WHO WE ARE
We are a community of varied ages, genders, ethnic and racial backgrounds, nationalities and geographic origins, sexual orientations, economic situations, family structures, abilities, and religious backgrounds. We have life-long Virginians and those who will only be in the area for a short time. We are single, married, partnered, divorced, widowed, remarried and "it's complicated." We are clergy, community activists, bankers, photographers, artists, lawyers, architects, students, and everything in between. Needless to say, if you show up you will most likely find someone like you (and, even better, build relationships with those who aren't).
We are different. And, we are the same. We are an inclusive and vibrant community committed to loving and living the questions. All are welcome and valued.
St. George’s had its beginnings in 1908, when Arlington was a collection of villages with a total population of only 8,000. First-generation immigrants from the United Kingdom, who lived in the villages of Ballston and Clarendon and worked as servants, tradesmen, and laborers, petitioned The Rev. William E. Callender, the Rector of The Falls Church, for clergy leadership. The first service of this new mission was held in 1909 on the porch of a private home; the first building was erected in 1911, and the first service was held on Christmas Eve, 1911. The congregation built a parish hall in 1916, but by 1933 increasing Sunday school attendance necessitated its replacement with the present building.
Growth and Change
St. George’s changed and evolved along with the world outside its doors. Washington, D.C., grew dramatically during the World War II years, and Arlington changed with it from a rural small town to a modern city housing the Pentagon and thousands of new government workers from across the country. St. George’s membership also increased, and its physical capacity was strained to bursting. A new church building was constructed in time for services on Christmas Eve, 1952. As funds became available, the growing congregation installed stained glass windows, designed and produced by the same firm that produced the windows of the Washington National Cathedral. We added classrooms, office facilities, and a kitchen in 1958. The make-up of our congregation changed as well, becoming part of the middle class of government workers, teachers, and professionals—a profile we still reflect today.
Through the tumult of the post-war years, St. George’s was blessed with continuity of leadership. The Rev. Hedley J. Williams served as Rector from 1945 to 1973, and he was succeeded by The Rev. Robert C. Hall, who served from 1974 to 1995. Both kept St. George’s on an even keel through a period of intense conflict over such matters as the revision of the Prayer Book, the status of women in the church, and racial equality.
Our congregation was very much a part of events that changed the face of our community in those years. In 1959, a St. George’s parishioner, principal Claude Richmond, supervised the entrance of the first black students in Virginia to be integrated into a white school. In 1968, St. George’s opened its parish hall to marchers in the Poor People’s Campaign March on Washington. Also in that year, the first woman was elected to our Vestry, followed by women serving as senior wardens, priests and chalicists, and girls as acolytes.
Two of St. George’s major outreach efforts got their start under Bob Hall. In 1975, The Rev. Dr. Robert Prichard, then Deacon at St. George’s, founded the first Spanish-language Episcopal mission in Virginia, La Iglesia San José. This congregation still worships in our chapel. In 1988, the parish secretary began giving food to the growing number of people who came to our door, leading to the establishment of the St. George’s Food Pantry, which currently serves lunch to an average of 50 people each weekday.
Bob Hall retired in 1995, and our next rector, The Rev. Ronald Crocker, came to St. George’s in 1997. The parish did not stand still during this transition, but concluded a capital campaign to fund a major renovation, including a new two-story addition.
Into the 21st Century
Ron Crocker saw his primary task as building community, and with the vestry he reorganized the leadership of the church to include more people and to give them more responsibilities. In 2002, he put forward ideas for enhancing our spiritual life that resulted in the foundation of the St. George’s Urban Abbey. In 2006 he created a new, more contemporary 9:00 am. Sunday service, designed to suit younger people moving into the high-rises that have bloomed in our neighborhood.
In 2003, our clergy expressed their support for the vote in General Convention consenting to the election of Bishop Gene Robinson. They held informational forums and pastoral sessions for those who wanted to explore the issue. We lost some members of our parish but gained others as a result. In a diocese where schism was a very real issue, we continued to speak openly with each other.
Long-time member and parish historian Cynthia Clark summarizes the current moment in our history as follows:
“At the end of its first century, the church and its complex of buildings appeared almost lost among towering high-rises, not as easy to find as it once was, but a welcoming horizontal space in an almost vertical world. St. George’s parishioners and clergy, who once were homogeneous and similar in outlook and background, are now extraordinarily diverse and cosmopolitan, with members of different races, political persuasions, and cultural upbringing . . . . St. George’s has planted a community in Arlington out of the efforts and loving dedication of its people, and is constantly trying to grow toward the full bloom of a church community that is all that a church should be.”