Baby Jesus was stolen from outside Calvary United Methodist Church (2315 S. Grant Street), in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, sometime between 8 p.m. Saturday and the next morning, when parishioners showed up for Sunday worship services.
Police were called and took a report Monday, though hopes of cops catching the perpetrator are low. Rev. Matthew G. Smith said he’s hoping the thief has a change of heart and repents — by returning the Son of God to his rightful place in the manger, at least until the nativity scene is brought inside next weekend. Alternatively, the little Lord could also be left on the front steps of the church or brought, in person, to the front office.
“We have no desire to prosecute,” Smith said. “We would be very happy just to get Him back.”
“Baby Jesus missing,” said a sign posted in front of the nativity scene today. “Please return. No questions asked.”
(No other nativity thefts were reported this year in Arlington, according to an ACPD spokeswoman.)
This was the third time Jesus had been swiped from the church’s nativity scene, and if all works out it wouldn’t be the first time He has been returned, Smith said. The first time, years ago, Jesus mysteriously reappeared in the nativity scene on Christmas morning.
The last time, a few years back, baby Jesus vanished for good. A parishioner ended up ordering a new, hand-painted figure of the young Prince of Peace from Italy and donated it to the church as a replacement.
Before the nativity scene was put on display a few weeks ago, in mid-December, Smith and some church members discussed ways to prevent theft. The nativity scene itself is bolted down, but the Italian baby Jesus is too fragile to be secured in a permanent fashion. While many ideas were proposed, the one that was implemented involved tying fishing line around the porcelain figure. That did not save the Savior; the fishing line was cut by the thief.
Smith said he expects there to be more discussion of nativity security ahead of 2016’s Christmas season. Should the Christ child not be returned, the church will also have to consider raising funds to buy a new one. The pastor said he wasn’t sure of the cost of a new porcelain baby Jesus, but said of the Italian-made model that was stolen, “I’m certain it’s not inexpensive.”
“We will look for ways next year,” to secure baby Jesus, he said, “but we don’t want to chain him in.”
Either way, said Smith, “it’s not going to sour our love of the community or our mission.”
Photo via Facebook
DoD Renews Leases on Crystal City Buildings — In a win for Arlington County’s beleaguered commercial real estate market, the GSA has renewed leases on two buildings with some 912,000 square feet of office space, in Crystal City, for the Department of Defense. [Washington Business Journal]
Church Decided to Sell After Hearing from Residents — While initially skeptical, a majority of the membership of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike approved a plan to sell the church to an affordable housing developer after hearing the stories of working class residents who said they worked in Arlington but couldn’t afford to live there anymore. [Washington Post]
Fisette: Arlington Will Work to Improve Bike Rating — County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington will work to improve its Bicycle Friendly Community rating. Arlington received a silver-level designation, but there are 29 U.S. communities that are either gold or platinum level. In order to achieve that, Arlington will need more bike lanes, bike programs for lower-income residents and bicycle-themed street events. [InsideNova]
Howell Introduces Courthouse Security Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), whose sprawling district includes part of north Arlington, has introduced a bill intended to improve courthouse security. The bill would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local jurisdiction could charge a defendant convicted on traffic or criminal charges, to help fund security measures. [Richmond Sunlight]
Webb Responds to Criticism in Comments — Michael Webb, who hopes to run as a Republican against Rep. Don Beyer next year, has personally responded to criticism in the comments of the article about his campaign announcement. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Boards Cooperate on Stratford History — The Arlington County Board voted yesterday to collaborate with the School Board on a historic designation for the Stratford school, cutting the sometimes meddlesome Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board out of the process to save time and money. Said County Board Chair Mary Hynes: “There is perhaps no building in Arlington more worthy of historic designation than Stratford — both for the seminal events that occurred there in 1959 and the unique architecture of the building.” [InsideNova, Arlington County]
Police: Inmate’s Death Due to Natural Causes — A 53-year-old man who died while being held at the Arlington County jail in October died of natural causes, according to Arlington County Police. Detectives determined that Edward Straughn had an “extensive history of medical issues.” He was originally arrested for being drunk in public. Straughn’s death was the second in-custody death for Arlington in 2015. [Arlington County]
Land Purchase Agreement With Hospital Approved — The Arlington County Board last night voted to approve an option agreement that would allow Virginia Hospital Center to buy 5.5 acres of county-owned property next to its campus for a minimum of $12.5 million. The eventual purchase may include cash and/or a land swap. [Arlington County]
Fundraiser for Local Dad Who Died Suddenly — Nathan Graham, the father of four young sons and a volunteer bishop at the LDS church in Crystal City, died unexpectedly while on a business trip to China. An online fundraiser to help support Graham’s family has raised more than $95,000. [YouCaring]
History Task Force Makes Final Recommendations — Arlington County’s History Task Force has presented its final recommendations to the County Board. The task force says Arlington should devote resources to better preserving Arlington’s history, including via the development of a unified digital archive. [Arlington County]
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a project that would tear down Arlington Presbyterian Church along Columbia Pike and replace it with an affordable housing apartment building.
