Mike McMahon worked for some 30 years as a music director for parishes in the conservative Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington. For those 30 years, no one seemed to care that he was gay, as long as he was “discreet.”
As reported by the Washington Post, the 62-year-old was fired last summer from St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale — not because he’s gay, but because the pastor there found out he had gotten married to a man.
News of the firing has some in the community crying foul.
“It saddens me that certain religious denominations are unable to express and embrace love fully,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com. “Their position is anachronistic and uninformed at best, and very hurtful and damaging to many people at worst.”
By all accounts McMahon was good at his job and didn’t let his marriage interfere with his work responsibilities. Is it proper, though, for a church to fire those whose personal lives go against church teachings?
Board to Consider $6.6 Million Homeless Shelter Contract — County staff is recommending that the Arlington County Board approve a $6.6 million contract for construction of the new year-round homeless shelter in Courthouse. The contract includes a $1.1 million construction contingency to cover overages. The contract is “within budget,” a county spokeswoman said. The new Homeless Services Center will include 50 year-round beds, 5 medical respite beds and an additional 25 beds for winter months. [Arlington County]
Hike in ART, STAR Fees Proposed — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed a hike in fees for the county’s ART and STAR transportation systems. The base fare for ART buses would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 under Donnellan’s proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Ebbin Reflects on Va. Marriage Ruling — State Sen. Adam Ebbin, the first and only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, had mixed emotions after last week’s ruling that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. “I always thought if you were gay, you could never get married, you’d never be able to have children,” he told the Washington Post. “I didn’t know you could be gay and be happy.” [Washington Post]
Belly Dancing in Shirlington — Aladdin’s Eatery (4044 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington will be hosting regular belly dancing shows, starting on Thursday. The shows will be performed by faculty from Saffron Dance, which is based in Virginia Square. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Noise Complaint Targets Church – Even God is not safe from noise complaints in Arlington. Police were called to the 2400 block of Shirlington Road in Nauck on Monday night for “a loud church service in the area.” No word on whether officers found an actual violation of the county’s noise ordinance.
Flickr pool photo by Robpc
Last week, St. Charles Borromeo Church, near Clarendon, announced that it will be closing its private K-8 school after this school year.
Administrators say the decision is due to low enrollment — only 117 students are currently enrolled at the school, about half of its capacity. Still, parents are upset with the decision, and wondering whether anything could have been done to save the school.
Here’s a letter from one such parent.
My daughter’s school, St. Charles Borromeo in Clarendon, announced suddenly January 13 that it was closing the K-8 portion this June and “restructuring” as an Early Childhood Center.
“So what?” you must be thinking; Catholic schools have been closing at an alarming rate all over the country.
But it’s not that St. Charles Elementary is closing — it’s the process by which it is closing.
We received an email the morning of the 13th that there was an important letter in our child’s backpack for us. I didn’t give the email another thought until I went to pick up my daughter from extended day, when I saw the stricken faces of other parents. I thought maybe that someone in the school community was very ill or had died. Little did I know it was the news of the school closure.
A letter like that should come at the end of a long fight to save your school — after you have done everything you could think of to raise both enrollment and necessary operating funds. Why were parents not even given the opportunity to try?
We were never afforded the respect and dignity to be invited into the process. We were never given financial information or analyses. We were never notified of the warnings that were apparently delivered from the Diocese to the school. We were never rallied and given a goal to try to attain. We were never given a chance to go down swinging.
We were led to believe that everything was fine. We have an active PTO. We have an active enrollment management committee. We have a brand new, engaging, motivated principal who this school year alone brought in 10 new students.
Look — we are not naïve. We understand the economics of private education in this area and the struggles in trying to compete with the fabulous public schools in the region. Maybe in the end, after fighting the good fight, we would not have succeeded. Then we would have been sad to receive the letter, would have licked our wounds, and at least known we did all we could.
But for things to end this way is unacceptable and disrespectful.
