Our History

Fair Oaks Community Church of God,
Eternal Hope Church of God, and
Washington, DC Church of God

The Early Days

This is the early history of the Washington, D.C., Church of God group through 1956, as remembered by Sister Ella Boyer, edited by WR Helenburg. Ella Boyer and her brother J. Marcellus were from Maurertown and first cousins of Sam Boyer of Fort Valley. She lived in Washington, DC, for several years and was a member of the local church during that time. Additional information was provided from the minutes of the Dorcas Society and from the book Clifton:Brigadoon in Virginia by Nan Neatherton.
  
In the 1920s, the James Kincheloe and the Charles Compton families met in their homes on Sundays for Bible Study.  Sister Virginia (Ritenour) Kincheloe was their leader. "Virgie" Ritenour had moved to Clifton, VA, from the Shenandoah County in 1910 to be the Principal of Clifton HS.  She later married James U. Kincheloe of Clifton.  Several individuals from Washington, DC, would travel to Fairfax and Manassas to study with them in their homes. In 1925, Brother Harry Sheets came to Virginia to Pastor the Fort Valley and Maurertown Churches. During the period between 1926 and 1928, he would occasionally travel to Fairfax to the Kincheloe home to lead church services for them and others of the group.
  
Circa 1938, J.R. LeCrone, came to Virginia and would travel to Arlington, VA, to conduct Sunday night services at the Fire Hall. In the early 1940s, about 1942 or 1943, John Mercer regularly held services which continued for about a two year period. In that same time frame, Sister Verna Thayer (a Church of God evangelist to children) arranged to hold a tent meeting for Bible School study.  However, the tent never arrived. Sister Thayer remained there during the weekend, conducting a Bible study as best as the conditions would allow. At a later time, her husband Earl was the Pastor of the Fort Valley and Maurertown churches.
  
On October 29, 1941, a Dorcas Society was organized and it became a very active group that met monthly on Saturdays at the homes of the active members. The Society held its last formal meeting on April 24, 1958. Concurrently, the families met on Sundays, normally twice each month for church services. The ladies were Bible scholars and they set up a fund to purchase books to share and from which to increase their biblical knowledge.

Dorcas societies within the COG in those days were usually women's groups set up for good works such as providing quilts, layettes, etc. for the less fortunate families in the community. For example, in the 1960s, the Maurertown, VA, women used to make layettes and take several at time to the Winchester hospital for mothers who didn't have clothing to take their babies home. They also made cancer pads, etc. for the local hospital. The Washington Society ladies made quilts and presented them to residents of the retirement home in Oregon, Illinois, which was operated by the General Conference. The ladies also provided needed bedding and other items to the Virginia Conference dormitory at Maurertown, VA. The meetings would begin with devotions, proceed to the handwork and end a short business meeting over a lunch provided by the host.

At a later time, Brother Clyde Randall visited the D.C. area from Fonthill, Ontario, Canada to assist with a Bible School program. This was held at the Community House on Irving Street, near Lyon Park in Arlington, VA. Bible study classes were held during the day and preaching services were held each night.
  
Other pastors that served in that era included Daniel Judy who preached one summer in 1947 at the Pythian Temple in Washington, D.C.; Dean Moore of the Baltimore group for 2-3 years; Curtis Simpson of the Baltimore Group that preached for four years at the old YMCA building at 1736 G Streets, near the White House in Washington, D.C.  
  
In 1950, Brother Alva Huffer, who had accepted the pastor position at the Fort Valley and Maurertown Churches, reorganized the Washington group and would come to preach and offer communion services several times each year. The services during each meeting included Sunday school study.

Members and Families

Some of the families and individuals that attended those later days of the early church included; Ella Boyer, the William Hicks, Mack and Ada Updike, Eldridge and Marie Cooper, Charles and Mary Compton, James and Virginia Kincheloe, Dan and Isabel O’Flaherty, William Thut family, Fay Carroll and family, John Andrews family, Philena Davis, Ruth Blankenbaker, Leroy Frichard, Helen and Orville Thompson, Mary Ellen and Fern Bell, and Nina Pulliam. Later, Sam Carroll was baptized and became an active member of the church. 
  
