The Rev. John Ohmer spoke with the Washington Post on the ministry of the Falls Church Episcopal Church since September 2012. He talked about “the challenge of rebuilding a historic church that had lost most of its membership in a split with conservatives, primarily over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy.”
In late 2006 and early 2007, more than 90 percent of the 2,200 members of the church — which dates to Colonial times — voted to leave the Episcopal church and form the Falls Church Anglican.
After the split, the Episcopal congregation met at a nearby Presbyterian church for nearly five years, until a legal dispute with the Falls Church Anglican over ownership of the property was resolved. A 2012 decision by the Virginia Supreme Court allowed the Episcopal congregation to return to the historic property.
Ohmer’s arrival coincided with the return to the property. Since then, weekly attendance at worship services has grown from 80 to about 220, he said.
How do you rebuild a church?
You focus on what you have in common and not what divides you. Because people are hungry for God. If people are getting a strong sense of Christian community, if they’re being fed in word, if they’re being fed in sacrament, they’ll beat a path to your door.
Especially inside the Beltway — we live in such a culture of division and name-calling and acrimony — I think people are hungry for something that’s unifying, something they can believe in, something that’s lasting. So what we try to focus on [are] the things that we have in common: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, outreach, Christian education, becoming a better disciple of Jesus.
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