In his letter Father Horace H. “Tuck” Grinnell stated “What defeated us in the end was our low enrollment.” I beg to differ. I believe it was a lack of leadership.
So now St. Charles Elementary — the most diverse Catholic elementary school in the diocese and a shining example of Dr. Martin Luther King’s hopes and dreams — is closing. There is no written transition plan, only vague assurances that families will be welcomed with open arms, and current teachers and staff will be given priority for jobs, at other Catholic schools in the area. I only hope this is the case.
I hope the new St. Charles Early Childhood Center will be a success. Those of you in Arlington looking for a preschool would have the joy of working with Principal Angela Rowley and her staff. She is the finest example of Christian love and charity and will educate and care for your children like they were her own. If she can’t make this new center a success, then no one can.
But learn from our situation — demand transparency and participation at all times. Demand accountability from the parish, the superintendent of Catholic schools at the diocese, and from the bishop himself. Maybe then something good will come out of St. Charles Elementary’s untimely and unnecessary death.
In the fall my daughter’s third grade teacher read the class the children’s version of Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea.” On their own the class decided to raise funds for Pennies for Peace, the charity supporting schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They set a goal of $400, and to be honest, I didn’t think there was any way they could raise that amount of money. I thought it would be a great learning experience that sometimes you can’t meet a goal you set.
The kids raised almost $900. Just imagine what their parents could have done for St. Charles Elementary if only we were given the chance.
To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the editor may be lightly edited for content and brevity.
Church to Drop K-8 School – St. Charles Borromeo Church, near Clarendon, has announced that it will be closing its private K-8 school after this school year due to low enrollment. Only 117 students are currently enrolled at the school, about half of its capacity. “No Catholic school can survive with such low numbers,” said the church’s pastor, in a letter to parents. The church will retain its popular preschool program. [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Surge in Students With Food Allergies — Statistics from Arlington Public Schools shows that the number of students with reported food allergies has nearly doubled since the 2008-09 school year. About 1,150 students, or 5 percent of the student body, have reported food allergies to the school system. [Sun Gazette]
The Fire That Almost Destroyed Rosslyn — In 1925, a gasoline-fueled fire nearly destroyed all of Rosslyn. Firefighters trying to extinguish the blaze narrowly escaped harm when they leaped from a gasoline tank just before it exploded. [Ghosts of DC]
State Appointment for Retired Arlington Cop — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who was sworn in over the weekend, has appointed Tonya Vincent as Deputy Secretary of Public Safety. Vincent served 22 years with the Arlington County Police Department, where she retired as a captain.
Photo courtesy @SBDSLLC
Church Ceiling Collapses in Nauck — On Sunday, just a few days before Christmas, part of the ceiling of the 1920s-era Lomax AME Zion church in Nauck collapsed. The collapse happened during Sunday services, forcing the choir to run for their lives, but miraculously no one was hurt. [NBC Washington, WUSA9]
Arlington Theater Makes ‘Best of 2013′ List — The AMC Courthouse movie theater, renovated in 2012, has made the Washington Post Going Out Guide’s “Best of 2013″ list for “best reason to go to the movies.” The theater’s plush recliners are said to be “more comfortable than anything in your living room.” [Washington Post]
Voting By Mail in Virginia? — Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45) has introduced legislation that would direct the Virginia State Board of Elections to study the feasibility of allowing voting by mail. Voting by mail is currently allowed in Oregon and Washington state. Such a system could help boost turnout in non-presidential year elections. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
Wreaths to Be Placed at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — Wreaths will be placed on nearly 130,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday. Most of the wreaths are being made possible by a $250,000 donation from Google. [Washington Post]
Church Works to Package 100,000 Meals — More than 500 volunteers worked to package 100,000 non-perishable meals for hungry children around the world last week at Jefferson Middle School. The effort was organized by Grace Community Church. [Sun Gazette]
ACPD Hiring Recruit Officers — The Arlington County Police Department is looking to hire a number of entry-level police officers this winter. The application process involves a written exam, physical ability test, interview, polygraph test, psychological evaluation and medical evaluation. [PoliceOne.com, Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
It’s not every day that a new church starts in Arlington, but musician-turned-pastor Scott Maurer of newly formed West City Fellowship has a background even more unique.
