In September the oldest African-American United Methodist Church in Virginia will celebrate its 170th birthday. Hopefully, it will also celebrate the commencement of a major addition needed to secure its future.
Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church, 606A S. Washington St., is planning an $800,000 to $900,000 renovation to its Parish House at 614 S. Washington St., which, Pastor Patricia A. Jones, hopes will "revitalize the church and help it to grow."
Jones recognized, "The project will be quite extensive and will require a comprehensive fund-raising campaign among the present members plus grants from the United Methodist Church. We also hope to get additional grants and donations. We are leaving no stone unturned."
Designing the project is Moore Poe Architects, 603 King St. "We are approaching this by asking how does this building project infuse the church with new life. It needs this project to remain viable," Matthew Poe said.
Because the lot is small and since the addition cannot go upward, due to various restrictions, most of the new space will be constructed underground at the rear of the existing Parish House, according to Jones. It will contain a meeting room, capable of seating 50 people, a bathroom, connecting hall, choir room and new kitchen. It will be accessible by both stairs and an elevator.
"This will become our Christian Education Building. The large room we envision as our Sunday School room," Jones explained. "We also hope to make it available for community use. It could very well be used for seminars and meetings."
The second story of the Parish House will contain the Pastor's study, a library, an archive and records room, and a meeting room with a 15 person capacity. At ground level will be a second meeting room also designed to accommodate approximately 15 people, an open patio area and a new detached storage building.
THE USUAL PROBLEM: PARKING
Jones foresees one of the things they would be dealing with before the City Planning Commission is parking. "The lot between the church and Parish House does not belong to us. It belongs to the owners of Clyde's.
"They have been very good in working with us, allowing our members to use it for services and other church functions. Several of the businesses around us have also been very cooperative in providing parking on Sundays."
Many of the church's present 285 members live within walking distance, according to Jones. "This reduces some of our need for parking. Unfortunately, when the church had the opportunity to buy the lot between the church and Parish House no one saw the need," she explained. "Now the price is prohibitive."
Jones will mark her two year anniversary at Roberts Memorial in April. Prior to that she was pastor at Galilee United Methodist Church in Northumberland County, Virginia.
"The architects estimate that it will take about nine months to get the various city approvals," Jones said. "So we are probably looking at two years before everything is completed."
That process begins on April 3, when Poe takes the proposal before the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review. "Our goal is to get Roberts Memorial back as a recognized community asset," Poe emphasized.
Jones put it in more critical terms. "Our future rests on this project."