Obstacles and distractions of litigation and permit approvals have passed; now the members of the One God Ministry church have their eyes focused on their future home.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the church, at 4280 and 4282 Chain Bridge Road, took place in August, and construction for the non-denominational church is now visible from Chain Bridge Road. For the founder, apostle and trustee of the church, Dr. Johnson Edosomwan, having a new building for the congregation to call its own is all a part of God’s will. He coined a phrase with his church members which has become their inspiration.
“It won’t be long, we will have a church home,” said Edosomwan. “Count the years as months, count the months as weeks, count the weeks as days. We are going to have a church home.”
This phrase is how he sums up his feelings about the building project. The original special use permit for the project was approved in 2004, but the decision was reversed just two weeks later. Edosomwan sued the city, then negotiated with them to allow him to reapply for the permit. When he did, they denied it again.
“That’s all in the past,” said Edosomwan. “The process we went through is the normal process you have to go through.”
The United States Department of Justice took notice though in the fall of 2005, after the city denied the application three times with no explanation, according to a Justice Department newsletter about its Civil Rights Division’s religious liberty and discriminations cases. The Justice Department began its investigation into whether the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws. The investigation ended in February 2006; about two months after the city approved the permit. The Civil Rights division cited the favorable outcome as its reason for ending the investigation.
“I voted not to allow it the first time,” said Councilmember Patrice Winter. “The second time I changed my vote because the issues of adjacent property development and parking were resolved.”
Since Edosomwan owns property surrounding the church, Winter said she wanted to make sure there were no future plans for expanding the church. And parking, said Winter, is already a problem in that area on Sundays because of another church across the street. She, like many of the neighbors, had concerns about it that she said were satisfied in Edosomwan’s last reapplication.
“We always want to be able to work with anyone in the city, and we’ve done that with One God Ministry,” said Councilmember Gail Lyon.
NOW THAT THE litigation is over and the building has begun, funding is still what the church needs. The $5 million project is continuing anyway, even though Edosomwan said the fund-raising goal hasn’t been met. The end result will be a roughly 15,000 square foot church on the 1.2-acre lot, with eight classrooms, six offices, a bookstore, two libraries, sanctuary, fellowship hall and a Baptism center. The sanctuary is designed to accommodate up to 200 people per service, with a maximum of three services. The fellowship hall has a 300-person capacity.
The church began a “capital campaign” to raise the funds. Anyone can contribute over the phone, online or via postal mail. The church also believes in a 10 percent tithe, and Edosomwan said most of the church’s 136 members do contribute tithes.
“We are going to do this,” he said. “I have confidence God will do this for us.”
The church has been conducting Wednesday and Sunday services in the cafeteria at Providence Elementary School on Jermantown Road for nearly four years. They rent the space from the county, said Edosomwan. On Sundays, he wakes up at 5 a.m. and loads a large SUV with all of the necessary equipment for service. Once he arrives at the school with some of the other church staff members, they begin the hour-or-so-long process of setting everything up. When it’s over, they have to break it all down and set the cafeteria back up to the way they found it.
“When we have our new church, we just show up and turn on the lights,” said Edosomwan.
Edosomwan founded the church in 1996, and had services in people’s homes until he reached the rent agreement with the Fairfax County School Board. He calls his spiritual career, which has included pastor and minister positions, his “calling.”
“The greatest thing anyone can do is to serve the kingdom of God,” he said. “It’s all about being a servant in the truest sense.”
As for expanding the church in the future, Edosomwan said that would only be possible by building at another location. He said he has no plans to build onto the Fairfax church. One God Ministry is already in the process of building a much larger project about 50 miles south of Richmond. The Spiritual Wilderness Solitude, located in Harmony Haven, is a 116-acre site with conference and meeting facilities. It is designed for “personal solitude and spiritual enrichment,” said Edosomwan. It is scheduled to open next spring.