Maurer, 46, was raised Jewish, played in a rock band for five years in the mid-Atlantic region and worked in the D.C. tech industry for 10 years before deciding to join the ministry.
West City Fellowship, which is a nondenominational Christian church, held its first official service Sunday morning in a lecture hall at Wakefield High School, where it will continue to hold weekly services at 10:30 a.m.
Raised in Alexandria, Maurer’s father was a “very religious Jew,” but his mother wasn’t observant, so when they divorced, Maurer said he was drifting spiritually. As he grew up, he had a natural curiosity; studying Eastern philosophy and several other Western religions, but shunning Christianity.
“I was extremely hostile to Christianity, very cynical to anyone that claimed to be a Christian,” he said. “I had the idea that you couldn’t be an intellectual and believe any of that nonsense.”
As Maurer got older and entered graduate school, he met a lay pastor and began gravitating more toward Christianity. In his late 20s, after marrying his wife, Julie, Maurer finally “gave his life to Christ.” He said he woke up in the middle of the night and realized he was meant to be a member of the ministry. He trained and was ordained at Fair Oaks Church and moved to South Dakota, where he led a church for four years. A few years after Maurer’s conversion Julie, also Jewish and a one-time groupie of Maurer’s band, converted.
“Not exactly what I signed up for, this Jewish girl, a Pastor’s wife?” she said.
Scott, Julie and their two children moved to Arlington in June and decided to start his own “plant church.”
“This area in general, it’s not a Bible Belt by any means,” Maurer said. “It’s just the opposite. A lot of people share the attitude I had for a long time. Anywhere from a skeptical hostility toward Christ, or more just a neutral, apathetic condescension, with not too much interest. I get it, I really do, I understand where they’re coming from, I understand the hostility.”
“I’ve come to believe,” Maurer continued, “that the really most important question that anyone can ask is, ‘is God real and can I know him? What does he want from me and what can he give me?’”
Maurer and his small congregation have gone around the neighborhoods near Wakefield High School and left flyers on doorsteps and “prayed for the people inside,” he said. He said he plans on writing a blog to draw interest from those skeptical or curious about the church.
Saturday, from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m., St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church will hold blessings for pets on the grassy area at the Clarendon intersection of Fairfax Drive, Washington Blvd and Clarendon Blvd, next to Northside Social. The service is being held in honor of medieval animal lover St. Francis of Assisi, and “Catholic and non-Catholic pets and people are welcome,” according to the event announcement.
On Sunday, the Rock Spring Congregational UCC will hold its own Blessing of the Animals, at 3:00 p.m. The service will be held on the church’s lawn at 5010 N. Little Falls Road. Visitors are encouraged to “come with the pets who share their life with us.”
Image via St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church
Prayer Vigil for Navy Yard Victims — St. George’s Episcopal Church in Virginia Square will be holding a 40 minute prayer vigil and candle lighting for victims of the Navy Yard mass shooting tonight. [ARLnow Events]
Va. Is Test State for Gun Data Sharing — Virginia is a test state for a nationally-linked system that will share information on guns used in crimes across law enforcement agencies. The system is intended to skirt federal law that prevents the sharing of federal gun trace information. As of Monday, twenty-five Virginia law enforcement agencies had signed on to the program. The Arlington County Police Department was not on that list. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Dedication for New Wakefield HS — A dedication ceremony will be held for the new Wakefield High School on Sunday. Students, staff and community members are invited to the ceremony, which starts at 1:30 p.m. It will be followed by tours of the school, an opening ceremony for Wakefield’s new aquatics center, and an aquatics center open house. [Arlington Public Schools]
Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ and the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center of Falls Church will co-host a “Day for World Peace” service this Sunday.
