The Town of Vienna joined other communities across the U.S. yesterday (Tuesday) in taking a moment to mourn and honor the more than 2 million people around the world who have died from COVID-19 over the past year.

About two dozen mask-wearing town residents and public officials gathered at the corner of Park and Church streets in front of the Vienna Presbyterian Church to ring the chapel bells for 20 minutes starting at 5:30 p.m.

“Given our longstanding existence in this community, it’s really important for us to help lead these types of efforts, so we wanted to ring the bells so the whole community can hear,” Vienna Presbyterian Church Director of Missions Sue Hamblen said. “We just thought it was something VPC should do.”

The ceremony commenced with brief remarks from Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, who was joined by Town Councilmember Howard Springsteen’s wife, Anne Driscoll, as the first bell ringers.

Vienna Presbyterian Church leaders invited staff members and some people in the community who they knew lost a loved one to COVID-19 to sign up in advance to ring the church bell, but anyone who attended was allowed to participate.

Colbert described the vigil as a show of unity fitting for a town where she has seen people support each other with acts of kindness throughout the pandemic.

“This year has been unbelievably sad and challenging for so many people,” Colbert said. “So many sad, unnecessary lives have been lost, and I’m proud that Vienna and that my home church is part of this today.”

Hamblen concluded the ceremony with a prayer that the church’s mission partner in South Africa had shared so that it could be spoken all around the world. She also provided a moment for people to say the names of COVID-19 victims that they knew.

Among those who rang the bell were Vienna Presbyterian Church congregation members Bill and Judy Ichord.

The couple does not personally know anyone who has died from COVID-19, but Judy Ichord has two nieces who work as nurses and contracted the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, one of whom was only in her first year of training at a hospital.

“We just think it’s a time when the country really needs to come together and pull together and remember those who we lost, but also think about the future together as Americans and human beings,” Bill Ichord said. “The whole world needs to heal right now.”

Organized by President Joe Biden’s inaugural committee, the national COVID-19 memorial encouraged people to ring a bell and light a candle for a collective moment of remembrance. It took place on the same day that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpassed 400,000, including 754 people in the Fairfax Health District alone, as of this morning.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. to light the Reflecting Pool, while the bell at the National Cathedral rang 400 times, each toll representing 1,000 Americans who have died from the novel coronavirus.

While the pandemic has not yet abated, Hamblen says it’s important for communities to have an opportunity to come together and mourn their losses.

Vienna Presbyterian Church will put a video of the ceremony on its website so that people who were unable to come can watch it.

“It was a collective experience, and so, I think our grief should be collective and our honoring of them should be collective,” Hamblen said. “That’s why we want to do it as a community. We haven’t been able to gather. Funerals haven’t happened, and so, this is our effort to join people together to mourn as a group.”

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (Jan. 19)

  • COVID-19 Church Bells Vigil — 5:30 p.m. at Vienna Presbyterian Church (124 Park St. NE) — The Vienna Presbyterian Church will join other churches around the country in ringing its bells for 20 minutes to commemorate the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will begin with a speech from Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert and conclude with a prayer. Community members are invited to gather in front of the church, with masks and social distancing required.
  • Kanopy Film Discussion Group (Online) — 7 p.m. — The City of Falls Church’s Kanopy Film Discussion Group will focus on the movie “Timbuktu” for its January meeting. Email [email protected] for a link to the Zoom meeting.

Wednesday (Jan. 20)

  • La Crema Virtual Wine Dinner (Online) — 6 p.m. — The Tysons-based restaurant Wildfire will have winemaker Craig McAllister discuss the history of winery on Zoom while guiding diners through a three-course meal. Participants must pick up their orders, which include three dishes and two bottles of wine, by 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The event costs $165 per couple.