County staff is recommending approval of the project, which was approved by the church’s congregation in 2013. The church’s regional governing body gave the green light for its sale to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing earlier this year.
APAH is proposing to tear down the church, which was built in 1931, and construct a six-story apartment building with 173 units, all of which will be committed affordable housing. The building would include a three-level parking garage and 8,900 square feet of retail or civic use space.
The church has proposed leasing much of the retail area for a non-traditional worship space. A coffee shop was also suggested as a possible retail use, in addition to the church.
The apartment building would also replace the church’s surface parking lot and its tot lots, which are currently used by daycare provider Funshine Preschool. The preschool is being relocated to 3412 22nd Street S. and the tot lots are expected to be sold to a single family home developer in order to help fund the apartment building’s construction.
The County Board is expected to follow staff’s recommendations and approve a rezoning, use permit and $8.6 million loan from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund for the project.
The church is located at 3507 Columbia Pike.
The church has vowed to replace the sign and now it has a message for the vandal or vandals who defaced it.
The Rev. Dr. Katy Dwyer published the following open letter “to the person(s) who altered our sign” over the weekend, inviting them to join a conversation on racial justice at the church Monday night.
Altering the sign we placed on our lawn by deliberately cutting out the word “Black” from the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was a passionate expression. I can make assumptions about what you might have meant by this. However, I can only speculate. This open letter is an invitation for you to join our sacred conversation.
The conversation we have been having has been challenging, powerful, and vulnerable. Those of us who join in the conversation are not all of one mind. We are all learning and growing together. We agree with one another to speak about our own experience, to practice forgiveness, to respectfully challenge one another, and to assume good intentions.
I want to share with you what I heard through your action, and I welcome you to tell me if I am wrong. I will also share my response to what I think I am hearing. I sense anger in your passionate expression. Cutting out the “Black” in this sign sounds like you are shouting “Lives Matter. ALL Lives Matter!” I am aware that when the American Cancer Society is raising money or creating awareness about cancer, no one shouts “All Diseases Matter!” Perhaps you assume that our congregation does not value all lives. Perhaps you feel threatened in some way by positive attention given to the Black community.
Your action this week felt like a contribution to our conversation, and I want to extend the same commitments to you as I do to our other conversation partners from several races and cultures.
Our year-long sacred conversation on racial justice and our public witness that Black lives matter began from a place of compassion and curiosity. Compassion for the Black lives that are being killed, oppressed, and threatened. Curiosity about what our congregation and community might do to help create a more just and equal future.
We meet again this Monday at 7:30 p.m. The topic is Color-Blindness. Most white people think we have two choices: to be racist or to be colorblind. We will talk about whether there might be a more valuable third option.
I hope you will consider joining us. You will be welcome.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Dr. Kathryn N. Dwyer
A “Black Lives Matter” sign outside of Rock Spring Congregational church was vandalized earlier this week.
The church, at 5010 Little Falls Road near Yorktown High School, says that the word “Black” was cut out of the sign at some point between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
“We notified the Arlington police and we have ordered a new sign to replace the one that has been vandalized,” Rev. Kathy Dwyer told congregants via email (below).
Dear Members and Friends of Rock Spring,
I am writing to let you know that at some point between Tuesday evening at 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m. the sign we have on our lawn inviting people to join us in a sacred conversation on racial justice and stating that black lives matter was vandalized. The word “black” was deliberately cut out from the sign, as shown below. We notified the Arlington police and we have ordered a new sign to replace the one that has been vandalized.
Several people saw the sign or heard about the incident and have reached out. Elizabeth Woolford, a member of Rock Spring and a student at Yorktown High School wrote to me. With her permission, I share the following from her note, “I wanted to share that today is one of the days I could not be more proud to be a member of Rock Spring. I woke up this morning and a group message I am in with 10+ other Yorktown HS members were passionately discussing the recent defacement of our church’s Black Lives Matter sign. I just went on Facebook to discover that several different Yorktown students …had posted about their sadness for the continual resistance we’ve received from our sign. Rock Spring’s discussions and our stand on racial justice are reaching far beyond our church community. For these people, it is a sign (literally) that there are parts of the Arlington community that are working towards a better, just filled, and equal future, and prompting thought filled discussions amongst the future voters and politicians in the high school community. I hope that our sign will once again remain up, as our resilience to resistance is resounding deeply, especially with the teens I know, as a beacon of hope.”
