One of the Shenandoah Valley's oldest churches is making plans to move out of its Waynesboro home. Bethany Lutheran Church plans a fresh start in Fishersville.
Four years before patriots gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, a group of Lutherans gathered as the Bethany-Trinity Church near Crimora. Over the centuries, the church has worshipped in five different buildings. It has been located in downtown Waynesboro for the past 90 years.
Bethany Lutheran Church pastor Tim Bohlmann said, "This is the only building that many of us know. In the DNA of our congregation, it's the fifth building, and it' simply another stop along the way that we've been able to use for the purposes of our ministry."
The next stop will be now-vacant land along Goose Creek Road in Fishersville. The 13-acre site will give the church plenty of room to grow. That will mean a larger sanctuary, expanded preschool and daycare programs, and perhaps the return of an elementary school - something the church had for 100 years. The Bethany Lutheran Church pastor calls this a leap of faith.
"People will look back and say, wow that was a bold step that those people took in 2012," Bohlmann said. "But it was a good step for the continuation of the work that we call Bethany."
The move will leave chapel, office and classroom space that might be ideal for, perhaps a junior college. Bethany Lutheran Church's next-door neighbor, Fishburne Military School, has been exploring that idea for the past two years.
"I think there's still a lot of support for it," said Fishburne Military School Superintendent Col. Roy Zinser. "A lot of members of the board were supportive, and the army is as well. But as we go through the downsizing of the army and see how that works, it's probably good to put it on the back burner."
There's also no rush on Bethany Lutheran Church's part. They've bought the new land, but don't plan to move for a few more years.
The church says it must wait for utility-relocation projects from Augusta County and the Virginia Department of Transportation before it can break ground on the new home in Fishersville.
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