Our Place-Profile

Our grounds and facilities reflect the ideals that St. Francis brings to our spiritual lives: beautiful woods, open spaces, a church building that invites the world outside in, and a parish hall that supports the many Christian formation and fellowship opportunities we offer.

The St. Francis grounds and buildings are used by many outside groups including the Boy Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous, an English Country Dancing group, and—in keeping with its history—a dog obedience school.

Because the worship space at St. Francis has excellent acoustics, it is one of the venues used by the Amadeus Concerts as a performance space. St. Francis also hosts the Words & Music vocal ensemble and the Difficult Run Jazz Band. Many members of St. Francis are involved in the leadership of Amadeus, Words & Music, and other instrumental and vocal groups.

 
franciscans-say Andrew Howard-120

Andrew Howard-178Andrew – Great Falls

quote-left-green Hello, I'm Andrew and have been at St. Francis for over 10 years. I love my church family. One of the things that continues to inspire me is the natural beauty of our campus that is this tranquil island in busy Northern Virginia.  In every tree and flower bed there is a story of parishioners coming together to design, to plant and to care for our surroundings. It provides a place of solace, comfort and serenity. Our garden is a reflection of our values as we seek to share the land with the surrounding community. Walking around St. Francis I have to agree with Dostoevsky when he wrote, "Beauty will save the world". quote-right-green

Denny-Sisson-120

Denny-Sisson-178Denny – Great Falls

quote-left-green I own Sisson Landscaping in Great Falls, where my wife and I also live with our three children. We have been members of the St. Francis congregation for the past 15 years.

As the owner of a landscaping company, I was immediately drawn to the aesthetics of the church and how it relates to its surroundings. The building’s charm, with its gabled, green roof and front porch supported by simple columns, is a beautiful sight for all who drive along historic Georgetown Pike. St. Francis and its lovely grounds, containing a variety of mature trees and attractive landscaping, blend perfectly with the bucolic Great Falls countryside.

St. Francis holds many gatherings and events on the church grounds for its parishioners and the community; my family especially enjoys the annual “Blessing of the Animals,” which is held under a large tent on the first Sunday of October. The yearly Country Fair, also held each fall, has many of its activities spread out under the beautiful shade trees. The Fair’s very popular hayride meanders through the fields in front of the church.

After a busy work week, I truly appreciate the serene and peaceful environment of Sunday at St. Francis. quote-right-green

gary pan-120

gary pan-178Gary – Great Falls

quote-left-green For almost 40 years St. Francis has served as Boy Scout Troop 55's Charter Organization—but it also sponsors Cub Scout Pack 55 and the co-ed Venture Crew 364 programs.  Parishioner families are actively involved in the scouting programs, and we enjoy a very special relationship.  

Scouts volunteer each year in support of the Country Fair focusing on preparation, security, traffic and parking management, and clean up.  St. Francis also benefits from being the recipient of many Eagle Scout projects on the church grounds; the brick patio under the bell pedestal, the storage shed roof, and the outdoor classroom used by the Crèche and Sunday School, just to name a few. We look forward to building on our years of supporting each other and fostering an environment that promotes the character, moral development, and leadership abilities of our youth. quote-right-green

Rob and Sandy Smith

Rob and Sandy SmithRob – Great Falls

quote-left-green I’m Rob. My wife and I joined St. Francis seeking a family-friendly parish where we hoped to raise our future family. We found that family-friendly feeling at this church, and even though we moved several times over the next 25 years, our search location always was based on our intent to continue worshipping at St. Francis.

Over the years, the changes we’ve made to our church grounds and facilities have been in harmony with its country setting. The eight acres that surround our church provides lots of space for our parish and parish-sponsored community outdoor events—including the scouting program. I love that the setting of our parish affords us a beautiful outdoor classroom for our youth to learn about and appreciate nature. I give my time and engineering talents, gratefully, to St. Francis by supporting the facility maintenance program. I really enjoy the fellowship of parishioners as we work together to maintain and improve our facilities, trees and landscape. quote-right-green

Trevor-Shafran-120

Trevor-Shafran-400Trevor – Great Falls

quote-left-green Hi, I’m Trevor. I have been attending St. Francis since my early days as a member of both the church and Boy Scout Troop 55. I spent a lot of time running around the beautiful church grounds which offered a place for our youth groups or Boy Scout troop to gather and sponsor special events—like the cooking contest our Boy Scout Troop held in the back of the church each December. Open fires and fabulous foods were prepared by Scouts in a friendly competition. Also, I have wonderful memories of using the front of our church on a Saturday as a meeting place for Boy Scout events—whether for fundraising, like the mulch sale, or a game of capture the flag, or just as a meeting place before an over-night scouting adventure.

