Lebanon Presbyterian Sets Out to Plant a New Church in Old Trail

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Dr. Don Hardman

Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Greenwood will purchase a 1.5 acre lot diagonally opposite from the clock tower in Old Trail Village. It intends to build a community hall on it that will serve as a temporary location for services while part of its congregation splits off and grows the first church in the development. A church situated on the circle will follow in time.

Dr. Don Hardman, the pastor at Lebanon for the last 10 years, said, “It’s a God thing to get this lot in Old Trail. It’s not something I expected or looked for. We get everything from the traffic circle back to the woods.” Hardman said the sale will close as soon as the county finishes making a legal description of the parcel.

Hardman said the church has been growing in recent years as new arrivals to the area have started attending the venerable Greenwood church, which was established in 1747 by descendants of Scotland’s illustrious Wallace family who in the 1730s settled at a farm nearby that they named Piedmont.

“We have a lot of new people here,” Hardman said. “We are growing with people from Wintergreen, Waynesboro and Crozet. We’ve prospered in that. And we were looking for relief. It’s backwards from the way you normally plant a church. Life Journey [see the Gazette’s Dec. 2011 issue] is what we call a parachute drop. They come in and develop a church and then they get a building. We have the site first. We voted last summer to buy the lot, to do the whole enchilada. These folks are not rich, but they are doing a splendid job [of supporting the mission.]

“But we have a place. When you have a location you are for real. It’s going to happen. God knew that two years ago. So it’s not backwards.

“We’re raising money. We have some money put away. The Lord blesses us. This is a very generous church in that way.” Lebanon has also supported a new church in Argentina and two new churches in Kenya.

Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Route 250 in Greenwood.

It is very hard to build on to the present church, Hardman explained, because the county regards it as “non-conforming” with surrounding zoning. This means they require it to have deeper setbacks from neighbors and that leaves little room for a larger septic field or building additions. The church was last expanded in the early 1960s when a front vestibule and rear office and classroom wing were added.

The tentative plan for the first building in Old Trail shows it at 120 feet by 75 feet and having two floors, a basement grade and the upper floor large enough to house a full basketball court. That space will have sliding partitions that will allow the space to be divided into thirds. The floor will be one that games can be played on and is safe for street shoes. The building will also have a kitchen, classrooms and an elevator. “We want it finished inside. Not with an exposed ceiling.

“I envision that congregation will be in the building for a while. It’s designed to be a multipurpose building, a place to play games and host birthday parties,” said Hardman. “It’s going to end up being a church for the community even for the people who don’t go there.”

Current sketches show the building would have 58 parking spaces. Hardman said that because the church would need parking mostly on Sunday it expects nearby commercial areas to have available spaces.

Hardman said the church has proposals from a dozen architects and is reviewing them to decide whom to interview to make the final design. The exterior will “fit in with” Old Trail, Hardman said. “It will be brick.” It will also have to pass Architectural Review Board scrutiny.

“I expect it will take five years to complete the building. That gives us time to develop the congregation.

“This congregation is trying to resource another group of people for their community,” explained Hardman. “It’s bold. It’s sort of crazy. It’s crazy love.”

He said that Lebanon presently has about 100 registered members—there are 120 worshippers on a typical Sunday—and he expects 30 to 40 to become the nucleus of the new church. Lebanon members have formed small groups that meet now in Old Trail and  Highlands. Another is expected to organize in Liberty Hall.

He sees youth programming as benefitting from the new location.

Hardman said the church is also interviewing to hire a “planting pastor.” That’s someone who has all the qualifications to be a pastor plus the other “extra talents” it takes to midwife a church. They have a candidate they like who should be available by summer. “We’re not rushing it.”

“I see my role as maintaining this church, the ‘sending body,’ and to help the new pastor.” said Hardman. Before undertaking the project both he and the church board made promises to persevere and not back out on each other.

He said no name has been given to the new church. “We call it the Crozet ministry. It’s for Crozet, not just Old Trail. We’re looking for something to call it. It seems a little presumptive to name it yet.”

Aware that Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville is also looking to start a mission in Crozet, Hardman said, “I don’t think of Trinity as competition. My call is to follow God’s leading and not get distracted by what’s going on on the left and right. These paths could converge in one church. I don’t know where God is going. But I know He’s going. I’m not doing this for me. For me, the reward is in being obedient.

“When a congregation digs down and really sacrificially gives, the rewards that come back, the blessings, are always greater.”