Thursday (Jan. 21)

  • Online Classic Books Discussion (Online) — 1-2 p.m. — The Patrick Henry Library staff hosts a discussion of William Styron’s book “The Confessions of Nat Turner” with author and scholar Amanda Holmes Duffy. Register through the Fairfax County Public Library website for an invitation to the virtual talk.
  • Faith and Friends: An Interfaith Dialogue (Online) — 6-7 p.m. — Fairfax County Public Library staff host a conversation with local faith leaders about the role of women in different religious traditions. Panelists include Rev. Joy Majied, senior paster of Garfield Memorial Christian Church in McLean. Register online to get an invitation to the event.
  • Couples Therapy: A Comedy Show — 7:30 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. E) — Hosted by comedian Ramin Mostafavi, “Couples Therapy” is a roundtable discussion of comics and volunteering audience members about relationships, dating, and being single. The event may be recorded for potential use in a “Couples Therapy” podcast. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets start at $20.

Friday (Jan. 22)

  • Cat Janice + Dante Frisiello — 7:30 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. E) — Indie pop singer Cat Janice performs at Jammin Java in Vienna with guitarist Dante Frisiello as the opener. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets start at $15. The concert will also be live-streamed so that people can watch from home.

Saturday (Jan. 23)

  • Pint Size Polkas (Online) — 11-11:45 a.m. — Musician and accordian player Mike Schneider leads a morning of stories, songs, rhymes, and family-friendly polkas for the Mary Riley Styles Public Library in Falls Church. The program will stream live on the library’s Facebook page and be available to watch afterwards through Jan. 30.
  • Be Fit McLean (Online) — 4-5:30 p.m. — The McLean Community Center hosts a virtual health and wellness fair with health experts who will discuss topics like fitness, nutrition, stress management, and work-life balance. Admission is free, but registration is required.

Sunday (Jan. 24)

  • Freshfarm Farmers Market — 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Mosaic — The Mosaic District’s weekly farmers’ market returns for the spring. Freshfarm is offering curbside pickup options, limiting the number of customers permitted at one time, enhancing cleaning protocols, and increasing space between vendors to enforce social distancing guidelines.

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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The Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna raised more than $2,600 in donations with the drive-thru Nativity that it held on Dec. 19.

Patti Boerger, the Holy Comforter’s director of childcare, says the funds will be allocated to local food, shelter, and support services throughout the coming year.

Situated on Beulah Road, the Episcopal church typically stages a retelling of the Nativity — the Biblical story of Jesus’s birth — during its Christmas Eve services, but staff members knew continuing with that tradition would be ill-advised while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

While Virginia has not imposed mandatory capacity limits on religious services, the Virginia Department of Health warns that such gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and faith organizations are encouraged to offer virtual or drive-in options instead of in-person services.

The Holy Comforter canceled several of the family activities it usually organizes during the holiday season, including events for making Advent wreaths and gingerbread houses. Church staffers came up with the idea of a free drive-thru live Nativity as a way to make up for those cancellations.

“We shifted gears at our staff meeting and asked ourselves what we could do differently,” Holy Comforter Rector Jon Strand said. “…The live drive-thru Nativity allows all ages to be safe in their vehicles and celebrate the glory of Christ’s birth.”

The Nativity featured costumed volunteers and live animals arranged in six scenes around the church’s parking lot. It lasted from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The Holy Comforter was not the only church in the Tysons area to pivot to a drive-thru Nativity.

Patch reported on Dec. 15 that a similar event hosted by the McLean Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attracted an estimated 3,000 attendees over two nights. Donations went to the Share of McLean food bank run by the McLean Baptist Church.

Photo by Zachary Conroy/ImagesforGood.org

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (Dec. 21)

  • The Longest Night (Online) — 5 p.m. — The Lewinsville Presbyterian Church (1724 Chain Bridge Rd.) in McLean is offering a virtual service for the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The church says the event is a “more quiet and reflective” alternative to Christmas services that is “particularly meaningful people who, for a variety of reasons, find no joy in the Christmas season.” The service will stream on the church’s website and YouTube channel.
  • Holiday Happy Hour (Online) — 7:30 p.m. — The Providence District Council will send out 2020 with a “networking happy hour” for its December meeting, according to a Dec. 11 notice from the civic organization. Residents can access the gathering through this Zoom link.
  • GMHS Auction (Online) — From Dec. 21-28, Falls Church City Public Schools is hosting an online auction of classroom supplies, theater seats, and other memorabilia from George Mason High School, which is in the process of being replaced by a new campus. A link to the auction will be on the FCCPS website.

