The History of St. Thomas'

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church was born of the foresight of the Potomac Area Strategy Committee of the Diocese of Virginia. The Committee, with the consent of rectors of the neighboring parishes, agreed that a new congregation be formed, and the Diocese of Virginia purchased the present site of 5 acres for $17,500 in January 1960.

The Rev. William A. Opel was appointed priest in charge, and in summer 1961 a meeting was called of known Episcopalians in the immediate area to discuss the organization of the new church.
            Groundbreaking for the new church, which still did not have a name, was held on Sunday, July 30, 1961.  Construction began thereafter on a rectory and church structure using the modular, A-frame “Church of the Sixties” design developed by the Diocese of Virginia for new congregations. Until the new church was available, services would be held at Andrew Chapel Methodist Church, and the first service of the new St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church was held there at 4:00 p.m., on September 10, 1961. 

The first service in the new sanctuary, still under construction, was held on Christmas Eve, 1961.  Plywood occupied the windows, kerosene heaters provided warmth, and light was by candles. Among the families present were: Bird, Dvorachek, Henninger, Henshaw, Lee-Thorp, Marcus, Mote, Hudson, McBroom, Pringle, and Sims.

St. Thomas was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Samuel B. Chilton, Suffragan Bishop of Virginia, in a service in which other Episcopal leaders took part on Sunday, September 9, 1962.  The current sanctuary is the only remaining part of that original structure, which also included a wing housing two or three classrooms, a low-ceilinged meeting hall, and a kitchen area.  In 1965, a sacristy, seven new classrooms, office space and a combination choir room and library were added, and the parish hall and kitchen were modified to give more working space.

In 1966, St. Thomas’ achieved parish status and thereby became a separate congregation. In this same year, the Rev. Opel exchanged parishes with the Rev. Alex Methven in London.  The Rev. Methven was later called and served again as Rector of the parish, from 1968 to 1969.

            In August 1969, the parish called the Rev. Robert W. Dickey to St. Thomas’ from the Diocese of Delaware, and he served as rector until September 1986.  In his 17 years here, the parish flourished, drawing on the expanding housing development and population growth west of Tyson’s Corner.  St. Thomas’ reached its peak average Sunday attendance during his tenure.  Also during this period, St. Thomas’ supported numerous programs that enriched both families within the parish and the broader community.  In 1976, the Rev. Peter Gray began as St. Thomas’ part-time associate, teaching adult Sunday morning Christian Education  classes, preaching and celebrating communion, and working with the parish’s outreach committee.  He continued his professional association with St. Thomas’ until December 2004, and remains part of the parish family. 

In 1988 the parish called the Rev. John W. Morris. In his 17-year tenure as rector, St. Thomas’ continued to evolve into the church it is today. The lay leadership expanded and took on strong independent roles in music, outreach, and education. New staff were added.  Barbara Everhart became our first Minister for Children, and the children’s program prospered. The Rev. Anne McNabb became St. Thomas’ first Assistant for Youth and Young Adults.  Substantial capital programs were also undertaken in the mid-90’s to expand and renovate St. Thomas’ physical facility.  The renovation included building a narthex to welcome visitors and parishioners, creating a workable kitchen and spacious parish hall for parish and community events, and providing an education wing with the capacity to stimulate and engage teachers and students in lively activity.  At the end of this renovation period, a newly acquired church organ was rebuilt and installed to enrich the music program that has always been central to the life of the parish.

In July 2007, the parish called the Rev. Dr. Stephen Edmondson as Rector.  Since then, the Rev. Betsy Baumgarten and the Rev. Justin McIntosh served, successively, as Assistant Rectors.  In this time, the Rev. Deacon Marty Hager, one of the first vocational deacons ordained in the Diocese of Virginia, also began his ministry at St. Thomas’. Presently, the Rev. Deacon Mary Beth Emerson serves as our associate for Family Ministry.

In October 2016, the parish called the Rev. Canon Bernie Schroder to serve as interim Rector.