Arlington, VA

(Updated at 8:35 a.m.) The line wrapped around the church, dozens of people deep. One woman waited 45 minutes and still hadn’t reached the front of the building while a volunteer lapped the church, passing out water to those waiting in the sticky heat.

On Wednesday morning in the Green Valley neighborhood, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church (2700 19th Street S.) again teamed up with D.C.-based celebrity chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen to serve meals to those in need. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the church has seen the number of families it helps grow.

In the past, families would gather inside Father Ray Hall for treats and coffee. There were around 200 families that would participate, and the gatherings created a close community feel. Since then the number of families has increased to an average of 630, and the indoor gatherings have moved outside in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.

On Wednesday, World Central Kitchen served more than 3,580 meals to those in need at the church.

This is the second time the nonprofit and the church has worked together. The first time was on May 22 when 3,200 meals were served.

“I heard that it was very good. They really enjoyed having something… it’s like having a restaurant come to them,” said Sally Diaz-Wells, the church’s social justice and outreach minister.

The church normally holds weekly food drives on Wednesdays, gathering groceries and commonly needed food items such as bread, meat, and cheese, as well as shelf-stable items like pasta, beans and mac and cheese for the kids.

“We try to have low-sugar foods and high-protein foods in each of our bags,” said Diaz-Wells.

To provide a safe experience on Wednesday, the church placed 6-foot markers on the sidewalk in front of the building to guide people with social distancing. Organizers also ensured contactless pickup by placing the bags on chairs 6 feet away from both the entrance to the building and the rest of the line, and calling recipients forward when it was their turn. They also offered masks and required 100 percent mask-wearing.

Those interested in donating food to the church find a list of items on its website. Financial donations are also accepted.

Diaz-Wells emphasized the importance of the staff’s health to keep the food drives running each week.

“We’ve been blessed. We’ve been healthy and safe since the beginning,” she said.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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(Updated at 1:35 p.m.) Someone defaced a sign promoting racial justice, placed by a church near Clarendon.

The vandalism happened overnight in front of the Clarendon United Methodist Church (606 N. Irving Street).

A photo sent to ARLnow (above) shows the words “It’s OK to be white” scrawled in block letters on the second of a pair of banners. The banners are signed by parishioners and declare: “Clarendon United Methodist Church is committed to fighting against systemic racial injustice. I will be part of the solution.”

The church tells ARLnow that it was able to successfully remove the graffiti this morning.

“We lament that anyone would choose to deface our sign but we are glad that they have given us further opportunity to affirm our stand against systemic racial injustice and our commitment to be a part of the solution,” a church employee said via email. “We restored the sign to its original intended message this morning.”

The church’s pastor, Rev. Tracy McNeil Wines, also released the following statement.

The murders of George Floyd and countless other Black men, women, and children have further brought to light a long history that bears the unmistakable stains of exclusion, oppression, and violence. We are called by conscience and by God to rise up and stand with those whose pain is etched onto the heart of our nation. We recognize the significant disparities in opportunity for all people of color in education, housing, health, and employment, and in restricted access to security and justice. As people of faith in Jesus Christ, it is essential that we act to dismantle racism.

At Clarendon United Methodist Church, we are committed to the fight against systemic racial injustice. We acknowledge that racism is a sin that works in direct opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we join in the call to resist its powerful influence. Together we yearn for a world that reflects God’s will for just treatment and full inclusion of all persons. We resolve to resist evil, injustice and oppression, and so we cannot rest until the work of dismantling racism is done. Courage and conviction are required in the fight, and we pray that God’s Spirit may empower us with grace equal to the task.

We must take both communal and individual responsibility for justice. Change ultimately begins with transformed hearts. Therefore, we commit to opening our hearts to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. Deep repentance is required. We will seek to educate ourselves and others — to discern the breadth of racism’s impact, to see and acknowledge its effects, and to uncover its influence in our own lives and in our shared life together. We will follow equal employment practices, and intentionally increase opportunities for the voices of Black people and all people of color to be heard in the life and leadership of our church. We will work to tear down the entrenched racial and economic divide that is present in Arlington County and beyond, dedicating resources to aim at both the effects and the root causes of injustice. We affirm that this effort must be an ongoing commitment.

