Emmaus United Church of Christ (UCC), 900 Maple Avenue East in Vienna, celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 15.
The 50th anniversary ceremony paid tribute to past members and milestones, while also celebrating its present and looking ahead to its future ministry.
The church was founded on May 15, 1966, by the Potomac Association of the UCC.
The Reverend Thomas Cox, its founding pastor, and 66 charter members originally met for worship at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Lewinsville Road in McLean until the Fellowship Hall and the Education Building were completed and dedicated in 1970.
Emmaus' present sanctuary was built and dedicated in 1990.
The congregation's name, Emmaus, was chosen from Luke 24:13, a story in which Jesus appears to two disciples as they walked to the village Emmaus with heavy hearts after his crucifixion. The original members chose the name as symbolic of "the journey ahead, the sharing of the Word through scripture, and the fellowship with the spirit of Christ in communion." Not surprisingly, last year the congregation chose "Many paths, traveling together...Emmaus UCC" as central to its theological identity as a safe place to explore faith and Biblical teachings within a diverse community of believers.
The United Church of Christ, the Protestant denomination to which Emmaus belongs, is a community of Christians with over 5,000 churches and nearly one million members. It carries a rich history of "firsts." The UCC's predecessor, the Congregational Church, supported the first integrated anti-slavery society in the U.S. with multiracial leadership, organized by Lewis Tappan of the Amistad revolt (1846); the first woman to be ordained and to serve a Christian congregation, Rev. Antoinette Brown (1853); the first openly gay person ordained as a minister, Rev. William R. Johnson (1972); first African American leader of a racially integrated mainline church in the U.S., Rev. Joseph H. Evans (1976); the first and only hymn book that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God, The New Century Hymnal (1995); and the first religious organization (UCC's General Synod) to pass a resolution supporting same-gender marriage equality (2005). Central to the UCC's tenets of faith is a belief that "God is still speaking."