Grace Community Church will occupy a huge space in the Ballston Quarter shopping center | ARLnow
(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Grace Community Church has a new home in sight: Ballston Quarter.
Next month, Arlington County Council is expected to hear the church’s application to operate in the mall. If approved, Grace Community Church pastor John Slye said construction of the mall’s interior space would begin soon after and the congregation could move in between July 1 and September of this year.
Ballston Quarter would be a big change from Grace Community Church‘s current meeting location – the Thomas Jefferson Middle School auditorium at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. For most of its 20-year history, the church held worship services at Key Elementary School and later at TJ, which Slye attended as a child. (For offices, Grace Community Church used a church at 11th Street N. and N. Vermont Street for a time – being redeveloped into apartments.)
“We really enjoyed our time and our partnership [at TJ]. They’ve been absolutely fantastic,” Slye said. “We will be sad to go.”
But a permanent, dedicated home has always been the goal, a goal the church has begun to pursue in earnest over the past four years, Slye says. He chose the Ballston neighborhood location in 2020, signed a lease, and assembled a construction crew shortly thereafter.
While the space will seat 200 fewer people than TJ’s auditorium, the trade-off is that the church will for the first time have a space to suit its needs.
“Our name is Grace Community Church, so we’re really into the community, and we do a lot of things around food and fun,” Slye said. “We’ll be doing gigs — not just Christian — but community partnerships, conferences, all kinds of fun things that we think will in some way be a form or a fad in the community.”
The church will have two Sunday services, one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 11 a.m., each drawing about 480 congregants, as well as a Thursday service at 7 p.m., according to a request filed with Arlington County. Conferences and concerts will take place on Friday evening and during the day and evening on Saturday.
Nick Cumings, a land use attorney representing the church, writes in the church’s application to the county that the regional shopping center “can easily accommodate the expected number of congregants” as well as their cars in the Ballston Quarter garage. .
Religious uses are permitted under the mall’s zoning code, but the church is required to obtain a site plan amendment approved by the county council to operate as requested.
The Ballston area’s amenities, its centrality and its proximity to Ballston tube station will raise the church’s profile, Slye says. This will allow the church to amplify its partnerships with local organizations, such as the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
It will also introduce more people to what he says is the “vaccine” against modern malaises such as anxiety, loneliness and purposelessness: the biblical mandate to love the stranger through love. community organization and volunteerism.
“We have raging anxiety, frustration, meaninglessness, worthlessness,” he said. “We have a vaccine against this: benevolence… We need these principles introduced to make a difference in our lives and in the world – and they just work.