None of us can move forward if one of us is left behind.

This is the second such vandalism of a racial justice sign on church property in as many weeks in Arlington. The “Black” in “Black Lives Matter” was cut out of a sign in front of Rock Spring Congregational church last week. In D.C., meanwhile, a mural “lifting up the names and legacies of Dorothy Day and MLK Jr.” in front of a church was found ripped down this morning.

Photo (top) courtesy anonymous, (bottom) courtesy Clarendon United Methodist Church

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Morning Notes

March Planned Tonight in Crystal City — “This Tuesday (6/30) we will be gathering in Crystal City Courtyard Green to march to Pentagon City in defense of Black womxn.” [Twitter]

Petition for APS to Require Masks — “To maximize the chances of success for Arlington Public Schools (Virginia) hybrid return to school model we urge the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán to make face coverings compulsory for both students and teachers during the days they are at school for in-person learning. Those who object to wearing masks can always choose the distance-learning option.” [Change.org]

Local Church to Feed Thousands — “On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) in south Arlington is working with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) to feed families in need of food assistance. World Central Kitchen is providing 3,500 meals to OLQP for distribution to the community. Meals will be offered to take home in conjunction with pre-packed food the OLQP food pantry distributes every Wednesday morning. This is the second time WCK will be providing meals to OLQP during the pandemic.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Catholic Churches Enter ‘Phase 3’ — “All 70 parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington will move into phase three of Virginia’s reopening plan on Wednesday. Officials announced Monday that each parish is ‘able, but not mandated, to celebrate public Mass with capacity restrictions lifted’ beginning on July 1.” [Fox 5]

County Adjusts Committee Meeting Rules — “After facing a rebellion from members and chairs of advisory commissions, the Arlington County Board has revised rules for holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the two biggest changes from the original plans: Commission chairs (apparently) will no longer have to seek county-staff permission to hold meetings. Advisory-group meetings will be allowed in-person or in a hybrid format, in addition to the previously announced “virtual”-only arrangement.” [InsideNova]

New Construction Contract for VHC Inked — “Skanska USA has inked more work with Virginia Hospital Center as the Arlington hospital soldiers on with its $250 million expansion project. The construction company said Monday it signed a contract worth $96 million for site work for the new outpatient pavilion and parking garage at the hospital. That’s on top of a $37 million contract with VHC it grabbed late last year.” [Washington Business Journal]

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For the second time, someone has vandalized a Black Lives Matter sign at Rock Spring Congregational church in North Arlington.

Sometime between last night and noon today, someone cut out the word “Black” in the sign at the corner of Rock Spring Road and Little Falls Road.

Someone did the same thing to a Black Lives Matter sign on the church lawn in 2015.

“I no idea who’s doing it,” Rev. Dr. Kathryn Dwyer told ARLnow Tuesday afternoon. Dwyer, the church’s senior pastor, said there are no video cameras that might have captured the incident. She has filed a police report, after initially learning about the vandalized sign from a neighbor.

Dwyer said the church is ordering two new signs as a replacement, and plans to place them higher, on the church building itself.  A community member, meanwhile, has offered to try to fix the existing sign.

“I think that the vandalism demonstrates that we clearly have an issue, even here in Arlington, Virginia,” Dwyer said. Cutting out the word Black is “sort of like saying ‘all lives matter,'” she said.

“When I explain this to my congregation, I’ve explained how if your child asks if they love them, responding ‘honey I love all children’ is not satisfying,” Dwyer said. “We’re at a point in time in our country where people of color are being so oppressed it’s the job of all of us to assure them that they’re loved and they matter.”

Tomorrow the church will be holding the first of a six-week virtual course over Zoom entitled “Challenging White Supremacy: Becoming Anti-Racist.” All 100 spots sold out within 4-5 days, Dwyer noted.

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Following a week filled with marches and protests in Arlington, at least two more events are planned today.

One of the events is being organized by a pair of groups that largely serve the immigrant community. Another is being organized by four churches and a local civic association. Both events are being held to demand justice and to defend black lives.

