December is a surprising month for an al fresco barbecue lunch on a concrete slab, but that is exactly how part of our church family enjoyed a midday break last Wednesday. Gathering with the Coakley Williams construction team, roughly 100 bundled-up staff and parishioners from The Falls Church Anglican were invited for the first time behind the caution tape and temporary fencing surrounding the new church site for "topping out," a builders' rite traditionally celebrated with a feast for the workers just after the final beam is hoisted and installed.
Coakley Williams painted the beam white and provided a box of black Sharpie markers so anyone could sign around two printed verses chosen by Rector John Yates: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7) and the Great Commission found in Mark 16:15. As the crane's jib and metal ball hovered near the topping out crowd, many church members broke into the doxology while watching the hook fasten to the last beam and swing it into place.
Several newcomers stood side by side celebrating with those who have worked faithfully through the years to see this day. Members of the church's Building Steering Committee recalled their reasons for purchasing these five acres in 2015, referring to many "green lights from God." Thinking back to when the search for property first began, the committee joked, "Some of us had hair. We were all young men back then."
"We'd like to say we're halfway there," said one of Coakley Williams’ representatives in a short program where Yates and various members of the construction team gave a few remarks before lunch. The project superintendent reported that this final piece of the church's structure is a significant milestone and after 4,500 man hours, the crew encountered no incidents or major hurdles other than the weather. Spokesmen for the crew talked about the next chapter of construction, saying, “We're excited to run to the finish. It'll be a few more months and we look forward to cutting the ribbon."
Watching from the sidelines, Coakley Williams’ marketing and proposal specialist commented that this was her first bid on a church building project, and she had never seen a church built so close to an office building and a major highway. Curious about the unusual relationship between the office building, six-story parking lot, and the church as landlord, she and other workers listened as Yates described looking down on the construction from his third-floor office window and being concerned for the project superintendent. "I've been watching him mark the steel and lift the steel and scurry all over these beams," said Yates. The crowd chuckled when he inserted, "And I've been praying for him not to fall and to be safe."
Yates went on to explain that the church is not just a building for the members of The Falls Church Anglican, but the construction crew is "building something for the glory of God," a house of prayer for "people from all over the world who live right around us." Many of the Bible verses and messages scribbled on the beam echoed Yates' words.
May your name be high and lifted up.
Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Maralee Gutierrez, a recent addition to the staff and Coordinator of Neighborhood and Global Engagement, wrote Revelation 7:9 underneath the Great Commission. Hopeful for blessings in the surrounding community but also for blessings within our church body, she had made an earlier observation that the Lord's people become the most like Christ - the most transformed - through service. "I could't think of a better time to be part of our church," she said. "Maybe the Lord planted us at 6565 not just to change the neighborhood, but maybe God wants to change us through this neighborhood."
By next Christmas, God willing, a new steeple will lift high the cross and serve as an open invite for onlookers to come worship and be transformed with us. For now though, a vertical crane with a flag waving at the top encourages us that worship does not require a turnkey sanctuary. Thanks to the invitation of the workers and onlookers from Coakley Williams, December 5 marked the first of many more doxologies to come.