The King's Chapel has been around for 10 years, but hasn't yet had a home of its own. So the recent groundbreaking for the church it's building in Clifton was a special occasion.
"It means a sense of place for the church," said the Rev. Bill Jeschke. "Finally, we'll be able to settle."
The congregation previously met at Lanier Middle School and, for the past 1 1/2 years, at Willow Springs Elementary. The new sanctuary will be in the Braddock Woods community, at 12925 Braddock Road, between Clifton and Doyle roads.
The King's Chapel is a non-denominational church that began with 30 charter members and now has a couple hundred members of various races, ages and ethnic backgrounds. Describing it as both a historic, Christian church and an evangelical church, Jeschke said it's a "loving, open, honest fellowship of Christians, grateful for God's grace being expressed in our lives."
The King's Chapel offers about 20 different community groups, including groups for singles, those in recovery and a youth ministry. "We try to share the love of Christ through small, loving communities of people," said Jeschke.
The new structure will cost about $4 million. Phase one is a 400-seat sanctuary, classrooms for children and adults and a kitchen. Phase two will be a fellowship hall.
The church conducted a low-key, fund-raising campaign, partly due to the generosity of one of its late members, Molly Wooddell of Falls Church. She died of cancer and left the church hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"That's the only way we were able to go forward with this," said Jeschke. "She was just a wonderful person. She nursed the sick, did blood drives and was such a giver. She did lots of charitable works anonymously."
The groundbreaking ceremony was Sunday, April 2, and construction is expected to take 12-15 months. If all goes well, said Jeschke, the new facility could possibly open in summer of 2007.
JESCHKE SAID the site was chosen because "in Fairfax County, there are only a couple corridors where churches can locate, and the Braddock Road property has water and sewer. We started the church a decade ago, and this is the end of a long process."
The mood at the ceremony was joyful and upbeat as Jeschke said a prayer on the spot where his congregation will one day gather to worship. "Lord, we thank you for your loving kindness in blessing this church so that we can be an extension of your love," he said.
Bill Robson of Robson Group Architects, designing the building, told the group, "A building doesn't make a church — people do. You, as Christians, are called as a people to minister; and this building, to support this [work], is your tool."
Gene Kreider, president of Cardinal Construction and Management, constructing the facility, also spoke. "When God formed this land, His spirit hovered over the waters, and His spirit is hovering over this land right now," said Kreider. "We're here to lead and serve ... and God has something in store for all of you. We need all of your prayers. I want all those who step on this site to know they're stepping on holy ground."
"Jesus wants a union between Himself and this world, and I'm grateful to be a Christian and an American," said Jeschke. "And in this moment of consecration, I pray that we dedicate ourselves to advancing His mission with our words and our lives."
Inece Bryant of Kingstowne, a member of The King's Chapel from its 1996 beginning, was delighted to see the groundbreaking take place. "It's just absolutely wonderful," she said. "We've been praying and longing for it. I almost cried because I miss Molly so much — and she was such a major part of this project."
Bryant had high praise for her pastor, as well. "Bill donated his kidney to me in 2003," she said. "That's the kind of man he is."
Sterling's Cathy Isaacs is also a charter member and a church secretary. She called Jeschke faithful and dedicated — "a compassionate person who has a heart for people and lives what he preaches." And she considers the groundbreaking "not the fulfillment, but a start — a new day."
"I really believe this is where God has placed me," said Isaacs. "And the church is special because we're family. We have continual growth, but the core of about 150 long-term members is where the strength is."
Also original members of The King's Chapel are Rick and Denise Haun of Vienna. "We're about getting out and witnessing to the community and reaching out and getting to know people in the area," said Rick Haun. He said that having the new building "right in the middle of Fairfax County," with I-66 and the Fairfax County Parkway so close, will make it easy for all the members to get there.
"We looked at several sites," he said. "All the others had insurmountable problems but, here, everything's worked. So it's clear that God opened the doors and has a plan for us here."
Denise Haun said there's "a lot of love" in The King's Chapel, as well as "the ability to share God's blessings with one another." She described Jeschke as "an awesome man with a gentle, sweet spirit," and said it was great to see the start of the new church come to fruition. Site preparation began six weeks prior to the groundbreaking; and since then, said Rick, "I come out here every Friday and get excited about all the progress being made."
The day of the ceremony was also a special one for the church's assistant pastor, Brian Roberts, of Greenbriar. A major on active duty with the U.S. Marines, he was gone for three years and just got back from Afghanistan and Iraq, 24 hours earlier.
Attending the groundbreaking with his wife and young children, Roberts said, "I'm very thankful that some really great men and women in Christ pushed forward to continue with this [project]. But it's not about individuals; it's about the Body of Christ. I'm excited about everyone coming to work together for eternal purposes and to change lives positively."
Oak Hill's Tricia Craddock likened the ceremony to "the beginning of a dream." She's also pleased that, once the church has its own building, more people will be able to come and more activities may be offered. And noting how tough it is nowadays for many children with both parents working, she said the church youth group has "gotten huge."
At The King's Chapel, said Craddock, "Everybody's very loving and, if somebody's going through a hard time, everyone goes through it together. Everybody cares about and helps each other."