow, Margaret, said her husband began talking about an expansion in 1958. It came up again in the 1970s and more seriously in the 1990s.

Now, she said, "It's really exciting to see his dream become a reality. I've seen the church grow from being a rural congregation with less than 100 members [it now has twice that amount]. When we first joined, Route 50 was a two-lane highway and we didn't have all the [commercial and residential] developments."

The Rev. Marshall Williams conducted Chantilly Baptist's first service in 1880 in a tiny, log schoolhouse. A year later, the church started buying land and, in 1957, the present sanctuary opened its doors. A T-addition containing offices, bathrooms, a kitchen and fellowship hall was added in 1969.

The new $1.9 million building will be about 13,000 square feet and will be to the left of the existing structure. Planned is a one-story sanctuary with a two-story education/office building behind it. The current structure, some 3,500 square feet, will be turned into a fellowship hall. And there'll be a new, professional-style kitchen for food preparation. But most of all, there'll be space.

"In the old sanctuary, we could cram about 150 people in there ... maybe, if we put chairs in the aisle — but only about 125 comfortably," said Bryant. "The new sanctuary will hold 290 parishioners and will be handicap-accessible."

Bryant, who was Payton's first assistant and has been pastor there two years, said the church has "a number of members who've been here for more than 50 years. One of them even sold land to the Airports Authority for Dulles Airport." But it's no longer a sleepy community, and the church reflects that fact.

"With all the development going on in eastern Loudoun and western Fairfax, we've been growing at a fairly steady pace," said Bryant. "It's a vibrant community across all socio-economic levels. He moved here from St. Louis in July 1996 and describes the congregation as welcoming, inviting and generous.

"Those who join say they [do so] because of the warmth of the people of Chantilly Baptist," he said. "So we're really thankful to the Lord for the warm heart of all the congregants." He, too, tipped his hat to Payton's efforts in getting the construction program underway. Said Bryant: "I'm just blessed to be here to help move the church into the new facility."

Chantilly Baptist is near the intersection of Route 50 west and Route 28 and is basically landlocked. And as the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) widened those two highways, it took more and more of the church's frontage. But it compensated the church for that land, and that money went into the building fund, along with the many donations of the parishioners.

"Losing that land put us in a crunch for parking," said Bryant. "We need one space per four people, according to the county code. We have our 4-1 ratio, but we don't have any extra."

However, what especially pleases him is that the new addition will bring 10 classrooms with it. And, he said, "They're sorely needed because we're a teaching church." Chantilly Baptist already offers some classes and will start more but, in the existing building, there's no dedicated classroom space.

"Classes meet in the sanctuary, in the vestibule, in the basement, in people's homes and in my office," said Bryant. "In the new building, with [real] classrooms, kids can put up their artwork on the walls and put their things in cubbies."

As things stand now, adult Sunday school classes are held in the sanctuary. The corresponding youth classes meet in the vestibule, in the fellowship-hall dining room, in the basement and sometimes in the kitchen. Said Bryant: "They're everywhere, in every nook and cranny, trying to study the Word of God."

In fact, he added, classroom space is "one of the biggest things driving [the push for] the new facility." The other is the opportunity to move the baptismal pool out of the basement and into the sanctuary. It'll be most welcome, he said, because some elderly church members have difficulty getting up and down the stairs to attend baptisms.

The current church was designed by member Bob Newman, an architect who died two years ago. "It's a classic structure with exposed beams inside and a brick exterior," said Bryant. "We'll renovate the ceiling and walls and put a new layer of brick on the outside."

The old church is on a septic system, but the new one won't have to be since the county just finished running a sewer line across Route 50 to the property. Bryant also praised Board Chairman Kate Hanley for "keeping things moving along" and clarifying county requirements during the permit process.

"It's been a long road," he said. "Chantilly Baptist Church has been growing tremendously spiritually, so it's time to expand the facilities so that spiritual growth can be even more manifest with our new teaching space."

Saturday, building-committee chairman Graham expressed his gratitude to the congregation. "It is because of you and your tireless efforts and faith that we have reached this point," he said. "May God bless each of you who've come to share this occasion, and may God bless Chantilly Baptist Church."