This originally Anglican colony was eventually governed by a man with a tolerant religious policy and was settled by religious families who were sponsored by religious grant purchasers or speculators. Grown from the rich soil of this past, some of the oldest Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Quaker churches in the valley can still be found in Winchester. It is in the fertile soil of Gospel history within the Valley that Patrick and Jordan Ware are planting Winchester Anglican.
Even before hearing the call to plant a church in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Patrick was familiar with the area from frequently visiting in-laws there. It was in the midst of an internship with Falls Church of DC that he felt a pull specifically towards Winchester. After graduating from Gordon Conwell in 2005, Patrick joined the Timothy Program at Falls Church: a 3-year program dedicated to training young leaders to be church planters. Halfway through the program, he began to till the soil of Winchester by travelling there each Friday to meet people and prayer-walk the area. Over the course of these visits, Patrick developed a deep love for the area, and in July 2009 he and his wife Jordan moved to downtown Winchester. In 2009, Winchester Anglican began with 8 people from Winchester that Patrick met through his Friday visits, and the first service was hosted in the Ware home on July 19.
Winchester, a traditional, old Virginia town, serves as a cultural intersection for people from Northern Virginia. Numbering around 30,000 people, Winchester is a place with diverse demographics and is ethnically segregated. It is home to people who do all living, working and playing in the area, and also to many who daily commute to D.C. It has a culturally rich downtown and many significant, historic churches of varying denomination. As Patrick and Jordan became more acquainted with the area, they noticed that it was in the suburbs that most Christians were living and worshipping, and decided to plant the church in the city. As they encountered Christians in the area, again and again they heard the same sentiment expressed: “I go to church, but what do I do now?” Discipleship quickly became a cornerstone of Winchester Anglican’s mission. Each Sunday, congregants are reminded of this through the vision statement “Loving The Lord, Loving People, Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.”
During the first year of the church’s life, they had no building or office space, and were working under the promise of only 9 months of salary. Patrick and Jordan hosted Sunday services from their home, complete with communion and a meal afterwards, with Patrick conducting the service and Jordan leading the music. The church’s supplies were kept in a storage unit that they would unload on Saturday nights, set up Sunday morning, and return Sunday night with the help of one or two volunteers. It was exhausting work, often to accommodate a very small gathering of people. Patrick recalls a Sunday during the first summer when no one attended the service but his family. Despite these difficulties, the Lord provided for the Wares, not only providing the three months of salary they lacked, but also providing a small financial surplus for the church at the end of the year.
In the first two years, the church quickly reached 50 attendees and then plateaued for a long season. Feeling confident in the worship services and relationships in the congregation, they continued to faithfully meet and pour into one another and the area. In a sudden answer to years of prayer and investment, the church doubled size in the space of 3 months. Patrick remembers how amazing it felt to witness this answer to the community’s prayers for the church. Winchester Anglican, begun with 8 adults and 7 kids, has reached an average of 95 attendees in four years and is still growing.
Supported by the vision of Falls Church from which it was planted, Winchester Anglican’s desire as a congregation is to have a worshipping community centered on the Gospel of Christ and committed to four values: (1) new life in Christ (2) Christ-centered family life (3) raising up leaders for the next generation and (4) ministry in the marketplace. Winchester Anglican now meets at a local recreational center and has recently begun renting offices downtown. As their financial partnership with Falls Church came to a close at the end of its first four years, Winchester Anglican did a pledge drive and received double what was requested. Financial self-sufficiency has been a representation of the people’s commitment to meet together, grow, and be a part of bringing Christ into the Winchester area.
Discipleship occurs mainly in strongly-emphasized community groups, which are a centerpiece of ministry for Winchester Anglican. Through the close community and rich relationships of the church family, Patrick remarks that they have seen people come to faith, have victory against addictions and seen marriages persevere through difficult trials. Now that they have their own office space 7 days a week, they are eager to expand the scope of their outreach into the city by helping to combat hunger and homelessness in the area, and through financial and relational involvement at a battered women’s home.
Winchester Anglican strives to maintain a Gospel balance between Truth and Grace as they join in the mission God began with the start of the colony so long ago. They faithfully do their part, helping to deepen and enrich faith in the Winchester area, and anticipate great revival as God is revealed through the lives of his people, actively growing in faith and working for the good of Winchester, Virginia.