We will continue to bear witness with faith and courage. Our next sacred conversation is scheduled for this coming Monday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Saegmuller Room.
Photo courtesy Rev. Kathy Dwyer
A Catholic church near Clarendon is holding a series of films, dances and concerts as part of a new cultural series called Forum Arlington.
Every Friday, the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church (3304 Washington Blvd) will hold either a music concert, dance class or film screening. The Forum kicked off last week with a performance by Marie Miller and will hold a film screening tonight.
All events start at 7 p.m. with a happy hour followed by the film, concert or dance class at 8 p.m. Tickets can either be purchased online or at the door, depending on the event.
Forum Arlington also has a photography exhibition about South America from Oct. 16 to Dec. 18.
The idea for the cultural series came from the church’s pastor, Father Donald Planty, who wanted to do more cultural outreach, said Terrence McKeegan, the head of Arlington Forum.
“He had this idea to have a cultural series that is a cultural outreach program for Arlington residents,” McKeegan said.
McKeegan has helped organize multiple cultural events, including large music festivals, and realized he and the pastor had the same vision. Together, they worked to find different acts and films, drawing from McKeegan’s wide network, he said.
“We try to pick bands or films or dance instructors and types of dances that appealing to widest range,” McKeegan said.
The events are held in the church’s gym, which McKeegan and church staff spruced up to make it look more like an event space instead of a typical gym, he said.
The concerts, dances and films will continue through the winter. For the spring, Arlington Forum will introduce a lecture series in addition to the concerts. McKeegan did not know at this time if the films and dance classes would resume in the spring.
Forum Arlington is open to the entire Arlington community, McKeegan said.
“The target audience is the entire community,” he said. “It’s not all the parishioners or an age demographic.”
Church Squatter Arrested — A man who has managed to squat in the attic of an Arlington church for three years has been arrested and charged with trespassing. An air conditioning repairman discovered the man and his makeshift living space in the attic of St. Ann’s Catholic Church, near Ballston. [NBC Washington]
New Rosslyn Sushi Restaurant Close to Opening — Rolls By U, a new sushi restaurant at 1731 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, is getting set to open next week, after originally hoping to open last month. The restaurant will offer burrito-sized sushi rolls in addition to regular-sized rolls. [Washington City Paper]
Fundraiser for Former Yorktown Football Player — Friends have organized an online fundraising campaign for a former Yorktown High School football player who was injured in an incident that was caught on video. Josh Bunche was attempting a flip while tailgating at a Clemson football game, but he slipped and suffered serious facial injuries. [Patch, GoFundMe]
McMenamin Responds to Sewage Plant Fence — Independent Arlington County Board candidate Mike McMenamin has issued a statement calling the $350,000 public art installation along a fence at the county’s sewage plant “wasteful.” Said McMenamin: “Extravagant projects like this help drive up taxes in Arlington County, making it more costly to own a home or to start a business.”
County Touts Fully Funded Pension — Arlington County’s employee pension fund is now 99 percent funded, thanks to prudent management. While some other communities struggle with underfunded pensions, Arlington has now been able to decrease the percentage of employee compensation going to the pension fund, from 24 percent — about $58 million — last year to 22 percent this year. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
County Gov’t Open on Columbus Day — Arlington County government offices will be open on Monday, Oct. 12. Courts, the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV and Arlington Public Schools, however, will be closed in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. [Arlington County]
Arlington Same-Sex Marriage Stats — Over the past year, same-sex marriages have accounted for 7.2 percent of all marriage licenses in Arlington County. [InsideNova]
Teachers Endorse Cristol, Dorsey — The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee, which represents Arlington Public Schools teachers, has endorsed Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in the upcoming County Board general election. [Christian Dorsey]
Suburban Pols Rail Against I-66 Tolls — Lawmakers from the outer Northern Virginia suburbs are calling VDOT’s proposal to add tolls to I-66 “highway robbery.” Said a Republican state lawmaker from Manassas: “Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable.” [InsideNova]
British School Choir Coming to Arlington — The IPS singers, a school choir from London, will perform “sacred choral works by famed composers” at the Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) next Friday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.
