[The Falls Church (Episcopal)] After five years of hopeful and prayerful waiting, The Falls Church (Episcopal) will return to its historic church home at 115 East Fairfax Street for worship at 10:15 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. The service will be followed by a traditional Easter egg hunt for children in the churchyard.
The Easter Sunday return is especially meaningful and poignant for Jessie Thackrey, a 98-year-old great-grandmother who has been a member of the church since 1941. “I have a lot of memories tied up in that church,” Thackrey, the church’s first female senior warden, said. “My husband, Franklin, and I celebrated our children’s baptisms, confirmations and weddings at The Falls Church, and it’s where our grandchildren and one great-grandchild marked similar milestones. Franklin and two of our children were laid to rest there. It means a lot to me to be able to go back to my special seat and worship there again.”
The congregation’s return to its historic property ends a five-year legal dispute stemming from theological differences with former members who voted to break away and join the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria. While the breakaway group stayed in the building, the Episcopal congregation accepted an invitation from the Falls Church Presbyterian Church to share worship and education space within its property.
“This is an historic and exciting time for our parish” said the Rev. Cathy Tibbetts. “This past year has brought exciting growth in the numbers of families joining our community. We welcome all who want to come grow with us.”
In January, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and ordered The Falls Church property and all finances and items that existed prior to the split to be returned to the denomination.
“It is really energizing to see these congregations begin the process of returning to their houses of worship after so many years,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. “This struggle has been an emotional and arduous one for all parties involved, and we wish the CANA congregations every success in their ministries. This marks the beginning of a new chapter for our Episcopal congregations, one where we can prayerfully focus our energies on the mission of the Church.”
The wait has been long, and the lessons have been many for everyone involved. Thackrey knows from experience that tests like this one often provide wisdom. “What I’ve learned from this is that you really can worship anywhere, but it feels good to be able to go home again,” she said.
Established in 1732, The Falls Church (Episcopal) is a welcoming group of believers in the Diocese of Virginia whose message is one of trust in the hope-filled promises of Jesus Christ, love for one another, and service to the community. The parish witnesses to the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through an Anglican tradition of worship in the Book of Common Prayer, along with an understanding of our relationship to God through scripture, tradition, and reason. For more information, please visit www.thefallschurch-episcopal.org.