Parishioners and vestry at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke agree that a growing congregation is a blessing. Eight hundred and seventy families worship at the Episcopalian church on Braddock Road, but along with growth comes the need for a place to put everyone.
"We are bursting at the seams," said Steve Mohyla, who serves on both the vestry, or council, and the building committee at Good Shepherd. The church also boasts an active congregation, he said, with programs ranging from a preschool to a joint feeding effort with Fairfax Area Christian Emergency and Transitional Services (FACETS) to an amateur theater group.
"Sometimes you have to literally step over people meeting in the entrance hallway," said Mohyla. In the current building, a fellowship hall, classrooms, offices and a kitchen branch off the nave, or worship space. When all the classrooms, halls and offices are booked for activities, he said, meetings will sometimes take place in the nave itself.
A few years ago, Good Shepherd began a renovation that will double the size of its program, office and activities space, said building committee member Michele Braithwaite. It will be finished in July, with a grand opening planned for September.
THE RENOVATION will add 24,000 square feet of space on to the church rather than change the existing building, said Mohyla. A hall extending off the back of the church building will connect to a new parish hall and storage space on the ground floor level, with offices, classrooms and meeting space on the level below that. At about 5,400 square feet, the new fellowship hall will be nearly twice the size of the current Shead's Hall. The preschool will gain two new classrooms.
The stage in Shead's Hall will also make way for a new kitchen, which will contribute greatly to parish life, said Braithwaite. As part of Good Shepherd's outreach programs, church members cook large amounts of food for FACETS clients.
"We've never been able to cook at our own church, because it's not up to code," said Braithwaite. The new kitchen, which will be situated between the old and new buildings, will finally allow the food preparation to happen at Good Shepherd. The old kitchen will become offices, she said.
The expansion will help church life in other ways, said Mohyla. The current classrooms, located next to the fellowship hall, often get noisy during parties or dinners, and the new classrooms will provide more peace and quiet, he said. The renovations will also expand the entrance hall by removing the adjacent offices, so that congregants have time to visit with each other after services, he said.
THE MUSIC PROGRAM at Good Shepherd will become the primary user of Sheads Hall, said Braithwaite, and the larger stage in the new fellowship hall will benefit the Good Shepherd Players, the parish theater group.
"We can see not just who we are, but who we can become," she said.
"We will finally be able to fit what we do into what we have," said Mohyla.
The renovation will free up a small building on the church property, an old residence that currently houses parish offices. The plans for the house are not yet finalized, but the church can use the space for any number of programs and ministries, such as youth groups or the English for Speakers of Other Languages program, he said.
"It's almost like Christmas morning," said Mohyla.
As part of the Area Plans Review process taking place in the southern half of the county, Good Shepherd has submitted a proposal to amend the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. The amendment would allow for a rezoning from residential with 1 house per acre to residential with 2-3 houses per acre. The property is just over 10 acres, and a majority of the surrounding properties are also zoned for 2-3 houses per acre.
"The reason we are changing the Comprehensive Plan is to bring it into conformation with the surrounding Comprehensive Plan, and to allow for the possibility to achieve plans for the property," said attorney Lynne Strobel at a Braddock District Task Force Meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. The plan amendment is not a preparation for Good Shepherd to move or to sell the land, she said, but would allow the church more freedom to expand in the future.
"The church truly intends to stay there," she said.
The size of future renovations factors in the zoning of the property, said Mohyla, and a denser zoning would allow a larger floor-to-area ratio.
The point of the amendment is to speed the expansion process for parishioners down the road, said Mohyla. "In the future, if we decide, say, 'We need to build a building over here,' then this part of the process will be already done," he said.