In 2017, the combined efforts of the Alexandria District churches have increased both the professions of faith and the average worship attendance. According to the statistics kept on the General Council on Finance and Administration’s website, the Alexandria District has not shown a gain in both areas since before 2004, which is as far back as their charts show. In 2015, we had an increase in professions of faith, but not in average worship attendance. In 2016, we had an increase in average worship attendance but not in professions of faith. In 2017, our challenge was to align both of these indicators so that they would both increase in the same year. Congratulations, Alexandria District! We did it!
In 2017, our professions of faith across the district rose from 477 in 2016 to 544 in 2017, an increase of 67, or 14%. The churches with the largest number of persons who make their firsttime
public profession of faith in Jesus Christ were: Ghana Wesley (70, third year in a row as the highest), Gainesville (55), Christ (36), Burke (35), Aldersgate (34), St. Stephen’s (29), Grace
(26), Fairfax (25), St. Matthew’s (25), and St. Thomas (25). Those with the largest increases from 2016 to 2017 were Fairfax (+16), Gainesville (+14), Burke (+14), Trinity (+13), Lincolnia
(+12), and St. Matthew’s (+10). Of the 53 churches (including 5 multi-sites), 29 had an increase in professions of faith in 2017, up from 15 in 2016.
In 2017, our average worship attendance across the district grew from 10,477 in 2016 to 10,520 in 2017, an increase of 43, or 0.4%, but still an increase! The churches with the largest average
worship attendance were: Christ (934, including 242 in their online campus where only persons who register and stay connected for their entire worship service are counted); Aldersgate (584),
Gainesville (582), Messiah (493), Grace (477), and St. Stephen’s (453). Those with the largest increases from 2016 to 2017 were Christ (+120), Burke (+52), Gainesville (+51), Sydenstricker
(+41), Ghana Wesley (+37), St. Stephen’s (+36), and Woodlawn-Faith (+35). Of the 53 churches, 18 had an increase in worship attendance in 2017, down from 21 in 2016.
For 2018, now that we have been able to show that the downward trends can be reversed, can we do it again? Can we continue to grow in both professions of faith and in average worship attendance for 2 years in a row, so that it is not just a fluke? I invite every congregation to focus on these key statistical indicators, which are the best way we have to measure how many new
disciples of Jesus Christ we are making. Our goal is always to make more disciples of Jesus Christ next year than we did last year.
Of the 53 churches (including 5 multi-sites) in the district, 12 churches increased in both professions of faith and in average worship attendance in 2017, up from 8 in 2016. They are: Burke, Christ (also did this in 2015), Cranford, Del Ray, Gainesville (also did this in 2016), Grace, New Light, St. Paul, St. Stephen’s (also did this in 2016), Sydenstricker, Washington Street, and Wesley. Both Gainesville and St. Stephen’s deserve special recognition for increasing in both areas for two consecutive years.
Another 17 churches increased in professions of faith, but not in average worship attendance (Accotink-Cana, Aldersgate, Asbury Bethel-Fauquier, Dumfries, Fairfax, Fairlington, Good Shepherd, Lincolnia, Prince of Peace, Roberts Memorial, St. Mark’s, St. Matthew’s, St. Thomas, Spirit and Life, Trinity, and Wesley Chapel). Six other churches increased in average worship attendance, but not in professions of faith (Bethel-Woodbridge, Buckhall, Cameron, Ghana Wesley, Orlean, and Woodlawn-Faith). A total of 35 churches had an increase in one or both areas. Seven grew in one area and held even in the other. Five declined in one area, both held even in the other. 13 churches declined in both areas.
Financially, the Alexandria District churches gave considerably more for our connectional ministry apportionment support in 2017. In both 2015 and 2016, we contributed 89.7% of what we were apportioned. In 2017, we contributed 92.5%, an increase of 2.8% in one year, which is remarkable. Across the entire Virginia Conference, apportionment support increased from 87.05% in 2016 to 89.81% in 2017, a 2.76% increase. Thank you to all of the churches who faithfully supported the connection-wide missions and ministries through the payment of apportionments.
We are planning our third annual Celebrate the Increase banquet for Sunday, April 22, at Christ United Methodist Church. All churches will be invited to send representatives to join in our
district-wide rejoicing. Each of the churches that had an increase in 2017 will be recognized during the banquet.
I cannot say too strongly how proud I feel to be the district superintendent of this district, which has refused to succumb to the pessimism of decline and has focused instead of doing what we
can do to reverse the decline and live into a hopeful future for Christ’s Kingdom and for the United Methodist Church. Keep praying!
Grace and Peace,