The History of Arcola Church
Evidence of a church in Arcola dates to 1740; most likely housed in a log cabin near Gum Spring, a natural spring next to Pangle's Store. The spring, still active today, was the source of the name for the village of Gum Spring. During this time, this Anglican Church became a Presbyterian Church, and a Free Church, where all denominations were welcome to worship. Early in the 19th century, however, the building and church appeared to fade away, as there was no record of a church in the geographic work of 1834.
In 1853, thanks to the kindness of the Lewis Family, who deeded the "Schoolhouse Lot" to the Methodist Protestant Church, a building was erected (Outreach Center) where worship was re-established. Methodists used it twice a month on Sunday for service, leaving the remaining Sundays for other churches.
On May 23, 1861, the village of Arcola gathered in the sanctuary and voted 135 to 5 to join Virginia in seceding from the Union. Tradition says that, during the Civil War, the church was used for quarters and as a hospital, given its close proximity to the Turnpike (Route 50) and the flow of troops north to Leesburg. During this time, the church was part of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, having split from Northern Methodists in 1844 over the issue of slavery.
After the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church South became part of the Gum Spring Charge, comprising eight different churches, including what is now Crossroads, Floris, Dranesville and Sterling UMC. In 1894, members of Gum Spring helped to form Pleasant Valley UMC. Early in the 20th century, village and church names were changed, by the Post Office, to Arcola to avoid confusion with Gum Springs in Louisa County, Virginia. In 1939, the southern and northern churches united, and in 1968, the Methodist Church joined with the EUB Church to form the United Methodist Church.
The latter part of the 20th century saw Arcola Church continue its vital role in the community, as it helped to form the Arcola Volunteer Fire Department and the Arcola Lions Club. The church was also instrumental in establishing the Arcola Elementary School, built in 1939. During the 1950s, the church built the parsonage, which is now known as the Cross Building, in honor of John Cross.
John Cross, a next door neighbor of the church, was a layman who was a house painter and long term resident in the Arcola area. While not a member of the church per se, he was certainly part of the community. Upon his death, he left 20% of his estate to the church. The money was used to pay off the debt on his house and the house was renamed the John Cross building.
During the 1960's, the current Fellowship Hall was added to the Outreach Center in defiance of the Methodist Church. In 1989, Arcola became a "station church" when Ryan UMC split off and changed its name to Ashburn/Crossroads. Having station status was a difficult experience, as the church wrestled with declining numbers and tight budgets. But, thankfully, with countless bake sales, dinners for the Lions Club, and sacrificial giving, the doors remained open.
In 1995, Arcola Church joined with the Arlington District and the Virginia Conference to write a new chapter in ministry. This merger brought a full-time pastor (Pastor Chris Riedel) and the money to begin anew. Through 2002, the church received nearly $200,000 in support from United Methodists across Virginia.
In 2002, four acres was received from Hazout, a neighbor to the south, in exchange for one of Betty Jones' delicious coconut cakes. Also, the church hired Lemay Erickson to execute the architectural planning for the new Great Room and five classrooms, which would comprise the new worship center. Ground was broken in May 2004, and the first Sunday of worship was held on Mother's Day, 2005. Soon after completion of the worship center, the Riedel Memorial Fountain was added to the campus in remembrance of Elinore Jean Riedel.
The tower and garden are dedicated in loving memory of Elinore Jean Riedel. Elinore was the wife of George and mother of Rob, George, John, Chris, Sara and Barbara. She died Christmas Eve 2003 from cancer, but, throughout her life and love, left a vital legacy of faith, compassion and grace. She loved the church and worked to make it a community that reached out and welcomed people; a place where all could find rest, and a place where faith in God could be nurtured. These gifts of hers are reflected in the tower, garden and fountain. The tower stands over 30 feet, and is the first sign noticed upon entering the campus. It serves to call people in. The garden provides a place of beauty to stay and rest as well. Inside the garden is a fountain, which reminds us of our baptism and the beginning of our faith. It also reminds us of our ultimate home, where the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.
Upon moving into the new space in 2005, immediately planning began for future expansion. Thanks to a generous donation of 1.5 acres from Buchanan Partners, the church's land now exceeds eight acres. Brien and Keane were hired to execute the master plan for a new sanctuary along with additional education and music space.
The doors to Arcola Christian Preschool opened in the Fall of 2005. This has been a wonderful ministry opportunity for the church, welcoming hundreds of children and their families.
In the fall of 2010, phase II of our expansion plans was completed. Phase II is a 7,000 square foot addition to our worship center that provides additional classrooms and Ruth Hall. In the spring of 2020 (just in time for COVID!), our Phase III expansion was completed, which includes Pearson Chapel, an expanded lobby/Narthex, music spaces, a youth room, and additional classrooms. It has been a joy to see our building used in non-traditional ways during the pandemic, including hosting our No Sale Yard Sale on our property instead of at the schools, and utilizing our new lobby/Narthex and Great Room for distanced worship.
Through the support, hard work and dreams of many, Arcola Church has fostered a community, moved by faith, for the service of others.