I remember we became involved in a successful project—paving the gravel church parking lot—by selling, “personalized bricks”.    For my Eagle Scout project, I chose to construct a patio around the pedestal of the old church bell using those personalized bricks.

St. Francis is home to me. Whether worshiping the Lord or running around the beautiful church grounds, I always feel comfortable and welcome. quote-right-green

Dennis Findley-120

Dennis FindleyDennis – McLean

quote-left-green Hi, I’m Dennis.  I was introduced to St. Francis by a dear friend of my then-fiancé in 1990 and the church has been an essential part of my life ever since.  From my marriage, the birth and raising of my twin boys, to the very sad loss of my wife in 2010, St. Francis and its members have been there for me and my family every step of the way. For that I am forever grateful. 

As an architect, I have been involved in numerous St. Francis projects over the years, from planning alterations in our classrooms to accommodate our new Crèche preschool, to leading the design and construction of our church sign, to sketching out ideas for both clergy and vestry members about “what-if” and “could-we-do?” projects for the church, to routine maintenance, unexpected repairs, and necessary alterations. 

St. Francis is known affectionately as “the church in the field” and it is a very special place within the wider Great Falls community. quote-right-green

St. Francis, Great Falls, is located in Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington, D.C. It once was a farming community and while the region has experienced considerable growth over the years, the village has maintained its rural character. Great Falls is named after a series of spectacular waterfalls on the Potomac River, which forms the boundary between Maryland and Virginia. Recreational activities are close by—Riverbend and Great Falls National Parks offer miles of beautiful horse and hiking trails, and opportunities to rock climb, fish, picnic or just plain relax along the scenic Potomac.

The village of Great Falls, about a mile from the church, has a small collection of stores—a grocery, drug store, coffee shop and other small businesses for everyday convenience. The Village Green is the site of many annual activities that reflect the family orientation of the community. In the summer there are evening music programs and a Fourth of July parade. Christmas is the time for the tree-lighting ceremony and in spring, local merchants host an Easter egg hunt on the green.

franciscans-say stephk-120

stephk-178Stephanie – Great Falls

quote-left-green I'm a single parishioner who has been a member of the church for about 15 years.  I discovered St. Francis one Sunday while driving on the beautiful Georgetown Pike, trying to decide if I wanted to venture back into church.  I attended the service that day and stayed.  I work in DC, and used to live closer to the city, but love the community I found at St. Francis.  I've recently moved to Great Falls and now feel I have the best of both worlds—the beautiful rolling hills of western Fairfax County with an easy everyday commute to Washington, DC.  I was worried when I moved that a stressful drive to and from work would undo all the peace I found at St. Francis on Sundays—but I've been happily surprised that’s not the case. Great Falls has the feel of a small town with a huge metropolis in our backyard! quote-right-green

About a third of our parishioners live in surrounding communities in Fairfax or Loudoun Counties. Both counties are ranked, consistently, as "Best Places to Live in America" and boast high quality educational opportunities and cultural activities. Shopping and restaurants are plentiful and can be found at nearby Tysons Corner, Dulles Town Center, and Reston Town Center.  Washington, D.C. is just down the road and has its own set of unparalleled museums and cultural activities. History buffs enjoy colonial and Civil War sites, such as Mount Vernon and the Manassas battlefields. Washington, D.C.'s metro line was extended to our area in 2014, with close by metro stops at Tyson's Corner and Reston's Wiehle Avenue.

Residents who want to get away for a day or weekend often head to the Chesapeake Bay or to Atlantic Ocean beaches. To the west are the famed Blue Ridge Mountains, where skiing opportunities await in winter. For trips further afield, Washington Dulles International and Reagan National Airports are nearby.

