Today, hundreds of vehicles drive by Pohick Episcopal Church at the busy intersection of Richmond Highway and Old Colchester Road, across from Fort Belvoir. Some tend to mistake our colonial church as a museum because it has no steeple…until they learn it’s full of vibrant and welcoming people!
At Pohick Church, more than 500 parishioners of all ages worship, pray, study Bible, serve others, welcome newcomers, and form thriving, Christ-centered relationships. Formed in the Anglican (Church of England) ethos of our spiritual ancestors, our warm and vibrant community of faith remains mission-oriented, relevant, moderate, and transformative today. At Pohick we are fond of saying we are:
The Home Church of George Washington and George Mason:
Embracing our Past; Welcoming in the Present; Transforming the Future!
“The Mother Church of Northern Virginia,” Pohick was the first permanent church in the colony established north of the Occoquan River, around 1724. Originally called “the Occoquan Church,” it was soon referred to as “Pohick Church” because of its proximity to Pohick Creek. (“Pohick” is a Native American word for “hickory tree.”)
George Washington’s map of the area locates Pohick’s original, long-lost wooden edifice near a site now occupied by Cranford Methodist Church. In 1732, George’s father, Augustine, was elected to the Pohick Church Vestry (board of elders). Son George followed in his footsteps, serving as Pohick vestryman (including church warden) for 23 years.
George Washington surveyed and proposed the 45-acre wooded tract where the current Pohick Church sits – about six miles from his Mount Vernon estate. Completed in 1774, the Georgian structure designed by James Wren features colonial box pews, an elevated pulpit — and, of course, no steeple — common church architecture of the era.
Today, visitors are encouraged to worship in one of the two box pews once purchased by our first U.S. President for his family. Washington’s pews are situated across the aisle from the family pews of George Mason, a local patriot who authored the Virginia Bill of Rights, the precursor to the U.S. Bill of Rights. A third “George,” George Fairfax, and his family owned a pew next door as well.
Several other well-known patriots and their families were regulars at Pohick Church, which was used for worship as well as for community meetings. The steps of Pohick Church may well have been one of the first public places the Declaration of Independence was originally read. The vestry and parish regularly served and cared for the poor, widows, and orphans in the area.
Today, Pohick Church continues in that mission-oriented tradition, actively serving the community, as we model the Christian values of hospitality, moderation, civility, service, and most of all, love.
Based on the original Christian community that St. Luke describes in Acts 2:42-47 (below), Pohick Church balances community life on seven pillars:
Study (apostles’ teaching of Scripture)
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
As you peruse the website, you will see some images of Pohick’s common life in Christ:
Our broad-church Anglican worship is based on the original English Book of Common Prayer written in the 16th century and updated in contemporary language (see www.bcponline.org). The BCP features a Daily Prayer Office based on English monasticism, as well as services of Holy Eucharist (Communion) and other sacraments. Anglican worship style, true to its “via media,” or “middle way” ethos, balances the Sacrament (Eucharist) and the Word (Scripture readings and preaching). Anglican polity balances lay ministry and ordained ministry. The Very Rev. Dr. Lynn P. Ronaldi, Rector, presides over worship. Lay Ministers lead various ministries, including Music/Choirs, Lay Eucharistic Ministry, Acolytes (altar boys and girls), Altar Guild, Ushers, and Greeters. The newest worship ministry is Audio/Visual, as Live-Stream worship has become an important venue for worship and evangelism. Our outstanding music program includes organ, choirs, bells, and a band.
Pohick models and practices the necessity for prayer through the Kiki Coderre Contemplative Prayer Ministry, Spiritual Reflections, Community of Hope practices, Lenten Programs and Speakers, an annual Family Spiritual Retreat, and weekly prayer lists.
