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History of All Saints Episcopal Church - Sharon Chapel,
Fairfax County, Virginia

Two names — "All Saints" and "Sharon Chapel" — are used because we have so much history.  Sharon Chapel was created in 1848 when a small building, the first Sharon Chapel, was erected by Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Frobel for use in the Christian education of people in the area.  The next year, the Frobels, who lived at a nearby farm located on Old Fairfax Road (now Franconia Road) known as Wilton Hall, established a trust and deeded the land, "for the purpose of burial and erecting an edifice to be used and occupied as a Protestant Episcopal Church . . . and for no other purpose."  Among the trustees were the Rector of Christ Church in Alexandria and the Frobels' son, Bushrod W. Frobel.

Portrait of Phillips Brooks

Phillips Brooks

At that time, the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria had begun to send its seminarians into the neighborhoods to do missionary work.  Sharon Chapel was made available to them and thus became the first of twelve missions.  Since then, students from the Seminary ministered to the needs of the people of the area.  The most well-known of the over 170 seminarians who have served at Sharon Chapel were Phillips Brooks, in charge in 1859, who became a famous preacher, and later the Bishop of Massachusetts (also known as the author of the lyrics of  "O Little Town of Bethlehem") and Henry St. George Tucker, in charge in 1897, who was Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church during World War II.

The Seminary closed down during the Civil War and the Frobel land was occupied by the Union Army.  Anne S. Frobel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Frobel, kept a diary during this period; it has been published as The Civil War Diary of Anne S. Frobel: Of Wilton Hill in Virginia.  Some burials were conducted on the chapel grounds but there was no other activity.  The chapel accidentally burned down in 1864.  As soon as the Seminary re-opened in 1866, seminarians directed the construction of a new chapel using lumber salvaged from the nearby Fort Lyon (part of the Civil War defenses of Washington, located near the present-day Huntington Metro station); services resumed at the rebuilt Sharon Chapel, the second Sharon Chapel builing, shortly thereafter.

Third Sharon Chapel Building

Third Sharon Chapel building

Third Sharon Chapel Building

Third Sharon Chapel Building

By 1902, the second chapel building was in such poor condition that it was replaced by a more substantial building. This third chapel, still run by seminarians, was home to the Sharon Chapel congregation until 1952, when the Seminary changed its mission system.  At first, though the chapel remained consecrated and weddings and burials were conducted here, the Diocese ordered the congregation to attend regular services at nearby St. Mark's Episcopal Church.  In 1955, members of Sharon Chapel received permission to hire seminarians to resume services.

After a modest buildup in membership, Sharon Chapel acquired a priest-in-charge, the Reverend Louis Bradford, in 1959. During his tenure membership tripled, and he inspired and completed the construction of  the present church building and office wing without Diocesan financial help.  From that point on, we were a church, first a mission church, then a parish.

By 1974, we had become the parish of All Saints Episcopal Church - Sharon Chapel, and have remained independent of Diocesan assistance ever since.  We have had three priests-in-charge, one of whom became a Rector, and we have had  Rectors since.  We are now a fixture in the community and look forward to a prosperous future.

—Written by Colin Carter

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