Hosted at the church (5010 N. Little Falls Road) and starting at 10:00 a.m. on Sept. 8, the service’s theme is “Two Faiths, One Creation.” It’s the third consecutive year the two congregations have organized the event, which was started on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The service will be followed by a social hour, after which many congregants will go to Washington, D.C., for the 9/11 Unity Walk, which starts at noon at Washington Hebrew Congregation (3935 Macomb Street NW) and travels down Massachusetts Avenue.
Below is the press release for the interfaith service:
A Day for World Peace will be observed on September 8 at an interfaith service involving two congregations — one Muslim, the other Christian. The service will take place at Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, which will be joined by the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center of Falls Church. The theme for the day will be “Two Faiths, One Creation.” It recognizes that all people, regardless of faith tradition, are citizens of a single planet.
This exciting occasion builds on the memorable interfaith service observed on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in September, 2011 by the congregations of Dar Al-Hijrah and Rock Spring, followed by another in 2012. The service will involve elements from each faith, and after a social hour, many congregants will join the 9/11 Unity Walk in DC, which “seeks to create a world where we are united, rather than divided, by our many faiths”
All are invited to attend: Sunday, September 8, 2013, 10:00 a.m. Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ, 5010 Little Falls Road, Arlington, VA 22207.
For information: 703 538 4886
Restoration Anglican Church in Cherrydale began demolition on its 150-seat church this morning, clearing the way for a new church building in the same spot.
Rubble already covers the church’s grounds at 1815 N. Quincy Street, as construction crews quickly tore down the small, brick building. Temporary church services will now be held at 5:00 p.m. on Sundays at Little Falls Presbyterian Church at 6025 N. Little Falls Road.
When Restoration Anglican Church congregation formed in January 2009, with less than 100 members of its congregation, it rented space for services from Trinity Baptist Church at the Quincy Street location. When Trinity disbanded in 2010, Restoration bought the building and has called it home ever since.
The building permit for Restoration’s new church was issued Aug. 12, and construction crews wasted no time in getting started. The congregation raised more than $2.4 million toward the design and construction of the building, according to Restoration’s website.
The new building will house a 375-person sanctuary, classrooms and will have a front porch for post-service gatherings. Whereas the old church was “quaint” and centered on the property with grass surrounding it, Parish Administrator Kat Vinson said the new one will be almost to the limits of the property.
“It was exciting to watch [the demolition begin] this morning,” Vinson said.
The construction of the new church is projected to take 8-12 months, Vinson said. Restoration hopes this building will last its congregation, which is about 500 strong, for years to come.
Legislators Holding Public Meeting Tonight — Arlington County’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly will hold their annual public legislative hearing tonight (Friday). The public is invited to address the delegation at the meeting, which starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Arlington County Board room on the third floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd. The delegation includes three state Senators and four members of the House of Delegates. [Arlington County]
Changes to ART 42 Schedule — Minor schedule changes to the ART 42 bus route will take effect starting Monday, Jan. 7. The changes in scheduled arrival times are designed to “improve on-time performance.” [Arlington Transit]
Camel to Visit Arlington Church — A live camel will be visiting an Arlington church this weekend in celebration of Epiphany. Chewy the Camel is scheduled to show up at the Church of the Covenant (2666 Military Road) around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, and the public is invited to the event. “Join everyone that morning at 10:45 a.m. for a celebration and parade, as well as the Spanish and English telling of the Wise Men’s visit, accompanied by goodies and crafts for children in Fellowship Hall,” the church said on its website. [Church of the Covenant]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
BonChon Chicken Coming to Arlington — BonChon Chicken, a popular Korean-based chicken chain, will be coming to the ground floor of the new 2201 Pershing apartment building. The restaurant, noted for its wings, expects to open in the summer of 2013. [Washingtonian]
Galaxy Hut Goes Vegetarian — Galaxy Hut has introduced a new menu and meat is nowhere to be seen. The revamped menu is all-vegetarian and includes
tofu seitan and vegetable-based cheesesteaks, burgers and barbecue sandwiches instead of the genuine article. Some meat-based meals are still available, but by request only. [Washington Post]
Wakefield Half-Way Finished — Construction of the new Wakefield High School has hit the half-way mark. The new $115 million high school is expected to open next summer in time for the 2013-2014 school year. [Sun Gazette]
Church Prepares Meals for the Hungry — Instead of a traditional Sunday service, members of Arlington-based Grace Community Church prepared nearly 100,000 meals for those in need. The church meets at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. [WUSA]
Restoration Anglican Church (1815 N. Quincy Street) hasn’t been in existence for long, but it’s already looking to expand into a larger building.