Wednesday (Dec. 23)

  • Polar Express Pajama Party (Online) — 3-3:30 p.m. — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library invites families to join a reading of the book “Polar Express” over Zoom. Interested participants can register by emailing [email protected] through Dec. 22 to receive a Zoom link for the event and a goody bag.

Thursday (Dec. 24)

  • Holiday Sing-A-Long — Earlier this month, Wolf Trap hosted two virtual concerts by the United States Marine Band, which performed festive music with a choir of 500 local singers. While the live performances took place on Dec. 5 and 19, video of the concerts is still available online to watch for free.
  • Nochebuena Christmas Eve Dinner — 4 p.m. at Blend 111 (111 Church St.) — Vienna-based Latin American restaurant Blend 111 is celebrating Christmas Eve by offering a five-course tasting menu with optional beverage pairings. Diners can eat at the restaurant or customize the meal for carryout.
  • Christmas Eve Illuminated — 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church (1125 Savile Lane) — The Immanuel Presbyterian Church’s Christmas Eve service will take the form of a drive-thru campus tour, featuring an illuminated nativity scene, live musical performances, and a “yummy treat” for visitors. Time slots are divided based on last name to avoid traffic back-ups in the parking lot, with 5:30-6 p.m. reserved for families with children under 12.

Friday (Dec. 25)

  • Christmas Brunch — 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner (1700 Tysons Blvd.) — Entyse Bistro at the Ritz-Carlton will serve traditional holiday dishes and seafood in a four-course meal on Christmas Day. The menu costs $95 for adults and $45 for children aged 4 to 12. Reservations can be made by calling 703-744-3999.
  • “Love for the Holidays” (Online) — Wolf Trap is streaming singer Darlene Love’s annual holiday show through the end of Christmas Day. Tickets to the on-demand show start at $35, and a portion of the proceeds go to support the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

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Since 2015, the United Methodist Church and Montessori School of Cedar Lane has been trying to get inline with local zoning ordinances, and at a County Board meeting the Board of Supervisors granted another extension for the church and school to get their house in order.

The school was approved special exception in 2014, contingent on development conditions, but a staff report on the project said the school and church has been been out of conformance with the Zoning Ordinance.

“The application was approved with a requirement that a Non-Residential Use Permit (Non-RUP) be issued within 24 months of the approval date in order to establish the use,” staff said. “In addition, the development conditions mandated that certain improvements, including approval of a minor site plan (MSP) with parking lot and stormwater improvements, enhanced landscaping, removal of certain gravel surfaces, improvements to the parking lot and recordation of a reservation for future right of way dedication, be satisfied prior to issuance of the Non-RUP.”

An extension was first granted in mid-2016 for 12 months, which was eventually extended to July 2020.

A representative of the church and school said the organization is not experienced in handling development issues, which has resulted in delays.

“The applicant has been working to fulfill all development conditions associated with SE 2013-PR-021,” staff said. Ms. [Lynne] Strobel states that the applicant is a non-profit and inexperienced in the process of obtaining permits and approvals associated with zoning and land use. As a result, the implementation of the approval has taken longer than anticipated.”

Strobel told staff the applicant is working with a civil engineer to get the improvements done as quickly as possible, though the pandemic created additional financial challenges due to the school’s closure. However, staff said the applicant reported that it plans to commence the required work within the next year.

The school was approved for 18 additional months to get the needed work done.

Image via Google Maps

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In lieu of being able to serve the community in-person, members of Falls Church-based Dulin United Methodist Church started a monthly charity project led by their pastor, Dave Kirkland.

Since July, the congregation has chosen a different charity to support each month by raising funds for those in need.

“We pick up a different ministry each month and see how it hits the spirits of people and how they respond,” Kirkland said.

