Sanctuary 20th Anniversary

November 3, 2016

Galilee celebrates the 20th anniversary of our “new” sanctuary on Sunday, November 13 with a special service looking back on two decades of worship, growth, connection, service, and giving. But it won’t focus exclusively on the past. We’ll also be looking to the future with a special push to welcome new members.

Why new members? Because a church isn’t a building, its a people.

Galilee is a church that believes we are ordinary people called to an extraordinary purpose (to know Christ and make Him known). In 1995, though, the people were arriving in more than ordinary numbers. Loudoun County was beginning to grow as no one imagined, and the 267 members of Galilee’s congregation made a choice: to build. The Sunday visitors were going to keep coming and our tiny original building wasn’t going to fit them all.

Galilee’s distinctive steeple, visible from two highways, is assembled by workers in a 1996 newspaper photo.

“We were a younger church in the middle of a building boom with newcomers flocking in every Sunday,” remembers Ferd Wagner, Galilee member since 1977. “We recognized the opportunity for growth and took a leap of faith that our stewardship, with the Lord’s help, could rise to the challenge. The congregation,” says Ferd, “had to step up with real leadership, demanding service, and sacrificial giving. ”

“We prayed about it,” says one member from this time, who asked not to be named. “We were a small congregation, but we did a tremendous amount of service in the surrounding neighborhoods. We cooperated with other churches to hold a dinner here or a youth event there. We were a very tight group who wanted to be open to newcomers, and we didn’t have the room.”

“I was the secretary of the trustees committee when the sanctuary was constructed,” says our anonymous member. “I signed every check that paid every bill. Every single check, so you know what the sanctuary means to me. You better believe we prayed about it.”


The 1996 Prayer Quilt, representing the prayers of the Galilee congregation twenty years ago.

If you’ve seen the quilt hanging in our narthex, then you know who our anonymous member means when she says “we prayed.” The quilt has the name of every member present at Galilee when the decision to build the new sanctuary was taken. They each wrote their name or the names of their family on a bit of fabric, and our anonymous member sewed the quilt herself.

“Back then, I did not think about what Galilee would be like in twenty years,” recalls Sharon Reck, who first came to Galilee with her family in 1992. “But I do remember the pastor planning for a population explosion in Sterling and wanting to be prepared for many new members. His hopes and dreams for Galilee have been realized. Many members (myself included) were concerned about taking on debt. But enough members were convinced that this was where God was leading Galilee, so we built—together, as a church—on faith.”

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Sharon Reck at the groundbreaking ceremony in September 1995 (with unpaid help).

Founding members Barbara and Earl Foltz have been at Galilee since before we had an original sanctuary, let alone a new sanctuary. They recall going as a group every Sunday to pray amongst the construction.

“It was very muddy,” says Barbara. “We had to walk out of the original building and over planks to get to a particular place on the work site where the altar was to be located according to the blueprints. We gathered in a circle, ourselves, the pastor, the Leroys, and others. We held hands and we prayed. We prayed for the men who were building the sanctuary, for the community that would be served by the sanctuary, for our existing congregation who were stepping out in faith, and for the people whose names we didn’t know yet, who would be the next generation at Galilee.”

Galilee held its first worship service in the new sanctuary on November 10, 1996.

Tom Heitfield has been a member at Galilee since 1985. His vantage point on the sanctuary is from the back of the choir, where he sings tenor. “We were all eager to get into the larger, more attractive space. And many people, especially the women, were adamant about having more than one restroom! ”

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Tom Heitfield and family have been at plenty of Galilee groundbreaking ceremonies through the years.

“The new space was very different and very beautiful. Personally, I find that I like it most at Christmas time, when the sanctuary is filled with lit trees. That brings a warmth that you can feel. I also like when there are special programs in the sanctuary. It’s just such a great space for so many things.”

Tom does see one drawback to a large sanctuary, but it is something that can be rectified: “I didn’t foresee the change in the level of intimacy of the congregation. In the old space there was no choice about meeting and recognizing people, you were squeezed together. With multiple services in a larger sanctuary, it’s easy to be in a position where you never greet some people. Even though as a choir member I attend both services, I still find there are people I don’t recognize who have been at Gallilee for awhile. If I do recognize them, I might not know their names.”


The stained glass cross at Galilee has its own story.

That gets us back to what we are doing on Sunday, November 13, which is celebrating twenty years in our sanctuary by asking those present to do what what our members did two decades ago: invest in Galilee.

We are not looking to raise money for a new building campaign—as Pastor Jason reminds us, the sanctuary and facilities of Galilee are top-level, among the finest that you will find in our denomination. Rather, we are asking for those who have been sitting in the pews for a while but who have not formally joined Galilee as a member to do so in the Nov 13 service.

Becoming a member of Galilee, rather than a visitor or frequent attender, is a formal way of saying, “This is my church.”

It is our hope that asking more people to become more deeply involved, to become members, makes for a more effective and more-closely knit church, a church worthy of the investment and prayers that went into building our impressive sanctuary two decades ago. We want this church to be thinking and praying about the generation that comes twenty years after us.

Pastor Jason will ask all who wish to join to stand where they are in the pews on November 13. If you do so wish, just stand up when he asks. All standing will be recognized as a group and won’t be asked to come forward or speak. We do ask that you indicate your intention to join Galilee on the Connecton Card, so that we can do a brief follow-up.