Although the area around Andrew Chapel has changed — 30 years ago, no housing developments existed between Towlston Road and Reston, and cows still roamed near Route 7 — the core values of the church, expressed in its motto, have remained the same throughout the years: "Loving God, Following Christ and Serving Others."
"I think our motto has summed it up," said Great Falls resident Martha Thomas, who has attended Andrew Chapel since 1986. "I think most people give that more than lip service."
For the past 150 years, the Vienna church has cultivated its flock on Trap Road near Route 7. Founded right before the onset of the Civil War, the church has witnessed Union soldier occupation in the winters of 1862 and 1863, two world wars, the Atomic Age, and the deaths of presidents. As it looks to the future, the church hopes it can be an example of diversity and tolerance in a world in which religious strife still exists in international relations today.
"One of the things that has impressed me the most is the diversity of the congregation," said the Rev. John Morris. "The thing I hear appreciation for is that people with different opinions, backgrounds and theological stances are respected here."
EVEN DURING the church's founding in 1854, differences of opinion existed as to how people should live. Despite those differences, the congregation remained strong.
"The founding of the church was at a time when the whole nation was divided over the issues of slavery, and the church was divided as well," Morris said.
Even the person whom the church is named after had his own history of dissension. James O. Andrew was a bishop in the Methodist-Episcopal church. When he remarried, his wife owned a few slaves.
Because he married a slave owner, the church at that time asked him to cease his duties as bishop, which he was about to do until the denomination itself split into Northern and Southern factions in 1846.
Although Andrew never pastored Andrew Chapel, the story illustrates the fact that despite the dissension that existed during the church's founding, it has been able to grow into a community that celebrates its diversity.
"The beginning was probably less than laudable," Morris said. "This congregation is known for tolerance and acceptance of different views. Because this church was born of dissension ... perhaps Andrew Chapel is in a unique position now to lead and move forward in the midst of disagreement."
TO MARK the church's 150th anniversary, Andrew Chapel plans to conduct monthly services that highlight different aspects of the church's history. On Sunday, June 6, the congregation began celebrating its heritage with a kick-off dinner and "Sound of Music" sing-along. During the morning services, the church choirs performed "Salvation Has Gone Forth," a piece written by local sacred-music composer Daniel Gawthrop, which honors the church's 150th anniversary.
On Oct. 24, Andrew Chapel will have a homecoming weekend, in which former members, pastors and seminary students can come and celebrate the church's longevity and mission.
The monthly events will not only mark the church's history but celebrate the friendliness and diversity of its congregation.
"If you ever visit there, I guarantee you'll get introduced to people," Thomas said.
Ann Ellison, who chairs the 150th Celebration Committee, agreed. Her husband, Don, has been busy collecting history about Andrew Chapel and will present his findings at the homecoming celebration in October.
"It's a friendly church. The music program is good, and it has a good program for all things — Sunday School, education," said Ellison, who also directs the Cherub Choir and is the lay leader.
Although the area surrounding the church has become more urbanized, the church itself plans to remain constant as it heads into the future. The original church building still exists and is being rented now by a Catholic church. The current church building was built in 1964, and an education wing was added in 1991.
"It's amazing to me we've had only two church buildings over the last 150 years," Ellison said.