As part of this economy, our parishioners tend to be affluent and well educated. They have high expectations for their jobs, public services (especially schools), and their church.

Additional Resources

Fairfax and Loudoun Counties

And The 10 Best Counties In America Are.. (Huffington Post)

Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools Website

Living and Working in Northern Virginia

Guide to Living and Working in Northern Virginia (PDF)

Celebrate Great Falls

St. Francis is a parish in Region V of the Diocese of Virginia. The Diocese of Virginia is descended from the first Anglican Parish in the "New World," dating back to the Jamestown colony of the early 1600s. Officially organized in May 1785, today it is the Episcopal Church's largest Diocese, including 38 counties in central and northern Virginia. Headquartered in downtown Richmond, the offices of the Diocese of Virginia reside primarily in the Mayo House, a converted 1840s mansion.

The Diocese is headquartered in Richmond but also maintains a Northern Virginia office at The Falls Church-Episcopal, in Falls Church.

Rt Rev Shannon JohnstonRt Rev Susan GoffRt Rev Ted Gulick

The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, and the Rt. Rev. Ted Gulick

The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, who was elected and consecrated in 2007, began his ministry as the 13th Bishop of Virginia on October 1, 2009. He is joined in his Episcopal ministry by the Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff, Bishop Suffragan, who was consecrated on July 28, 2012. In January of 2011, the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick, retired bishop of Kentucky, began serving our diocese as Assistant Bishop.

franciscans-say Bill-120

Bill-178Bill – Great Falls

quote-left-green The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is the largest and oldest diocese in the country. While it has all the strengths of a vibrant and established church, it also has the warmth and sustenance of a family. One story will illustrate my point.   Several months ago my wife and I became aware of a very thoughtful blog posting by one of our fellow parishioners at St. Francis. We were so taken by the posting that we sent a link to the blog to many of our friends, neighbors and fellow Franciscans. We even overcame our usual reticence about such things and sent it to our three Diocesan bishops whose e-mail addresses we found easily on the Diocese website. Within days we had personal responses from each of the three bishops. Each had followed the link, read the posting and responded with thoughts and encouragement. That is our Diocese. quote-right-green

Dave Yarnall-120

Dave Yarnall-178David – Oak Hill

quote-left-green My wife Kristi and I have been members of St. Francis for fifteen years, and we have three children; two are now in college. All were raised in the parish and served as acolytes. Kristi and I have served on the Vestry, and I’ve represented St. Francis at the Diocese of Virginia for seven years.

Although most individual parishioners here don't demonstrate tremendous interest in diocesan life, St. Francis has always been strongly represented by our rector and several parishioners on the Diocesan Executive Committee. We’re always been represented at quarterly Region V meetings and the Annual Convention as well. There is opportunity to strengthen our participation at these levels, especially by involving our youth in diocesan programs. The real strength of St. Francis is local fellowship and a true family feel where nearly everyone feels connected. quote-right-green

Bishop Ted and Lyndon Shakespeare

Bishop Ted Gulick and Interim Rector, Lyndon Shakespeare at the St. Francis 50th anniversary celebration.

St. Francis parishioners benefit from annual visits by one of the three bishops, who join us to celebrate Confirmation or other special rites. In the past year, we have particularly benefited from the support and presence of the bishops and Diocesan staff during our time of transition.

Our Diocese is blessed to have Shrine Mont, which includes The Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. This is the cathedral seat for our Bishop Johnston. The only diocese with an outdoor cathedral, the Diocese of Virginia also hosts a 96,000 square foot conference center at Shrine Mont. Every year Franciscans look forward to joining our neighbors at St. John's, McLean for an early summer retreat at the conference center.

St. Francis regularly sends representatives to the Region V diocesan meetings and delegates to the Annual Council. St. Francis is hoping to become more involved in diocesan youth opportunities, and sent a youth delegate to Annual Council in 2014.

The Diocese owns and operates six secondary schools and has part ownership and operation of five continuing care retirement facilities. The Diocese enjoys the benefits of the Virginia Theological Seminary, the world's largest Anglican Seminary, as a resource for education.

For more information, visit www.thediocese.net.

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