An occasional series of reflections from parishioners on Emmanuel Church
I have been an Episcopalian most of my life, and Mike moved over from the Methodist church to join me when we married almost 65 years ago. The Church has always been an important part of our life together and our family. When our oldest child came to UVa in 1978, we discovered a childhood friend who had become a child psychologist was teaching at the Uva Medical School. We also learned that a priest we had known in Austin was on the staff of Christ Church. We returned to Dallas feeling comfortable that surely, they could take care of our daughter.
When, on a lark, we moved to Charlottesville in 2007, I assumed that we would attend Christ Church. However, we ended up at Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick, charmed by the idea of a small historic country church. Also, the parking was much easier! We were very active there for many years, but with time there were a lot of changes that left us feeling less a part of that community. During the Pandemic, when Grace had no services, we ventured out to visit other churches, including Emmanuel, where we were met with such a warm welcome that we soon moved our membership there. Emmanuel is a place of light and life, and we particularly enjoy the young people who provide much energy for the future. If we were a bit younger and lived closer, I’m sure we would be more involved in the activities at Emmanuel, but we cherish our new church home and family and are grateful for time spent with them.
Susan and I moved from Richmond to Ramsay Farm across the street from Emmanuel in late 1999. Several months later Susan was curious about this attractive country church across the street and decided to walk over and check out a Sunday service. I asked, “you sure?” It’s Episcopalian, and the service will sure be different after being at First Presbyterian for 20 active years. We were doing a ton of renovation and I was not ready to address the church subject yet. She went and came back saying she really enjoyed going and that she had met the Rector Chuck Mullaly. Two weeks later she asked me to go. I said “no, I am not a kneeler!” Susan came back and said, “Harry, the service was again really nice and Chuck actually remembered my name. Can you believe it”? I said “good for you”. Three more weeks go by and Susan says that Chuck was moving his office, they needed a pickup truck could I go over with our pick up and help? I said, “oh boy, just what I want to do on a Saturday afternoon,” but I agreed to do it. Susan got the time wrong, I ended up showing up 30 minutes early. I said, what the heck is going on here? I was just about to leave when this guy shows up, and introduces himself as Chuck. So for about 20 minutes it was just him and me chatting away. He actually was a really nice guy, and I stayed and helped a good bit with what turned out to be a move upstairs in Marston-Larue (in July, ugh). I then went home and started thinking. Well, maybe Susan was right, should I actually test out an Episcopalian service, and agree to kneel like everyone else? So I went with her the following Sunday and sure enough, Chuck remembered my name too! SOLD on Emmanuel! 23 years later and still here!
I started school at an Episcopalian School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Every day, we began with chapel. I loved my kindergarten and first grade teachers. Although I went to many other churches over the years, I guess that first church experience stuck with me. In 2012, we were new to Crozet, and I was looking for a church for my family. We went to a few churches in Crozet and in Charlottesville. My family wasn't exactly thrilled about going to church on Sunday mornings. My daughter, particularly, was hyper, and could not sit still anywhere. She made going to church miserable with no babysitting or children's chapel.
I had driven by Emmanuel several times. At first, it looked a little remote, “up there on the hill.” However, I saw the playground and thought that it looked like a lovely place for my children to experience a church community. So, I came to church. The balcony turned out to be the perfect place for my family to attend church. Casey and Angus could move around, look over the balcony, fidget and not bother anyone. They could even leave and go out to the playground. Talk about heavenly!
I joined the church and became a confirmed Episcopalian in 2013. We enjoyed many years at Shrine Mont. Both my kids went to Shrine Mont camp for several years. My son was confirmed at Emmanuel in 2018. While we are never certain of how our children’s faith will grow, I feel that the Emmanuel community, the beauty of the place, and the light that shines in during service are fertile ground for my family’s faith journey. So, we keep coming back. And, you will find Casey in the nursery babysitting on Sunday mornings.
Dan and I visited Emmanuel a few times on holidays when we lived in Washington, DC. Christmas Eve 2017 we were there in another capacity, having moved to Charlottesville the day before from Duke Hospital. It was a major transition for us. I was on heavy doses of immunosuppressant drugs and had to force myself to go to the early service at Emmanuel. The scent of pine boughs, the candles and the lovely voices of the choir there were mesmerizing. God was everywhere, in the service, in the carols and in the warmth of the congregation. Emmanuel and God would help make Charlottesville home.
Dan died of Parkinson’s during Covid in May, 2020. Emmanuel was closed along with all of the other churches. The amazing Emmanuel staff helped us put together a zoom memorial service for him. It was the most beautiful memorial service I have ever witnessed and a wonderful tribute to Dan. Jamie and his family, Catherine and I are forever grateful to Emmanuel.
A year later, with strict Covid rules still in place, I spent some time at UVA hospital. No visitors were permitted at that time, but I had Emmanuel with me in the knit blanket which had been blessed earlier.
