Church History

Officially a parish since 1951, St. Andrew’s actually traces its history back to 1914 and two mission churches, Epiphany and Grace. Located in the Cherrydale and Maywood neighborhoods respectively, for over three decades they served the section of Arlington now covered by St. Andrew’s. After tremendous growth in the area’s population during and after World War II the churches had little room to accommodate new parishioners at either location. In 1950 the Diocese of Virginia leadership looked to build out a larger Episcopal presence in the area, and on February 11, 1950 the two vestries approved a merger. Having chosen the name St. Andrew’s and under the leadership of its first rector, Rev. Richard Fell, the new church family held its first service on Sunday January 7, 1951.

Construction of the parish itself began that May and on Thanksgiving Day that same year (November 22) the first service in the new building (which is now the chapel) was held. Notable firsts for St. Andrew’s parishioners include the first baptism for sisters Anina and Marta Gunderson (February 11th), the first wedding between Joseph Perry and May Louisa Cannon (July 21st), and the first funeral for Thomas Curtis Hudson (January 8, 1952). Within 10 years the continuing expansion of Arlington was reflected in that of St. Andrew’s and on May 5, 1962 the larger worship space (complete with undercroft and theater stage beneath it) was consecrated and brought it into service.

Even as the physical spaces settled into their current configuration during the 1960s so too did the church’s reputation for being a welcoming and inclusive parish. As race relations in America became even more strained in the mid-60’s St. Andrew’s stepped up in providing a safe space for all. Public dances, a major facet of teen entertainment at that time, fell to the fervor in southern states against integration. Arlington County was not immune, and though these dances were hosted at the public schools, African-American students were not allowed to attend. Under the leadership of the rector Rev. Robert Andrews and associate Herbert Lodder St. Andrew’s opened its doors and hosted a number of integrated dances in the undercroft, with up to 1,200 teens in attendance. Within a few years the county shifted its position, due in part to the success of the events held at the parish.

At the same time St. Andrew’s also led the breaking of new ground for women in church leadership positions. The 1960s and 1970s saw a reevaluation of women in key positions throughout the broader church, prodded by parishes like Andrew’s. In 1967, just four days after the diocese approved women to serve on Vestry (during the annual Council meeting held appropriately enough at St. Andrew’s that year) parishioners elected Phyllis Bahrman to the church leadership team. In 1974, with the blessing of the church Lynn Honeycutt became the first woman from St. Andrew’s to enter seminary studies, two years before the National Church would make its decision to have women priests. Upon her ordination in 1979 she officially became first priest of either gender to originate from St. Andrew’s. In 1986 Rev. Jean Milliken as an interim priest became St. Andrew’s first woman spiritual leader. More recently, in 2009 St. Andrew’s welcomed its first full-time female rector, Rev. Jenny Montgomery and followed her successful tenure with the hiring of Rev. Dorota Pruski in 2018, continuing the church’s tradition for embracing strong female leadership.

There is much more to the history of the church, as one can see on the other site’s pages, including its growth and support of the arts and music and its caring for those in the Arlington community and those in need outside our borders. Click around to learn more about what St. Andrew’s has in store for the future and stop in to see if this is the place for you!