The mission of St. Francis Church is to follow Jesus Christ, to provide a spiritual home for worship and Christian growth, to encourage love and fellowship with the parish family, to promote harmony with God's creation in the spirit of St. Francis, and to serve the needs of the greater community.
Our church is a mid-sized parish nestled in the rolling hills of Northern Virginia. When established little more than 50 years ago, our parish was known simply as "St. Francis-in-the-Fields" because of its beautiful rural setting. The only building of any size on the seven acre parcel was a dog kennel, and it is there where our first parishioners worshipped.
Since those early days, and in keeping with the spirit of our patron saint, we added a simple but striking sanctuary and fellowship hall with large windows that bring the splendor of nature inside.
Embarking on a spiritual journey to search for a new rector, we developed a theme: "Be prayerful. Be present. Participate." Franciscans have been praying intently; responses to our church-wide survey were very high; the Adult Forum we held was bursting at the seams; and Search Committee members have had numerous communications from many caring parishioners.
We know there are many churches where enthusiasm and interest are high; churches with beautiful facilities in great locations, where the people care and respect one another. So, what is it that makes St. Francis so special? In two words: our people. Our parishioners, who affectionately refer to each other as "Franciscans", make St. Francis a unique place to worship and experience the spirit of the living God in fellowship with one another.
So, instead of speaking for our parishioners, the Search Committee has invited Franciscans to speak for themselves. We think you will see through their comments how the Word and Spirit of God are alive in this very special community.
We appreciate your interest in St. Francis Church, our parish home.
—The St. Francis Search Committee
Slides - History
1960s Aerial Church Property
Aerial View of Church Property, c. 1960
Growing St. Francis Makes the News, 1970
1992 Parish Hall Construction
1992 Parish Hall Construction
Worship in Kennel
John Millen, first full-time rector celebrating the Eucharist in the dog kennel.
Bob Friend, second full-time rector
Penny Bridges, third full-time rector
Early in its history, St. Francis, Great Falls struggled to gain a foothold as a mission church. Over succeeding decades our house of worship has gained its balance, grown, and now flourishes as a home for many parishioners. For more on the history of St. Francis Church, see History of St. Francis Episcopal Church.
I joined St. Francis in 1976 when church services were held in the converted dog kennel. That former place of worship is now completely renovated and called Harris Hall in honor of one of our founders, Collas Harris. I remember when trailers were used for Sunday school classes and that’s where I taught a group of four to six high school kids.
I later was elected to the Vestry and served as church treasurer, but my most rewarding job of all was as Chair of the Creche Preschool Board of Directors. There, under the direction of Creche Preschool Director, Jane Ruppe, and with the able help of the Boy Scouts of Troup 55, we cleared land and constructed an outdoor classroom for the Creche kids. They love to use it when the weather is nice, and it’s a good way for them to learn to appreciate nature. Two scouts earned their Eagle rank for organizing and supervising this construction project.
When my family joined St. John’s, McLean, in 1968, St. Francis had been a mission church of St. John’s for about four years and St. Francis was struggling to stay alive. Our McLean congregation was dedicated to the survival of that church in Great Falls. St. Francis parishioners were wandering in the desert, without any stability or a real home. It would continue that way until well after 1980—at which time St. Francis began to assume some sort of an assured viability.
Then in 1980, a year after moving to Great Falls, our family joined St. Francis Church. We began the wonderful experience of actually contributing to “building a church.” While the congregation worked and played together, we also disagreed and argued with one another. Mama and I made wonderful friendships and learned from others in the congregation. One of our boys became the organist, two of them led the youth group, and three of them mowed the lawns. All of them benefited immensely from the youth activities — especially painting the vicarage.
Shrine Mont weekend, Bible study, the opportunities for service to others and our wonderful music program have always been the strongest features of our parish for us.
My parents moved to Great Falls in the early 1970s and St. Francis has been a part of my life ever since. I returned to the area after living on the West Coast after college. Since then, St. Francis has been the venue for several important rites for me: I was married in this church, my children were baptized here, my daughter was confirmed here, and we bid my father a final farewell from St. Francis. In short, St. Francis is my home.
St. Francis is a healthy parish, filled with many programs that reflect the power of the Holy Spirit. While our people make this a truly unique and special place of worship, St. Francis Church does not run itself—and so we must be responsible stewards of our talent and treasure. Here are some facts and figures that help to tell the story of our parish home.
The Giving (stewardship) Committee’s role is to educate and communicate with our parishioners and tell them how their gifts of time, talent, and treasure benefit the St. Francis community and the lives of many in our region and around the world. The Giving Committee, in coordination with parish leadership, also encourages hands-on participation and engagement in church activities, including outreach.
I have a stronger bond with our parish because of working side-by-side with other Franciscans in service. This has spurred me to greater giving of my time and money, and the same is true for other Franciscans who give generously. I enjoy being on the committee and having the opportunity to highlight the great things that our parish is doing.
Serving as treasurer of St Francis, and especially being a person without a professional background in accounting, business or finance, I was always amazed at how the budget came together and was agreed upon relatively effortlessly. It was always clear that regardless of whatever challenges we faced, including downturns in the economy or unexpected expenses, we were able to work in harmony to achieve the common goals of supporting outreach, mission and ministry while still maintaining financial security for St. Francis Church.
We are blessed to be able to operate with nearly $600,000 in operating income, along with more than $100,000 in designated income. With reserves and the beginnings of a healthy endowment, we have a measure of stability that should allow for a strong transition to a new rector and positive path forward. Franciscans have always demonstrated an ability and willingness to step up when challenged with extraordinary needs or opportunities. I fully expect that we will continue to commit the gifts of time, talent, and treasure needed to support our mission.
|Average Sunday Attendance||150|
|Received by Bishop||1|
|Church School students enrolled||90|
|Active Baptized members||623|
|Communicants in Good Standing||550|
|Communicants in Good Standing <16 years of age||140|
About 150 parishioners attend one of our three Sunday worship services, which compares favorably with the national Episcopal Church average of between 100 to 150.
Last year we had 130 pledging units. Our financial position has not suffered appreciably due in large measure to parishioners who have increased their pledges.