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Church Dream Becomes Reality

A mission church "to serve the least and lost among us."

Ten years ago it was only a dream housed in the rear of a somewhat weather-worn stationwagon. This past Saturday it became a 10,000-square-foot reality attesting to the dedication, fortitude, generosity, faith and flat-out tenacity of a host of people from all walks and levels of life.

At 10 a.m. the parking lot at 8220 Russell Road was filled with members and supporters of Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church awaiting the ceremony to dedicate the church's recently completed first permanent home.

"In 25 years of working in this area of the ministry, I have learned that those ministries that refuse to let the dream die are the ones that continue to press on," said the Rev. Keary Kincannon, pastor of Rising Hope, in his dedication sermon.

"If we really have our sights set on things that are eternal we will grow eternally. God has called on us to dream an impossible dream and Rising Hope is a dream come true," he said.

Started in 1995 from the back of Kincannon's car, the mission church was originally chartered in 1996 in the parking lot of a public housing project in southeastern Fairfax County. "That site said who we wanted to invite to become part of the larger church," Kincannon said.

"Rising Hope has been the dream of so many people up and down the Richmond Highway corridor. They believe that the author of those dreams has been God almighty," he said.

CITING THE MANY contributors that made the dedication possible, Kincannon said, "We had a whole lot of volunteers helping us achieve this dream together. And 'Together' is the key word. That is what the church needs to be. Woodrow Wilson once said 'We grow by our dreams.'"

Identifying those who had particular influence on his career and the realization of a permanent mission church to minister to "those that are the least and lost among us," Kincannon said, "I've been fortunate within my career working within the church to have various mentors to help me reach out. One of those was Gordon Cosby, a non-denominational minister from Washington, D.C."

"When you get as old as I am you have to think about what is most important in life. You have to think what an authentic church should look like. This is one of the few churches Jesus would have liked the church to look like," Cosby said to the assembled audience.

He also urged those present, with ties "to stronger financial institutions to send checks to support this mission. My disappointment is that those that come from those institutions did not donate more."

One family that has been instrumental in fund raising for Rising Hope Church to aid in the acquisition of the building and its reconstruction was that of Edwin and Helen Lynch of Mason Neck. Their initial gift of $485,000 kicked off the $1.5 million project that included purchasing, renovating and equipping the edifice.

IN ADDITION, the United Methodist Church made $200,000 available. An additional $500,000 was pledged from members of 41 supporting churches, according to Kincannon.

During a fundraiser last year at the home of Bill and Molly Lynch, son and daughter-in-law of Edwin and Helen, Rising Hope's renovation capital campaign reached its goal of $900,000 with contributions topping $169,000 in one evening. But, almost prophetically, Bill Lynch warned that night, "There are undoubtedly going to be some cost overruns."

What he did not foresee was the flooding of the new building's basement due to a blocked sump pump during a torrential downpour just as the renovations were nearing completion. This added substantial cost to completing the project and caused postponement of the dedication which was scheduled for early spring.

Kincannon recognized this set back in his opening remarks saying, "Instead of entitling this sermon 'Dreams' I could have named it 'Lord willing and the creek don't rise.' But, it proves neither hell nor high water can prevent a dream."

Throughout the service various individuals who had been instrumental in bringing about the realization of Rising Hope's new home were recognized and offered their thoughts. One such individual was Jack Underhill who had written a poem for the occasion entitled "Hope Rising." It was put to music by the Rev. Jack Martin, pastor of Annandale Methodist Church, and sung by Patrick Vaughn, director of music at Methodist Ministries.

Kincannon invited parishioners to share their experiences. One of the church's regular members made reference to Rising Hope's former location in Engleside Office Park when she explained how she originally arrived at the mission ministry.

"I was getting off the bus at the Engleside stop and I guess I looked a little lost. The bus driver asked what I was hunting for. I said God. The driver said God's right over there in the corner as he pointed to Rising Hope," she said.

INITIATING THE 90-MINUTE ceremony was Alan Reifsnyder, Alexandria district superintendent, United Methodist Church, who led the Declaration of Purposes followed by Presentation of the Building. Those participating in the latter included Bill Lynch, Bob Charlton, Marion Dillard, Caryll Whipple and Thella Jacobs.

Musical selections were conducted by the Rev. Dr. M. Helene Milner, minister of worship. Scripture passages were read by a group of church members and staff.

Following the building dedication there was a special consecration of the F. Douglas Dillard, Jr. sanctuary. According to Kincannon, Dillard was the United Methodist Church district superintendent who originally encouraged him to start the mission church. His widow Marion participated in both dedications.

In his closing remarks, Kincannon paid tribute to his wife Judy for her support and help throughout the 10 years of Rising Hope's development. He also told the crowd, "This ceremony is not the end of the dream.

"It is just beginning. I'm dreaming of a community where everyone embraces everyone, where there is no hunger and no homelessness. Where everyone has meaningful employment and everyone has adequate health care. Dream big folks. God will use us to make those dreams come true."

As noted in Rising Hope literature, the church includes among its missions:

* Assisting approximately 2,000 individuals per year with the help of over 500 volunteers from area churches.

* Distribution of food to nearly 150 families weekly.

* Providing telephone and computer availability for low income and indigent individuals searching for employment, housing and social services.