Though the charities range in geographic location and purpose, the July donation to Homestretch benefited people within Falls Church’s own community.

Not only did churchgoers and a variety of other donors raise $100,000 which will support the charity’s mission to help disadvantaged families find housing and sustainable lives, but the group was also able to donate $7,200 worth of gift cards and put together care packages with toiletries for 28 local families, according to Kirkland.

Many of the people which received help thanks to the donations are entry-level frontline workers, Kirkland said, and many are also survivors of human trafficking or abuse.

“We knew a lot of these folks probably lost their job and COVID has really affected their lives, so we made a plea,” Kirkland said.  “They [Homestretch] support their families through skills, knowledge and hope. We couldn’t help with skills or knowledge but we could help with hope.”

In August, Dulin United Methodist also raised $17,000 for a group called Free Minds Book Club, which is a D.C. based organization that encourages incarcerated youth to develop a passion for literature.

This month, congregation members will be supporting a charity in Sierra Leone which works to set up infrastructure in the country which was destroyed by civil war, according to Kirkland.

Anyone interested in supporting the church’s mission can donate online.

Photo via Dulin United Methodist Church/Facebook

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The Town of Vienna announced plans to buy the Faith Baptist Church — and now wants residents’ input on what to do with the property.

The Vienna Town Council last night (Monday) approved buying the 3-acre property at 301 Center Street S. for $5.5 million after councilmembers lauded the upcoming acquisition as a long-term benefit to the community.

Councilmember Chuck Anderson called the purchase a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” saying that the church is in the core governmental area of Vienna.

“Center Street is literally in the center of town,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia said that the church — a “vital and established part of the town for many, many years” — started internal discussions about changing its mission and possibly selling the property a few years ago.

Previous Town Councils were interested in buying the property, but the church wasn’t ready to sell it, Briglia said. The town is scheduled to close on the property on Sept. 18, using funds from the general obligation bonds issued earlier this year for the purchase, according to a press release from the town.

The town plans to rent the space to the church while the church makes its transitions.

“I’m sure it’s bittersweet whenever a house of faith decides to move into a new way of operating and I certainly wish them the best of success in the future,” Anderson said.

In the short-term, the town is looking to temporarily relocate the police department to the church for one to two years while the new station is under construction.

Police Chief Jim Morris said that the church — instead of the originally planned relocation to the town’s Beulah Road property, will allow the police station to have business hours. “People can come in and we’ll still remain in the community in the heart of all of the activity,” Morris said.

How the property will get used in the long-term is still to be determined. The building includes classrooms, a sanctuary and a full-size gym, Briglia said.

Councilmember Nisha Patel urged residents to share their ideas for how the property can get used. “It’s your property, and as town residents, I really hope you guys provide us with feedback about you’d like to see go into that space eventually and after its temporary use,” Patel said.

Colbert said that the town will do a feasibility study to help figure out how the property can get used. The Vienna Town Council will also start discussing the options during its Capital Improvement Plan work session on Sept. 21, according to the press release.

Image via Google Maps

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After delays due to the pandemic, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals approved changes that will allow a McLean church to expand its child care offerings.

The St. Thomas Episcopal Church (8991 Brook Road) wants to add a child care center that will be open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays along with the current nursery school. The church would like to have up to 99 kids on-site at any one time.

“What we’re trying to do is modify the conditions to bring a nursery school that was approved almost 25 years ago to modern standards and to meet the expectations of what families are looking for in 2020 for child care,” a representative for the church said.

Currently, the zoning ordinance limits the church to having its nursery school divided into morning and afternoon sessions with 50 kids max per session and hours from 8 a.m.-3 pm.

The church representative said that there is barely any need for a mid-day drop-off, saying that parents need all-day daycare.

More from the staff report:

The proposed child care center will operate within the same building as the existing nursery school, and no exterior renovations are proposed as part of this application… In a nursery school, children aged 2-5 years old are limited to four hours of care per day, while children 5+ years old are limited to six and one-half hours of care per day. In a child care center, there are no time limits on the number of hours of care per day.

