And other [seed ] fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bore fruit a hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
- Luke 8:8
The members of the Providence Baptist Church must have been listening to this Biblical parable in 1952 when they bought 2 1/2 acres of a Northern Virginia apple orchard for $14,000.
Today, the value of the land on which their church sits in the middle of Tysons Corner has increased almost a hundredfold to about $1.2 million by conservative estimates.
Amost since the day the Tysons Corner shopping mall opened, real estate salesmen and developers - at the rate of two a month - have been knocking on the church doors. Until recently, however, the church's 650 members were not listening.
Now they are, and the developers and brokers are expected to become as pletiful as converts at a Billy Graham revival. "I hate to imagine what the competition is going to be like when they decide to sell," said Pauline Thompson of the nearby tysons Realty Corp... "It should be pretty fierce."
But then nothing might make the independent minded Southern Baptists happier. "We'd really like to build a larger sanctuary, kitchen and fellowship hall," said Reese Auchenbach, who heads a committee reviewing possible locations to which the church could move.
Despite the church's occasional problems with vandalism, loitering, petty theft and crowding, especially in its parking lot, the members are not in a hurry to move, no matter how intense the offers.
"We have no plans of going into the hole for a million dollars if we relocate," said Auchenbach, who adds that the best deal would be an offer of new land and a new building in exchange for the old site.
The congregation also wants to stay within a one-mile radius of its present location, fearing that a move farther away might force some members to attend other churches.
The church certainly can afford to be choosy. Five new high-rise office buildings are scheduled to go up in the next year in the area, and Fairfax County's Economic Development Authority says property values will continue to rise dramatically as the area grows. "It is the best retail'commercial office space on the East Coast," boasts one executive of a construction firm based at Tysons Corner.
Both private developers and county officials cite access to roads, relatively cheap office space and a surrounding population with a high per capita income as reasons why Tysons has mushroomed into a booming business location.
Despite the bustling marketplace across the street, which features some of the major retail outlets in Northern Virginia, the flock at Providence Baptist clung to its 2 1/2 acres without a thought of moving until early this year.
Even then it was lack of space to grow on its own small plot, not the Goliath it has for a neighbor, that led the congretation to think about selling.
"We like the visibility we get being in this area," said the Rev. Warren Bolling, the church's pastor. Bolling's congregation has grown used to shooing Saturday shoppers out of the church parking lot when a wedding or funeral is scheduled, and retrieving Sunday school children who decide to sneak over to the Tysons mall to visit their favorite store.
It has long since grown accustomed, too, to its densely developed suburban surroundings. Church member Albert Cox likes to tell the story of the assistant pastor's aunt who overlooked the church when she visited because she did not expect it to be in the middle of such a commercialized area.
"She called her nephew from Hardee's and was totally surprised when he told her to look across the street," Cox said.
Now the church's immediate future depends on what offers come in and what the search committee can find as alternative sites.
"We're going to keep our ears to the ground," said church member Palmer Fletcher, who lives in the Tysons area. "If the right deal comes along we'll take it; if it doesn't, we'll wait. If the banks don't bust like they did in '29 the value of this land is going to keep going up for a long time."
Which leads Margaret Fontana, church secretary for 17 years, to add that she used to laugh when anybody mentioned the name Tysons Corner "because it sounded like some place out in the boonies. Now I only wish that we had bought 100 acres instead of two-and-a-half." CAPTION: Picture 1, Members of Providence Baptist Church are enjoying their position - 2 1/2 acres in the middle of Tysons Corner.; Picture 2, THE REV. WARREN BOLLING..."We like the visibility", By Larry Morris - The Washington Post