In the 1950s and 60s, other families included Given Cleek, Garland Temple, Kenneth Mulligan, Robert and Eunice Costello (Keyes), Orville and Helen Thompson and their children Debbie and Greg. Robert Costello is fondly remembered by the children because he would hide hard candy in his clothing and, after church, would be mobbed by the children to find it. Even the young adults would enjoy a piece of candy as well.  
  
Several individuals from Pennsylvania attended from time to time including John and Debbie Kugler, Howdy and Lorraine Mower and their children Valerie and Dennis. Clarence Poland of Baltimore, Maryland, and family, including Eva G. Sheets, attended regularly and one of his sons, Earl, was baptized and became a Church of God Pastor. Also from Baltimore were Keith and Lorraine Baird and a Mr. Pack who is remembered for his long prayers. Jim and Barbara (Baird) Scott and children also attended.
  
In the 70s, 80s and 90s, additional members and attendees included Carolyn Chapman, Carol DeWilde, Carolyn (Pryor) Kohn, Joan Pryor, AB Britt, Wayne Carroll and daughter Beth, Rob and Nedra Helenburg and Doris Frances, who was a long time friend of John and Debbie Kugler.

The last 50 Years

The current history is a compilation of the memories of Joseph Fletcher, Helen Thompson, Eunice Costello Keyes, Jan Stilson, Wayne Carroll and others, as reported to Rob Helenburg and from the minutes of the Dorcas Society and the Church organizations.
  
On February 14, 1953, the current local church was formally organized by adopting a constitution and elected officers in a meeting chaired by Alva Huffer. It was named the Washington, D.C., Church of God. This was the official start of the local congregation now in Northern Virginia. In a follow-up meeting, the new Board acted to offer the position of Pastor to Joseph Fletcher.
  
By 1953, the congregation was comprised of Baltimore and D.C. area members and met twice per month in the old YMCA building at 1736 “G” Street, Washington, D.C. Joseph Fletcher, a newly graduated minister of Oregon Bible College, moved to this area with his bride, Shirley, to be the first full time Pastor. Joseph was originally from the Church in Fonthill, Ontario, Canada. From 1956 to 1959, Joe took a sabbatical to further his education. During his absence, the congregation was pastored by Curtis Simpson who had been actively involved with the growing congregation in Baltimore and Pennsylvania. Soon after pastor Fletcher and his growing family returned to the D.C. area, the congregation looked into building or moving their church.
  
In 1960, the congregation moved the worship services to Falls Church, Virginia. They rented space in the cafeteria of the old Culmore Elementary School. It was during this time that Joseph Fletcher began teaching in the Fairfax County School System.
  
In 1968, the church purchased the building at their present location on West Ox Road from the local Presbyterian Church. They had just constructed a new facility nearby on US Route 50. The availability of the building was discovered by Robert Costello as he was driving by one day. Helen and Orville Thompson co-signed the Deed of Trust and for the first time, our church had a permanent home. Around this time, the local congregation changed its name to the Eternal Hope Church of God, Abrahamic Faith. This name had been suggested by Eunice Costello. Three of the Fletcher children attended Oregon Bible College.  Cheryl the oldest, is married to Pastor Dale Swartz. Jeffrey Fletcher graduated from OBC and still actively serves as a COG Pastor. Deborah Buckman graduated form OBC and actively supports youth ministry.
  
In 1972, Pastor Joe Fletcher received a promotion to Assistant School Principal and resigned as the full time minister. He and his family remained in the area and continued to support and play an active role in the church to include being our Church Elder. The church then hired Ron Macy, a nephew of COG pastor Emory Macy, who along with his wife Terry, led the congregation for the next four years. Ron and Terry developed a youth ministry program to reach out to local (Reston) minority children to transport them to the church.
  
