Explaining that he has retired as pastor of Rising Hope Methodist Mission Church, Reverend Dr. Keary Kincannon told 120 guests at his Aug. 20 retirement party at Fort Hunt Park, “I’m not leaving the ministry. I have not retired from my faith. And to quote that great philosopher, Monty Python, ‘I’m not dead yet.’”
Emblematic of that commitment, Kincannon announced that he has established a legacy endowment fund for Rising Hope with the goal of raising $250,000 for 25 years of support in partnership with local residents Bill and Molly Lynch who have created a $100,000 matching grant. Molly, who bills herself as “passionate about Rising Hope during her long relationship with them,” commented that what makes Rising Hope special is that Kincannon “brings God to the table.”
Leading the group in prayer, Pastor Brian Brown of Woodlawn Faith United Methodist Church called Kincannon an “inspiration” and a “giant.”
Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church is centered in a three-story, brick building at 8220 Russell Road just off U.S. 1. Starting from the trunk of his car, for the past 26 years, Kincannon has ministered to people unable to support a traditional church. He and his successor, Kameron Wilds, are quick to explain that the church is a community, a family, not just a building.
In an interview describing Kincannon’s approach to ministering, Jim Wallis said, “It has given me great joy as I have watched him follow Jesus in the way pastors are supposed to. He just went and did it and showed how it could be done.” He added, “Keary became an archetype and role model for the church and how to do the gospel. His life is worth celebrating for sure.” Wallis is the chair and founding director of Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice.
An Advocate to the End
Many colleagues noted that Kincannon’s reach extends far beyond the pulpit into the halls and backrooms of government. Virginia Sen. Scott Surovell said he met Kincannon in 2009 when as a first-time candidate he knocked on the Kincannons’ door. “He sunk his hooks into me,” Surovell said. “Every year, he has a list of issues, from affordable housing to AIDS care to Medicaid dental coverage.”
Surovell recalled 2017 when federal immigration officers targeted Rising Hope and took six men away in handcuffs, presumably to deport them. The raid exploded into a national media story, attracting concerned office holders, and garnering Kincannon an invitation to the State of the Union address. Surovell presented a framed prayer that Kincannon gave in the Virginia General Assembly and a resolution from the legislature lauding the minister’s work and devotion.
Pamela Michell, Executive Director of New Hope Housing, concurred: “He’s a constant nag to elected officials.” She told the story of the Mount Vernon police breaking up a homeless camp in 2015. Kincannon’s response was to start a hypothermia program at Rising Hope. “It’s a special place because of his vision,” Michell said, noting that from him she learned the Biblical meaning of hospitality -- “Welcome the stranger.”
Marcella Pratt, who had many roles at the church as a 22-year member, called Kincannon a “master of many trades.” Mount Vernon School Board member Karen Corbett-Sanders praised Kincannon’s drive and vision. “He inspired people to see the dignity in all people and inspired us to do well.
When it was Kincannon’s turn at the podium, he saluted his wife, Judy Borsher, who “stood by me for 31 years,” quipping, “God and Judy humbled me when I got too big for my britches.” Ever the advocate, he urged the group to convince Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck to support a new shelter at the former Hybla Valley nursery at U.S. 1 and Belle View Boulevard.
He recounted many “amazing miracles” of his ministry and said that the church is “first and foremost a spiritual community that manifests God’s love.” The Rising Hope community is one “where the forgotten are no longer forgotten, the marginalized no longer marginalized and where the excluded are included.” He urged everyone to “love one another like God loves us, to treat others the way you want to be treated. Our survival depends on loving one another as God loves us,” he said, concluding, “Love unconditionally and include everyone in that love.”
After the speeches, Kincannon joined the Rising Hope choir on stage and strumming his guitar, revved up the crowd in singing the church’s “anthem” with the resounding refrain, “Let the glory of the Lord rise among us, let it rise.”
The party was sponsored by the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church and Ed and Maria Ward. Maria volunteers with the Methodist church’s mission arm. She said, “For over 25 years, Keary has been the heart and soul of helping the poor and homeless in southern Fairfax County. He brings the love of Christ, to quote him, ‘to the least, the lost, the lonely and the left out.’”
Michell challenged all: “Our job is to continue his legacy.” She confidently predicted that Kincannon will continue to “make noise for justice issues.”
Echoing the pastor’s opening remarks, Cristina Schoendorf, Senior Director of United Community Progresso, observed, “He’s not going anywhere.”