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A church in Ballston Quarter mall is the only D.C. area tour stop for two big names in Christian radio this month

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Two years ago, Grace Community Church held its meetings at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School auditorium.

Now, it is hosting big acts in contemporary Christian music at its new home in Ballston Quarter, which seats 500 people.

Next week, Grammy-award-winning artist Steven Curtis Chapman, a fixture on Christian radio for decades, will be making a stop at the church for a sold-out show.

On March 20, Colton Dixon and Jordan Feliz — two ascendant artists whose recent singles and albums have topped Billboard charts for contemporary Christian music — will perform “in this most intimate setting of their entire tour.”

It is a big shift for the church, which bounced between TJ and Key Elementary School before settling into the second floor of the mall, across from the art gallery, wine bar and restaurant WHINO one year ago this month.

Moving into the space drove a 30% attendance bump but the concerts, which started in September, put Grace Community Church on the map, says Pastor John Slye, Jr.

“We were a decent-sized church of 1,000-ish people before we had our space, but people didn’t know who we were,” he said. “But now, they know who we are. The concerts have given us awareness, for sure, and that’s fun.”

Slye had always envisioned using the new digs for concerts but he credits his son Jonathan — who owns a prominent national rock festival — for having the connections to book these acts and other big names. The church previously hosted singer-songwriter David Crowder and has concerts booked with rapper LeCrae, the band Big Daddy Weave and American Idol star Danny Gokey.

“We’re thrilled to have this,” says Pastor Slye. “There’s no way we could’ve done it without his skills and what he knows.”

With the recognition has come the opportunity to take on other types of events, too. Grace Community Church recently put on a worship night that drew people from 200 churches in the D.C. area and hosted a mixer for young professionals that spilled over into WHINO across the way.

With seats for 500, Slye says Grace Community Church is full but capacity is only an issue for larger events and concerts. As a result, future events might make use of other spaces in the mall. The church is in talks with a local radio station to host a singles event in the public outdoor space outside the Ballston Quarter food hall and has discussed the possibility of co-hosting a larger event at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex upstairs.

“We have no desire to make Grace the hero: We just want to see the space bring people together because this is a lonely place, and community is healthy for us, mentally, spiritually and physically,” Slye said. “People just want to make friends and make community. We want to rally around that, big time.”

The pastor and his wife both grew up in Arlington and attended the schools where later, their church would meet before moving into Ballston Quarter. They knew early on that their son loved music but never imagined their then 5-year-old, dancing and playing music in their sparse living room, would one day make his dad’s church into something of a regional hub.

“I had no idea that the seeds of this started way back then,” he said. “I can’t even clap on beat.”

Photos via Grace Community Church/Facebook

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