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AfriGeneas Schools, Organizations, Churches and Institutions Forum

In Franconia, a House Divided

Burned nearly to the ground by an electrical fire three years ago this month, Laurel Grove Baptist Church still stands in ruins. The roof, floor and two walls are gone. The pulpit and a lonely microphone stand forlornly under the sky, looking not onto a sanctuary of pews but into the gaping basement below.

Yet evidence of Laurel Grove's intimate scale remains. With its hand-painted sign, lancet windows and modest, white-clapboard profile, the church looks like it would be more at home in the rural South than in front of an office park in the Springfield Mixing Bowl's shadow.

That scale has attracted worshipers from across the region: government employees and retired military officers yearning for a sense of community that can prove elusive in transient Washington.

But the church's growth, in turn, has threatened the very character that drew many of its members. And it has cleaved the congregation, separating those who see Laurel Grove changing for the worse from those who think there is only one direction -- forward.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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