The first is being from 5-6 p.m. along Wilson Blvd in the Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills neighborhoods. From a press release:

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 9th, four congregations will come together in Arlington in a witness for justice on behalf of black lives.   The action will be centered along Wilson Boulevard on Tuesday, June 9th, from 5-6pm.

We will park and gather at the Arlington Community Church (6040 Wilson Boulevard) before moving to Wilson Boulevard at 5 pm.

We wish to observe safe social distancing so we will be standing six feet apart along Wilson Boulevard in silent witness, simply holding up signs of support from 5 pm to 6 pm. We ask that everyone wear facemasks and that every effort be made to maintain social distancing.

Hosted by the members of Boulevard Manor Civic Association, Arlington Church of the Brethren, Bethel United Church of Christ, Arlington Community Church, and Rock Spring United Church of Christ.

“We recognize the pervasive sin of white supremacy as something that people with privilege benefit from or participate in daily,” the organizers quoted from a recent Arlington Interfaith Network statement. “Communities of spirituality and faith with privilege need to use their place to have sacred conversations on race, and work for real change.”

At 7 p.m. tonight, La ColectiVA and Tenants and Workers United will hold a rally — dubbed Cacerolazo for Black Lives — in Arlington’s Tyrol Hill Park (5101 7th Road S.), in memory of George Floyd and others.

From an event description:

Join us for a Cacerolazo (pots and pans rally) for Black Lives – Tuesday, June 9 at 7pm. This rally will be in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and demands for accountability for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others who have lost their lives to white supremacy and police violence, including here in Virginia.

We’ll gather at Tyrol Hill Park, Tuesday at 7PM.

Please:
-Wear a face covering
-Maintain physical distancing
-Bring your pots and pans
-Bring signs that say #BlackLivesMatter #DefundPolice #DefendBlackLives #InvestInCommunities

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This weekend, Calvary United Methodist Church in Aurora Highlands is holding a “Stuff the Truck” donation event to collect food for the Chirilagua neighborhood in Alexandria.

The community — also known as Arlandria — has faced disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, as have Latino and Hispanic communities in Arlington and throughout the region.

Local nonprofits have worked to get food and other emergency supplies to hard-hit Chirilagua.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the Chirilagua neighborhood are experiencing hardship from job loss, sickness, and food insecurity,” Calvary UMC said in a media advisory. “Recent data revealed that over 40% of Chirilagua residents are unemployed and, in mid-May, over 55% of COVID tests taken by community members living in Chirilagua were positive.”

This Saturday, June 6, Calvalry UMC is hosting a donation event at the church (2315 S. Grant Street) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to fill a 20-foot truck with items most needed by Chirilagua residents and families.

“To participate, donors can come to Calvary UMC and bring donated food and supplies to place in the truck,” the church said. “Items needed most are shelf-stable foods such as rice, beans, canned food and cornflour.”

The event is the latest in a series of fundraisers and food drives for the church to support the Chirilagua community. So far, the church says it has raised $24,000 of its $25,000 goal. The church plans to make an additional $15,000 pledge to bring the total to at least $40,000, the church said.

“Donors wishing to make a financial contribution to MISSION:COVID can donate at the event or through the Calmeth.org website,” the church said, “or text GIVE to 703-936-2684 and select MISSION:COVID from the menu.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Hundreds Protest Along George Mason Drive — Hundreds of people lined George Mason Drive Monday evening to protest racism and support Black Lives Matter. The protest was organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. [Twitter, Twitter]

Break-in at Claremont Elementary — “At approximately 12:30 a.m. on May 31, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary alarm. Arriving officers observed four suspects inside of a building and established a perimeter. While clearing the building, the four suspects were located on the roof and taken into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]

Local GOP Amps Up Social Media Presence — “The Arlington County Republican Committee often has a hard time competing with its Democratic counterpart at the ballot box. But the local GOP is working to win the battle of social media. Local Republicans recently announced that Taylor Jack, a rising senior at James Madison University, has joined the party’s public-relations team.” [InsideNova]

Beyer’s GOP Challenger Selected — “The candidate who positioned himself as the more conservative in the field emerged the victor and will become the Republican challenger in a decidedly uphill battle to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th). Jeff Jordan defeated Mark Ellmore in the 8th District Republican Committee convention.” [InsideNova]

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Demonstrators will line George Mason Drive near Route 50 tonight to protest in support of Black Lives Matter.