The nursery school/child care center will continue to have a maximum enrollment of up to 99 students at any one time. The children will be aged from 2 years through 5 years…  The applicant indicates that the nursery school/child care center facility will serve both parishioners and residents of the surrounding community. The facility will have 10-15 staff members…

Staff with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) raised concerns with the impact that additional vehicles would have on the afternoon peak hours of operation at the intersection of Lewinsville Road / Brook Road / Leesburg Pike…

Staff with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) estimates the intersection improvements will be completed by the end of 2022, with the construction of sound walls, streetscape, and lighting continuing to 2024… [The] applicant has agreed to, a development condition restricting the number of students to 50, for either three (3) years or until the intersection reconfiguration is complete — whichever occurs first.

The BZA was originally going to consider the changes in May, but the application was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the agenda.

The church has undergone three expansions, according to county documents. If the church proceeds with a fourth construction phase, the church would be able to offer up to 325 seats in the main area of worship and the parking spaces would increase from 70 to 90, county staff said.

“The final Phase 4, which includes a significant expansion of the main sanctuary, has not yet occurred. The Church has indicated that while they have no immediate plans to construct Phase 4, they wish to maintain their right to do so in the future and propose no changes to the previously approved layout as part of this amendment,” according to county documents.

The church currently has a fenced, 25,000-square-foot playground.

On Wednesday, the zoning board approved the proposed changes to allow for the child care center.

Image via Google Maps

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A rally will take place outside the First Baptist Church of Vienna Friday evening on Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

“Many of us have been inundated by the news. We’ve watched the reports. We are in mourning,” Vernon Walton, the senior pastor at the church, said in a video. “We are upset as we’ve watched the death of George Floyd, as we watched the family of Breonna Taylor mourn, as we’ve watched the family of Ahmaud Arbery mourn. We mourn with them.”

Participants are asked to social distance, wear masks and bring signs. The “Juneteenth Rally of Remembrance” will offer time for prayer and protest to celebrate Black lives, according to the event description.

“Come expecting to be empowered by the fellowship by the brothers and sisters of our community,” Walton said in the video. “You don’t want to miss this experience.”

The rally is set to take place in the parking lot at 450 Orchard Street NW from 6-8 p.m.

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A McLean resident and her two kids recently decided to help a local non-profit while also providing neighbors with spring flowers to adorn their yards.

Lynley Ogilvie and her two teenagers, George and Jayne, who attend McLean High School raised more than $5,000 for SHARE of McLean by selling flowers and plants to neighbors who wanted to start gardens.

SHARE is based in McLean and helps people who are struggling with food insecurity and poverty, according to its website, adding that the organization can assist with paying bills, clothing and other needs.

As a professional landscape designer, Lynley said she was inspired to start the fundraiser after receiving questions and inquiries from friends and clients asking for recommendations places to find plants.

Her kids helped her mobilize by designing programs such as order forms through Google Forms and coming up with the idea to buy in bulk from a source out of Maryland and resell the greenery — ultimately making a profit which could benefit SHARE, she said.

“People were very excited to support SHARE, and they were struggling to get donations,” Lynley said.

As a member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Lynley said that the church frequently donates to SHARE, and the non-profit saw a lack in donations after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy.

According to Lynley, several other religious groups around the area are also bolstering efforts to support the local organization.

“One of my good friends is actually the Rabbi at Temple Rodef Shalom,” Lynley said. “She came to my sale and said they are also trying to support SHARE.”

People who bought plants from the family paid in advance through Venmo, according to Lynley, who added that people then signed up for a pickup time slot so they could practice safe social distancing.

Throughout Friday (April 10) and Saturday (April 11), roughly 90 people came by to pick up their greenery, Lynley said.

The funds have already been delivered to SHARE, she added.

Going forward, Lynley said she hopes people will continue to build and foster gardens because they help people maintain a “sense of control” in their lives and allows them to “reconnect with nature.”

Photo courtesy Lynley Ogilvie

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