In 1976, upon the resignation of Pastor Macy, the church hired Dale Ward as the new Pastor, who along with his wife Marie, led our congregation.  At an earlier time, Dale had served as the Pastor of the old Maurertown Church of God near Woodstock and Toms Brook, VA. Their daughter Dolena (Ward) Shaw was a school mate and lifelong friend of Carolyn (Morrison) Chapman. In 1981, Pastor Ward retired and the local church was without a Pastor for about nine months.
  
In June 1982, Gary Burnham, a newly graduated minister from Oregon Bible College, moved to the area with his wife, Janice (Knapp), and became the new pastor. In 1986, the congregation chose to rename the church as the Fair Oaks Community Church due to confusion that developed regarding other denominations which are active in Virginia and operate under the general Church of God name. To more accurately reflect its location, the congregation changed its name again in 2006 to Oak Hill Community Church of God - Abrahamic Faith.
  
In February 1989, an unknown arsonist set fire to the church building and succeeded in destroying the facility although the basic structure was not completely consumed. Subsequently the building was completely rebuilt, refurbished and brought up to the then current building codes and rededicated in 1990. By 1996, the loans were paid off and the building title was once again held free and clear. In 1994, an unknown arsonist again tried to burn the building.  The damage was limited to a custodial closet and mop sink. The arsonist put clothing items in the cast iron mop sink, set them on fire and closed the door. Closing the door starved the fire of oxygen and kept it from spreading to the rest of the building. But, it was so hot that it damaged the brass faucet and the porcelain finish requiring replacement of both.
  
In 1995, Pastor Burnham resigned from our local church to accept the position of Comptroller of the Church of God General Conference and Atlanta Bible College, in Morrow, GA. For about ten years the church continued on without the services of a fulltime Pastor. Pastor Dennis Baldwin of our sister church in Front Royal, Virginia, served as our interim Pastor driving from Front Royal on the first Sunday of each month to hold afternoon services and Communion. This, after holding morning services at his church. Oak Hill Community Church is deeply grateful for the many years of faithful service of Pastor Dennis and his wife Rachel. For the remaining Sundays, we have been blessed with a variety of lay speakers.
  
In June of 2005, we hired Thomas J. Fischhaber, Jr., as our new Pastor. Tom decided, late in the summer of 2006, to withdraw from active pastoral ministry to contemplate his future role in the Church of God. Pastor Dennis Baldwin agreed to once again serve as our spiritual leader.  
  
In 2010, the church decided to return to the name Fair Oaks Church of God- Abrahamic Faith. And, after 15 years of declining membership, the congregation has started to grow again with the addition of new members Suzanna Heidrich, Dan and Jennifer Siderius, and other regular attendees.   
  
Pianists through the later years included Eunice Costello Keyes, Carol Dewilde, Shirley Fletcher, Janice Burnham and Nedra Helenburg. Carolyn Chapman would fill in from time to time when the regular pianist was absent and also stepped in as song leader. Three who grew up in the Church went on to Pastoral Ministry: Jeffery Fletcher, Cheryl (Fletcher) Swartz and Earl Poland. At least five members, past and present have served on the Board of Directors of the Oregon/Atlanta Bible College and the Church of God General Conference, including Joseph Fletcher, Gary Burnham, Jeffery Fletcher, Rob Helenburg and Dan Siderius.
  
It should be noted that this congregation has enjoyed strong female leadership and participation from the very beginning. The church functioned under the Dorcas Society umbrella from October 1941 to February 1953. Detailed Bible study and lessons were a mainstay of the meetings; to include the building of a small library of pertinent books that were shared by the members. Also prevalent in the activities have been benevolent work providing funds and goods to the General Conference, Virginia State Conference, National Bible Society, Missions and charitable gifts to individuals as well as other church congregations. We are glad that we can say that these traditions continue to this day.

-- Revised July 14, 2011
  
  
Click HERE for a brief overview of the General Conference and Bible College since their organization in 1921. For further information on how our denomination began you may wish to read A Brief History of the Formation of the Church of God General Conference.