The peaceful protest, organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, is set to take place from 5-6 p.m. Monday.

More from an event page:

Please join UUCA in creating a line of witness along George Mason Dr (4444 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA) on Monday, June 1, from 5-6pm. We will gather in the church parking lot. Please note, the church building will not be open.

We wish to observe safe social distancing so we will be standing six feet apart simply holding up signs of support. Please feel free to make your own sign, or you may pick up signs in the church parking lot. Please pass the word along to anyone you know who may wish to join us.

We have a right to peaceful protest, but we must be respectful of people on the sidewalks and not create a barrier. Recognize that you are joining what could be a risky situation and make personal choices as you see fit.

The event page also includes the following statement from the Arlington Interfaith Network about the death of Floyds and “others killed for being black in America.”

This week, we saw the murder of George Floyd. We say the name of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Jordan Davis, and so many others killed for being black in America.

Our diverse faith traditions share a common belief in the integrity of human life.

We share a practice of lament for the places where people cry out. We share a hope that our collective actions can point us to a better, more whole world.

The Arlington Interfaith Network writes in recognition of the “original sin” of racism that built this country from slave labor and dominion over Native lives.

We recognize that the systems that govern us every day and the way our society is arranged perpetuates injustice. We recognize that white supremacy is something that all of us with privilege participate in daily.

We write in knowing that faith communities with privilege need to use their place to have sacred conversations on race and work for real change.

We write in recognition of the pain that clergy of color minister hold continually and that all in their communities bear in a particular way.

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Starts Today — “Arlington election officials have announced plans for two Saturday dates for in-person absentee voting in advance of the July 7 County Board special election. Saturday voting will be available on June 20 and July 4, augmenting the usual Monday-to-Friday early voting that will begin May 22.” [InsideNova]

Big Food Donation to Green Valley Church — “3,300 lasagna and vegetable meals donated by chef Jose Andres’ @WCKitchen were given to those in need at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington [on] May 21.” [@ZoeyMaraistACH/Twitter]

Flags In at Ceremony Despite Pandemic — “The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has continued their tradition of placing American flags at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.” [NBC 4]

Arlingtonian Aims to Run Every Street — “Before the pandemic hit, I hadn’t taken a big vacation in years. Since I’m at a dramatically reduced salary from not working full-time and, like so many Arlingtonians, dealing with underlying stress and anxiety while still feeling incredibly thankful, I’ve decided to use this time to discover my own city by walking or running every street.” [Arlington Magazine]

Local Wages Were Rising at the End of 2019 — “The average weekly wage for those working in Arlington (wherever they may live) stood at $1,963 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent from the same period a year before, well above the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [InsideNova]

Local Artist Creates Virus Sculptures — “The sculptures seem to be inspired by the latest breaking news headlines. A figure in a stark white face mask. A giant virus cell mutating into a tentacled sea creature that morphs back into a virus… The centerpiece was a spiky model of “a virus, with seven figures running away,” said [Hadrian] Mendoza, 46, a ceramic artist, sculptor and full-time art director at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington since 2017.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Rain and Storms Today — “Waves of showers or storms are a good bet as the slow-moving upper level low pressure system finally decides to wander by. Round one will end in the morning to midday, but skies remain mostly cloudy. If we do see enough sunshine and heating, it’s not impossible some severe storms will develop nearby.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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The Arlington County Board is slated to consider changes to an existing development plan in Ballston.

In 2018 the County Board approved a plan to replace a two-story church and its parking lot at 1031 N. Vermont Street — formerly Grace Community Church and currently Portico Church Arlington — with a 72-unit condo building and 12 townhouses. The development changed hands in 2019 and is now returning to the Board for a site plan amendment.

