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Congregation Starting Again

Capital Church is moving to a renovated building on Leesburg Pike

When the Capital Church holds its first service in their new home early next month, the title of the sermon will be "Beginning Again without Starting Over," a recurring theme in the church's life as of late.

The church, with a congregation of about 300 families, will soon be leaving its current home on Westpark Drive in McLean to take up residence at the former Light Gospel Mission Church on Leesburg Pike. That building is currently undergoing the first stage of a five-part renovation and expansion that will allow for the congregation to grow and will make it possible for Pastor Amos Dodge and his fellow clergy to better serve their faithful.

"An old, tired building will become a new place of worship," Dodge said, eagerly awaiting the first time he'll be able to address his church-goers in the newly renovated sanctuary.

A large sign stands at the end of the driveway alongside Leesburg Pike, proclaiming the remodeling of the building "Extreme Makeover: Church Edition," a reference to a popular ABC show where a needy family has their home renovated to help accommodate a family member with special needs or requirements.

"We took an existing building and took everything out, including two-thirds of the roof," Dodge said. "All that we're left with is four walls and the foundation."

The Light Gospel Mission Church sold their former home to the Capital Church in July of 2003 but continued to hold services there until last September, Dodge said. "We've been leasing our building here on Westpark Drive but we wanted to get a permanent home. Plus, the location here will have better accessibility and visibility. It's all about location for us," he said.

THE NEW CHURCH will have room for up to 700 parishioners, he said, so there's plenty of room to grow, and there will be room to provide more activities and services for the current parishioners.

"The basic operation of the current building will be for our worship and Christian education. The other phases will include a sports facility, more family ministry areas and other things on the 7.5 acres we have," he said.

With a dedication set for Sept. 25, Dodge said the excitement is growing with each passing week.

"Jack Hayford, a pastor from Los Angeles, will be here that day to give the sermon," he said.

Dodge envisions a "community of people" gathering under the newly-constructed entryway, complete with a coffee bar and large, open spaces for people to talk together.

"There will be lots of skylights. The real beauty of the new church will be its interior for right now," he said.

The building, which was built in 1979, was purchased for $5 million and the first phase of renovation has cost the church about $2.3 million. The remaining four phases, Dodge said, should cost about a total of $6 million and will be funded through donations from the congregation.

"Like any family that has been living in less than adequate conditions, we're really excited about moving into a new place, into a new home," he said.

"We've made a place for people to connect with each other and with God," Dodge said of the new building. "That's what it's all about."

Parishioner John Boatwright was one of the contractors that worked on the church when it was first built and believes the renovation may be the last major project he's a part of before retiring a second time to Florida next year.

"I've done everything Amos has asked me to do," Boatwright said, himself a contractor who has built over 30 churches along the East Coast in his career. "I'm really glad I've been able to help, it's a very pleasant feeling."

THE SANCTUARY HAS been rotated about 90 degrees from its original position, Boatwright said, in order to make it into more of a circular shape to bring people closer together.

"The classrooms are laid out a little differently and we'll have a daycare center now. We never had that before," he said.

He also didn't think the original occupants of the church would ever move out, but the congregation "just grew out of the space," he said. "I hope the building will be very beautiful when it's done. We're offering more services to the community. We're all full of enthusiasm and anticipation," he said.

Despite having a less than ideal relationship with religion for most of his life, Doug Keever said he's felt at home at the Capital Church since he and his wife started attending services there in 1991.

"What struck me was that this church is a very safe place to go," he said. "People who have been wounded or hurt in one way or another have very sensitive antenna about others being false or wanting to hurt you and I've never felt that feeling here."

The services are "very Bible centered," while recognizing that "no one's perfect. It's a private, supportive place to be," Keever said. Most of that comes from Dodge, whom he describes as "God's man. He deals with other from a biblical standpoint."

When the Keevers began attending services at the Capital Church, he said "people were saying we needed a new building. Amos said God told him to plant seeds and help other churches and people first, so we've helped people all over the world," he said.