What does it mean to me to be a part of Emmanuel Greenwood? Emmanuel is love in action. It is the perfect example of the body of Christ: each person being their authentic self and showing up to love and serve the other members of the body. Emmanuel collectively gives us permission to be ourselves without pretense. This enables us to love freely, without restriction. I had pretty much stopped going to church. I grew up Catholic, but started going to the Episcopal Church with my Daddy when I would come home from college. I took a long break from church (but not from my Divine Source) until I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. I joined the Episcopal Church and raised both of my girls in the church. After they left home, I attended a New Thought Center, in which I found my spiritual home. After I was called back home to Virginia (yes, it was a genuine call: not a “suggestion” it was mandatory, and I heeded!) I found a New Thought Church up here. However, during COVID, I stopped attending and just attended my old Church in Alabama virtually.
Last year, when my Mama died, I moved in with Daddy and this church STEPPED UP! You fed us, our bodies and our hearts. You showed up to physically move my belongings into Daddy’s house. You showered us with love. You embraced me with open hearts and open arms. I thought to myself “Self, even though I don’t believe in the Christian story like I used to, THIS is love in action. This is a congregation I can happily and joyfully be a part of. THIS is what church is supposed to be.” Thank you, Emmanuel family, for creating an environment where ALL are welcomed. It feels warm and inviting. It feels like home and I am very grateful.
Our family has been attending Emmanuel for more than twenty years. At first the beauty and peaceful setting attracted us to visit, but we quickly realized the members of the congregation are the heart of this church. People who are role models to us, people who lead, people eager to help. We remember when the church gathered after 9/11--a time of great fear and uncertainty. The rector gave a powerful sermon, and the congregation came together as one.
Emmanuel has made a great impact with its many service ministries. From the grant distributions of the Endowment Board each year, to the Comfort Shawl Ministry, to the Disciples Kitchen hot meal program, Emmanuel offers countless opportunities to make a difference. Dear to our hearts is the Rockfish Gap Food Pantry (formerly Bread Fund), which is critical for the clients served each month. The past mission trips to Haiti were also inspirational experiences.
We enjoy sitting in the mezzanine level on Sundays – a place of quiet reflection and community. After a busy week, the opportunity to worship and listen to the choir amongst friends is special. We are thankful to be members of the Emmanuel family.
I am a sixth generation Episcopalian and was a member of Christ Church, Charlottesville for many years. Shortly before my retirement, I moved to Nellysford and spent much of the following summer watching a new house being built across the street.
One afternoon, the owners of that new house, Gren and Jeri King, walked over to ask me about the church I attended because they had seen the Episcopal Church emblem on my car. They told me that they were from Northern Virginia and had been attending Emmanuel Greenwood whenever they were in the area and invited me to come with them sometime.
Eventually I went with the Kings to Emmanuel and was struck by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people. I also saw lots of people I knew, such as Bishop Robert Atkinson and his wife Rosemary, Peggy and Perrin Quarles as well as
Nancy Sanderson. It felt like home, so I stayed.
What makes Emmanuel Episcopal unique? I think the key word is opportunity. You can make a bigger ripple in a small pond. You can get to know most of the core supporters of the church quickly. You can find a way to make a difference. In my case it has been helping with scripture readings and administering communion. There is a quick comfort level in listening to a sermon from our minister J.T. Thomas. He has a genuine and sincere interest in each of his parishioners.
There are so many chances to help those less fortunate in the community. It’s the unusual nature of the church sanctuary itself with a dedicated choir leading the way from the balcony. It is a wonderful ten-year-old named Jack making sure each service is filmed for those who can’t make it to church. And then you have the generous nature of those who provide tasty snacks for the after service social in the meeting hall. I love a small vibrant community, and that’s exactly what Emmanuel Episcopal Church is!
How has Emmanuel buried itself so deeply in my heart? The word “simple” comes to mind. I love the simplicity of the clear glass windows that let in the sunlight, the dogwoods, and the oaks in all the seasons. I love the smallish size of the church, the welcome and acceptance that I feel when entering it, and the joy of making music in the choir. I love taking our black lab, Sweet Pea, on Ted Caplow’s Nature Trail so she can play in the waters of Stockton Creek. At this moment we are blessed to have strong leadership from the clergy and vestry. They have looked at the very real need around us and have responded by kicking us into higher gear through Scott House and the joint Crozet Ministries. Strong leadership deserves followers who make it possible to power this higher gear. We all need to familiarize ourselves with Sign Up Genius and fill in where we see gaps. We are regularly attracting new members; we are all responsible for making them feel as welcome as we feel.
There is SO MUCH GOOD in Emmanuel. It takes work and pledges of time and money to keep it that way and to share it.
I have always been proud of the role of women in Emmanuel’s history. It was Nannie Harrison Garrett who made her dream of founding our church come true. Can you imagine the chaos involved in constructing a church while northern raids in both the Piedmont as well as the Shenandoah Valleys raged in 1862-63? The town of Crozet with its railroad prominence has got to have seen action since it was a lifeline of food and supplies to troops in the Shenandoah Valley via the Crozet Tunnel. Two other women, Phyllis and Nancy Langhorne gave the bell tower for the church in 1905 in honor of their mother. Later Nancy became Lady Astor of England and the first female member of Parliament. In 1914 together with their family, they gave the exquisite, simple, balanced, arched, four-sided English country courtyard that encloses the heart of Emmanuel today. To sit in the courtyard is to come as close to the peace that passes all understanding as is humanly possible.