The one room Bethel United Methodist Church which during its 126-year span has sheltered Civil War wounded. Boy Scouts, retarded children, politicians, 4-H-ers and congregants of several faiths, has been given a new lease on history.
The church has been rescued by an informal band of preservationists, who raised enough money to move the old frame building last month 500 feet - out of a bulldozer's path.
The church has been located at the intersection of Smoketown and Davis Ford Roads near Dale City. It had been scheduled for demolition by a developer who bought the property, said Tom Nelson, president of the Bethel Historical Society, a group of Woodbridge community residents who undertook to save the old church.
Historical society members banded together, Nelson said, after leaderss of the Bethel congregation decided that they could not afford save the old building, due to heavy debts they were incuring for the construction of a new church. The new Bethel United Methodist Church was recently completed on the property next door to the old one.
Nelson said that his group had received donations from the community totaling about $9,000 - of which $5,400 had been used to move the church to a spot just behind the new church. The church will retain ownership of the old structure, but the historical society will maintain it, he said.
"We hope that this will be an example of an old country church," Nelson said.
Renovation is scheduled to becompleted next spring.
Nelson said that the original pews and altar rail from the church had been located in a church thrift shop, called the Mustard Seed, near Gainesville, Va.
"They're just being used to hold all the clothing and things ther," Nelson said, "and they said we can have the pews back if we put up some shelves for them."
Since the historical society's efforts began, Nelson said, people in the community have come forward with other church memoribilia, including a "chandelier that's been in somebody's barn or something," a broken coal stove, an 1898 Bible and an original communion set. In addition to these donations, members of the community have contributed time and money to restore the church, which had fallen into disrepair, Nelson said.
When it is completed, the basement will house a museum, and the first floor will be revised as meeting and sheltering place for the community.