Sixtieth Anniversary 2016
October 23, 2016
Famed Duke Theologian Preaches at Virginia Church’s 60th Anniversary
To mark 60 years and growing, Aldersgate United Methodist Church welcomed renowned theologian Stanley Hauerwas from Duke University as their guest preacher for all four weekend services Oct. 22-23 at its campus in Alexandria, Virginia.
During his sermon, Hauerwas noted how times have changed from when the church was founded in 1956. He spoke about the time when Dwight. D. Eisenhower was president, communism, Elvis, and the Montgomery bus boycott. Hauerwas said Aldersgate was born during a time when life meant growing up, getting married, having children, paying taxes and going to church. But something has shifted in the 60 years.
“Whatever happened had dramatic consequences for the church,” he said. “No longer is it assumed that one ought to go to church.” He went on to discuss the decline of membership in mainstream churches across America.
While Hauerwas noted in his closing remarks that while having many or few members means little (what matters is being Jesus’ people), Aldersgate continues to grow despite the challenges many churches are facing.
In addition to adding a satellite campus in recent years, Aldersgate regularly welcomes new members through its doors. The anniversary celebration was no exception as several families and individuals joined the 2,000-plus-member church during its weekend services.
“I love coming to worship here. The music is great, and the sermons challenge you and really make you think about how you live your life outside these walls,” said Karli Eddinger, who was the last individual to join as part of the final Sunday service.
During each service, the Aldersgate choir sang a commissioned work composed for the church by celebrated conductor and composer René Clausen. Members and guests gathered outside the church after services for a well-attended picnic, which included activities for youth and music by the Clay Mottley Band.
With a joyful celebration on a beautiful fall day to mark the past 60 years, it is now time for the church to look forward to what comes next.
“I hope we reach out to even more people. We do a lot of outreach abroad and the local area. I think the more we can do to show God’s love in the community, the better we will be,” said Eddinger.
Hauerwas’ remarks perhaps summed it up best.
“It is a great and good thing that you have been here 60 years,” he said. “I pray you will be here for the next 60 years.”