Arlington Bros Create ‘B.R.O. Ball’ — Two federal contractors from Arlington, along with a third partner, are trying to raise $75,000 on Kickstarter to make a football with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker inside. They have dubbed the ball the “B.R.O. Ball.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Joe Green
The Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) will discuss the intertwining of race and religion this month through sermons and evening session called “Starting the Conversation.”
The sermons and conversations were sparked by the deaths of Freddie Gray and Eric Garner while in police custody, which made national headlines and sparked a national dialogue on race, Rev. Kathy Dwyer said.
“I think we have just really been struck by the shocking events that have put the spotlight on racial injustice,” Dwyer said.
Starting on Sunday, Sept. 13, Dwyer will talk about racial justice through a series of three sermons about the story of Esther. The sermons will be a “broader brush stroke” about race and prejudice, she said.
“This series is based on the book of Esther, a dramatic story in the Hebrew Bible that is about an imbalance of power, privilege, prejudice, and taking risks to effect change,” Dwyer said. “In her sermons, Rev. Dwyer will reflect on Esther’s story and its connection with our lives, especially as it connects with the concerns about racial justice in America today.”
The church will also hold a series of three evening conversations about race and religion starting on Sunday, Sept. 20, which will be led by Dwyer and church leaders Susan Henderson, Laura Martin and Dale Dwyer. Each conversation will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Saegmuller Room at the Rock Spring church.
The conversations are open to youth, teenagers and adults, she said, and are part of a larger, “year-long focus on racial justice” that will extend into 2016.
Through the sessions, the church and its congregation will “explore the fundamental issues of racism, connecting the discussion to our church’s and denomination’s histories, to our our individual beliefs and actions, to the role of race in society and to the themes of race in religion,” according to the Starting the Conversation event page.
The discussion on Sept. 20 is called “Whose Story?” and will address what sparked the Church to talk about race. Participants will also talk about how race connects to the church and themselves in terms of their “denominational histories, identities and commitments.”
On Sept. 27, the church leaders will look at language and behaviors in terms of racism. The group will also look at the difficulties in talking about racism as part of the “Racism 101 and Beyond” conversation.
The last planned discussion, “The Bible and Racism” on Oct. 4, will examine the role of race in the Bible. Church members will also talk about how racial and cultural themes in the Bible are different than today’s experience with race.
“In our core values, we proclaim that we are an inclusive community, and a justice-seeking community. When we sing our centennial hymn, we pledge to loose the bonds of injustice,” Dwyer and church officials said in an email to congregants Thursday night. “We look forward to the start of this exciting program of learning, sharing, and taking action in support of our core values.”
The County Board approved a site plan amendment for a new church to go into a planned apartment building at 3001 Jefferson Davis Highway.
The new church — the “Meetinghouse of Worship” — is planned for the first and second floors of the 12-floor residential building. It will be occupy 23,906 square feet of space, with a 300-seat sanctuary, classrooms, administrative offices and a multipurpose room on the first and second floors.
“In the spirit of continuing to work with our property owners on uses that work in buildings, I just want to note that we have approved the location of a church in a commercial building in Potomac Yard,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “We think it will be a really interesting addition to what’s going on down there.”
The church will be on the left side of the building, next to 33rd Street. The first floor will have a chapel, multipurpose room and classroom, as well as two bathrooms. There will also be a small retail space next to the chapel. On the right side of the building, the apartment complex will have a lobby and retail space.
“The proposed religious institutions use would be both complementary to, and compatible with the residential and retail use,” the staff report to the Board said.
On the second floor, the church will have administrative offices and classrooms. The residential units start on the second floor on the right side of the building.
With the new plan for the building, the apartment complex will add 11 more residential units, making the total amount of units 342 instead of 331. The parking lot will also have 532 spots up from the initial 438, to accommodate worshipers.
Of those spots, 167 will be for the church: 142 standard spots, 24 compact spots, two handicap spots and two spots for handicap vans.
As reported by the Washington Business Journal, the site plan amendment was proposed by New York City-based real estate investment firm The Praedium Group LLC. The future building will be located just north of the National Gateway office complex, the future U.S. headquarters of German grocery chain Lidl.
The church’s congregation voted in November 2013 to approve the church’s redevelopment into an affordable housing building with a 7,500-square-foot worship space for the church in future years. Last week, the National Capital Presbytery — the region’s governing body for presbyterian churches — approved the sale of the church building at 3507 Columbia Pike.
APAH must now gather financing and go through site plan approval from the county before the sale can close. According to church project manager Jill Norcross, the sale is expected to close in July 2016, which is also when the church’s congregation is expecting to need to find a new home.