Both ordained and lay ministers teach programs ranging from children’s interactive Godly Play (preschool – 4th grades), Living the Good News (5th – 12th grades), and Vacation Bible School; through our large and active EYC (Episcopal Youth Community) and Confirmation Class; and our Adult Christian Formation offerings. These include a lively Education for Ministry (EFM) three-year program, Sunday Bible and Book studies, other small group studies, and Inquirer’s (Newcomers) Classes.
Pohick may be best known for its spirit of Christian hospitality. Situated near Fort Belvoir and Washington, DC, our parish has been traditionally populated with government and military families, as well as families from all over the world. We warmly welcome newcomers and assimilate them quickly into parish life. Some of our many fellowship events, which often benefit various outreach programs, including our famous “Pohick Apple Butter Weekend” (yes, families come together to make apple butter in authentic colonial kettles!) and our annual Pohick Country Fair. Throughout the year various groups sponsor dinners like the Crab Feast and an Evensong and Christmas Dinner.
Supporting much of our ministry and mission is Pohick’s strong backbone of Fellowship. and Christian hospitality. We emphasize fellowship, warmly welcoming new families as well as nurturing long-term relationships. Mission and service are often a focus of groups and guilds such as the women’s guilds (Ann Mason and Martha Guilds), the men’s guild (Brotherhood of St. Andrews), the Young Adult Ministry, and many others. Our Fellowship groups plan and execute dozens of projects and events annually. We have a strong communications ministry as well, including a web page, weekly news E-blasts, monthly newsletter, scrolling electronic news in the Common Room, and frequent announcements.
Pohick retains its colonial spirit of commitment to serving the community and world through several ministries. One of our primary recipients is the Lorton Community Action Center, and another is the Kennedy Homeless Shelter. Various Fellowship groups and guilds hold annual events and fundraisers to benefit, and our parishioners serve in many hands-on ministries and missions as well. Pohick’s Community of Hope Lay Pastoral Care Ministry is one of the leading chapters of that international, Benedictine-based pastoral care and spiritual development program. Lay ministers meet in community to maintain their spiritual formation and support the Clergy in offering pastoral care.
The ethos of Christian hospitality through Invite, Welcome and Connect shapes the way we welcome and assimilate others into the Body of Christ at Pohick. Most of our congregation participated in a day-long formation program that produced dozens of exciting ideas and projects for inviting, welcoming, and connecting newcomers. One of these has been the emphasis on online, virtual services and our new web site, as well as improved signage and communication, quarterly Newcomer Dinners at the Rectory, and many other significant efforts to invite, welcome, and assimilate new friends. Pohick continues to grow, and to encourage young people and families in all aspects of Pohick life, leadership, and service.
The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, over which the Archbishop of Canterbury and Church of England preside ceremonially and in conjunction with presiding and diocesan bishops worldwide. (You may have heard the Episcopal Presiding Bishop of the United States, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, preach at Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s royal wedding, as well as at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.) When the colonies broke away from English oversight, so did our colonial church; this is when it became the American Episcopal Church. Pohick truly was the “Mother Church” of colonial Virginia, and as the home church of George Washington and other patriots, we continue to celebrate that heritage in several ways. (Next time you visit Mount Vernon, check out the colonial pew in the Mount Vernon museum; it is a replica of Pohick Church!) We have a very active Docents’ Guild that offers weekly and by-appointment tours of our historic church. Our Historic Pohick Foundation raises funds to maintain our nearly 300-year-old church.
If you like what you see – on this web page, in links to our online worship services, or maybe through a docent’s tour — we hope you’ll come to Pohick and experience our lively and warm church family! Sometimes, people check us out for our history first, and that’s fantastic! Know that we bridge our past with the present and future – and we offer so much more! As we like to say, “Come for the History; Stay for our Lively Community of Faith!”
In Christ’s Love,
The Very Reverend Dr. Lynn Ronaldi
Rector of Pohick Church
Touring Pohick Church
- Daily at 9:00 am – 4:30 pm: Free admission, self-guided tours
- First Saturday of the month at 1:00 pm: Docents are available for groups after Sunday services, or by appointment through the Church Office, 703-339-6572.