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History of Little River United Church of Christ

Little River UCC, founded in 1955 as the Congregational Christian Church of Fairfax County, met in what was then the Annandale Elementary School until the construction of the present building in 1959. We have benefited from long-serving as well as inspiring and effective leadership – first, for 32 years, by the founding Pastor, the Rev. Hubert S. Beckwith, and since then by the Rev. Dr. Verne Arens, who succeeded him in 1988.

In 1985 the congregation voted to change the name of the church to Little River United Church of Christ to reflect the fact that members came from both traditions that had merged to form the UCC: the Congregational Christian and the Evangelical and Reformed churches.

An Active and Welcoming Church

Little River found its first call to witness in the struggle for racial integration. From its founding, the church has welcomed people of all races and ethnicities. In the 1960s, when the schools were still segregated, Horizons Day Camp in the summer gave children of differing races a chance to learn and play together. In 1963, we hosted and gave support to those who came to the area for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In 1968, church members took supplies to Washington after the assassination of Martin Luther King and the riots that followed.

Consistent with our welcoming tradition, in 2001 we formally declared Little River to be Open and Affirming, explicitly expressing a welcome to people of diverse personal and religious backgrounds – without regard to race, gender, age, physical ability, or sexual orientation.

Serving at Home and Abroad

We serve the community around us in a number of ways – by providing meeting space, by hosting an exercise class for seniors, by giving a home to the Annandale Co-Operative Pre-School, and by First Friday, which brings together children from the church and from the community for an evening of fun and food and entertainment (and free time for their parents) six times a year. Little River also has a long-standing tradition of our members bringing Christmas gifts for needy children in Fairfax County and the District of Columbia to a special “White Gift” worship service in December, where the Christmas story is acted out.

Through a series of missionary relationships since the 1960s, we have learned about other areas of the world and the church’s work abroad. Trips every other year beginning with a visit to Israel and Palestine in 1996 have taken groups of church members and friends to different countries to study aspects of our religious heritage and to learn more about the world.

Active in the Denomination and in the Community

Little River and its members have played active roles in the Potomac Association and the UCC Central Atlantic Conference. Having benefited from the support of an established UCC congregation when it was first formed, Little River has actively supported other UCC new starts in Centreville and Fredericksburg.

Our location in the metropolitan Washington region has meant that we have always provided a religious home meeting the needs of transient professional and government families and people of many nations and cultures. We have sponsored refugee individuals and families getting settled in this area. In recent years, the significant increase of foreign-born people in our surrounding community is providing new opportunities for outreach. The Jubilee Room, opened in 2007, provides a place where students at Northern Virginia Community College from beyond our borders can gather in a welcoming environment to get to know each other and members of our church and to practice their English.

A Continuing Witness

Today our church continues its witness in worship, fellowship, education, justice, freedom, and peace, with an emphasis on thought-provoking individual study and interchange and making our faith real and concrete, in keeping with our guiding words, “welcoming diversity, independent thought, and faithful action.”

Slave History Near Little River UCC

Little River was founded in 1955 by a group of Congregational members interested in establishing a church in Northern Virginia where all races could worship together. With that background, it is interesting that the present church property sits on land once owned by one of the largest slave holding families in Fairfax County prior to and at the time of the Civil War. Read more .

 

Learn more about the history of the United Church of Christ denomination.