“The congregation is thrilled,” Norcross said. “For them, it’s been quite a process, a multi-year visioning process where they’ve had to walk every step of the way. They’ve remained committed, so having the Presbytery approve it is a huge step for them, and they’re really excited about it. The next step is figuring out where they will worship when they leave the site.”
When the plans were approved more than a year ago, it was with the understanding that the new building would be the church’s future home when it opened. Now, Norcross said, APAH will own the land and the building outright, and the church and developer would have to agree on a new lease when the building is built, no sure thing.
“The church has given up any ownership stake in the building,” she said. “That’s what the Presbytery wanted. The church might come back as a tenant, but that’s still to be negotiated between now and 2016.”
APAH hopes to gain approval for a five-story, 142-unit apartment building with ground floor retail space originally intended for a coffee shop.
Preservationists have called for the building, which was built in 1931, to be preserved instead of torn down. The church decided the need for more affordable housing on Columbia Pike, and the opportunity to sell to APAH for millions of dollars, outweighed the idea of preserving the church and its rising maintenance costs.
“The affordable housing is desperately needed on the Pike,” Norcross said. The surprise cancellation of the streetcar did not have an impact on the congregation or the Presbytery’s decision, she said.
Preservation Arlington’s Eric Dobson said he hopes something can be done to preserve the church, because once Arlington’s older buildings are gone, “they’re gone for good.”
“That building was so important to the development of the Pike,” Dobson said. “The materials of the stone and its design… other communities would consider those assets, but in Arlington we seem to ignore that.”
Photo via Preservation Arlington
The incident happened around 5:00 p.m. on January 25 at the Arlington Temple Methodist church in Rosslyn, also known affectionately as “Our Lady of Sunoco” in reference to the gas station below it.
Police say a man was rummaging through the church’s kitchen and trying to steal items when the pastor confronted him. The pastor pulled out his cell phone to call 911, and that’s when the suspect snatched the phone and ran off, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The pastor did not recognize the suspect, who remains at large. From an ACPD crime report item:
ROBBERY, 150125037, 1800 block of N. Nash Street. At 4:59 pm on January 25, an unknown subject entered the Arlington Temple Methodist Community Center and was attempting to steal items from the kitchen. When confronted by a pastor, the subject stole the pastor’s phone and fled the scene. The suspect is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately 5’8″ tall and 175 lbs. He was wearing a striped khaki jacket, dark pants and a black ear warmer.
Looking for a small, affordable, private, Christian day school with a small town community feel? Can you appreciate a school that begins each day with the students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee?
Then please come visit the open house at Our Savior Lutheran School, which will be held Saturday, January 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Come see a hidden gem of a school which has been in the heart of Arlington providing education and service since 1952. The school is conveniently located close to the Pentagon and Route 50 in Arlington.
Grades Pre-K (age 4 by September 30) through 8th grade are offered with very small class sizes (only 20 students per class). The elementary school grades have self-contained classrooms, while the middle school is departmentalized. The school also has one of the lowest tuition rates in Northern Virginia. The dedicated, caring teachers work hand-in-hand with an active community of families which make this school thrive.
Students are encouraged to start a life of service through various opportunities:
- Weekly chapel offerings are designed to various groups in need for our neighbors in Arlington and around the world
- Walk for the Homeless and preparing bag meals for A-SPAN
- Letters to pen pans (elderly members of the church congregation)
- Stop Hunger Now — the entire school helped prepare dry meals to send overseas
- Pairing middle schoolers and kindergarteners as chapel buddies
- Sixth graders begin and start the day by raising the American flag and assisting with the Kiss-N-Ride line
Our Savior also offers many extracurricular activities including a music and a choral program, After School clubs that include foreign language (Spanish and French), a Baking Club and a Geometry Club.
If you are interested in what Our Savior has to offer and why this school shines, please come by the Open House on January the 24th or call to schedule a tour any other day. The school is located at 825 S. Taylor St., Arlington, VA 22204 Phone: (703) 892-4846, osva.org.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) is holding a service this Sunday for those who experience what the church calls “the dark side of the holidays.”
“This time of year can be a stressful time for most, but it can be especially difficult for people who may have suffered a major loss or have had a major life-changing experience in the past year,” the church wrote in an email. “Even happy memories can bring pain during the holidays. And, today’s commercialization and idealized images of what our holidays should be like are standards and expectations enough to stress the most ardent among us.”
The service will be on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. and is open to all, but is not appropriate for young children, the church said. The service, called “Standing Outside the Season,” will be hosted by Rev. Aaron McEmrys. Childcare will be provided.