The church congregation formed in January 2009, when it was around 100 people. At that time, it rented space for one service per week from Trinity Baptist Church, as did a third congregation which ended up relocating to Reston. Restoration bought the church building when Trinity disbanded in 2010.
Now, the congregation is closer to 450-500 people and the number of weekend services has increased to three. The Rev. David Hanke says the congregation has reached its threshold for expansion in the current facility.
“Our ability to keep adding services has hit its end so we need to build something larger,” he said.
Last month, Restoration began its capital campaign in an effort to raise a portion of the $4.5 million budgeted for the project. Although a design has not yet been finalized, the goal is to build a facility that would seat around 400 people, instead of the current 150 person capacity.
The existing church building will be razed and the new facility will be built on the same plot of land. So far there is no hard date for breaking ground, considering a final design hasn’t even been approved yet, but the hope is to start construction in early 2013.
While construction takes place for an estimated 12 to 18 months, the congregation will use space at Little Falls Presbyterian Church for one service per weekend.
Rev. Hanke reports having a good relationship with the surrounding community, and mentioned attending a Cherrydale Citizens Association meeting to address any concerns about a larger church. One of the issues that has come up as a concern among some residents is the lack of parking.
Right now, there are only 13 parking spaces at the church but there is a shuttle on Sundays that runs to the designated parking lot adjacent to Washington-Lee High School near I-66. The parking plan is in compliance with a county code allowing churches to run such shuttles to nearby parking lots. Rev. Hanke says the new church will house the same number of spots and the Sunday shuttle service will continue. Church goers will be reminded, as they are now, to appease neighbors by not parking on Quincy Street or nearby side streets.
Although a finished church facility is far in the future, the congregation is looking forward to its larger, permanent home.
“In the ongoing conversation we’re having with our community, one of the parallels I’ve drawn is to being a homeowner. There’s a big difference between renting a space and owning a space,” said Rev. Hanke. “Since we became owners, we became much more invested in the Quincy Street area. We love being on that street and we love our neighborhood. We are excited we have the opportunity to be there for a long, long time.”
Local Parties to Hold Debate Watching Parties — Local Republicans and Democrats will be holding viewing parties for the first of the 2012 presidential debates tonight. The Arlington Republican viewing party will be held at Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon (3100 Clarendon Blvd). The Arlington Democratic viewing party will be held at Bailey’s Pub & Grille in Ballston (4238 Wilson Blvd).
Parents Say Bus Changes Are Taking a Toll – Students are not performing as well academically and at least one mom lost her job as a result of changes to the County’s school bus policies, according to a group of parents. Parents of Campbell Elementary students are planning to carpool — to Thursday’s School Board meeting, to voice their concerns. [WTOP]
More Local BRAC Moves Coming — According to one estimate, government agencies with leases expiring between now and 2015 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act occupy more than 4.5 million square feet of office space in Arlington and Alexandria. The BRAC move-outs are impacting the bottom line of some commercial property holders. Vornado, with office space in Arlington and Fairfax County, expects earnings to be down as much as $60 million as a result of BRAC. [Bloomberg]
Church Series on ‘Restoring Political Civility’ — The Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) will be holding a four-part series that will “discuss how citizenship is a responsibility rather than a privilege, and how to restore civility to the political process.” [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Keithhall