A county staff report has not yet been posted online, less than 48 hours before Saturday’s Board meeting, but a preview of the item says that about 4,300 square feet of floor space will be added to the project “by removing an on-site alley.”

More from the county’s preview of the site plan amendment:

Proposed changes to the approved redevelopment plan for 11th Street and Vermont Street – The Board will hold a public hearing and consider a requested amendment to the site plan for an approved residential multifamily and townhouse development in North Ballston. If approved, the changes would include adding 4,289 square feet of space to the building by removing an on-site alley and would make other changes to the building architecture, massing, siting, circulation, and location of building services.

Nearby residents opposed the redevelopment ahead of its original approval, saying it was too big. From ARLnow’s 2018 article:

Many residents who spoke during the public comments section took issue with the height of the future residential buildings, as well as the the loss of property value and quality of life from the new building blocking sunlight.

“We will have nine floors of units that… will now be limited to fully dark most of the year — a maximum of one and a half hours during the summer solstice,” said Dana Hofferber, a resident of the nearby Westview condominium tower, citing a shadow study produced by the developer, NVR. Inc.

Another resident, Justin Heminger, noted that the community isn’t against all development, just this particular plan.

“The community is not against the development of this project, the community is against what has been proposed,” said Heminger. “And I think it boils down to: it’s too big, it’s too tall, and it’s too close.”

Many of the 26 public comments were from immediate Ballston neighbors, who wore matching t-shirts and held signs. A number of speakers noted in remarks that they purchased condominiums based on the current General Land Use Plan (GLUP), which the Board was voting to modify. Others said they were concerned about traffic, school overcrowding and the impact of the development on mass transit.

Image (3) via Google Maps

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Several local churches have banded together to help support local residents struggling with rent.

Eight churches are pooling their resources for a joint effort called The Church At Work in Arlington. The group has raised over $105,000 that organizers say is paid directly to landlords for rent assistance.

While several local nonprofits have been coordinating with Arlington County to get resources to families in need, local churches have operated their own programs. The Church at Work in Arlington is one such program.

“In one week, we’ve raised over $105,000 to help 105 needy families with $500 rent assistance, for both April and May,” Scott Seaton, the pastor at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church said. “Tese families… have lost work due to the pandemic and can’t pay their rent. Initially, some 100 families were identified, and already we have more sponsors who are ready to help if and when more families are referred to us.”

Seaton told ARLnow that these families are vetted by social workers with Arlington Public Schools, though The Church at Work in Arlington has no ties with APS in any official capacity.

“We put word out to our church members,” Seaton said. “Some folks directly wrote a check to the landlord for efficiency’s sake. We need to get checks in the hands of landlords as soon as possible.”

The organization’s website says the group provides $500 for rent in April and another matching amount for May.

Seaton said the landlords confirm the receipt of the check and identify the residents whose rent is being covered. It’s a system that’s reliant on the integrity of local landlords, but so far Seaton said the results have been positive, like a landlord who didn’t deposit the check until he was sure which tenant was being covered, after the name had been initially misspelled.

Seaton said the churches have been long-standing partners, but that it was only with coronavirus that they put a name on their joint charity efforts.

“It was the most efficient way that churches could respond directly,” Seaton said. “It was an informal group of churches that are already in relations with each other.”

The fundraising was paused last week, Seaton said, as the APS social workers were on spring break. He expects it to pick back up this week with 77 donors ready to go.

“These are social workers with the schools [and they] have relationships with the families and know their circumstances, [we’re] going on their word,” Seaton said. “There’s no official relationship or partnership, just churches through personal relationships wanting to help as soon as possible.”

Seaton said the organization hasn’t been putting out a plea for more money and isn’t focused on fundraising at the moment, but is providing an outlet for charity through the churches.

According to the fundraising website, the eight churches participating in the effort are:

  • Restoration Anglican Church
  • Washington Community Fellowship
  • Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
  • Incarnation Anglican Church
  • St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
  • Redeemer Church of Arlington
  • McLean Bible Church: Arlington
  • Grace Community Church

Redeemer Church released a video (below) that talks a bit about the church’s work during the coronavirus crisis.

Photo via Redeemer Church of Arlington/Facebook

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