ANNADALE, Va. — When a vandal hit Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale in April with vile messages of intolerance little did we know this property’s remarkable backstory.
Church pastor David Lindsey says, “On the one hand I was shocked and mortified by what had happened and was worried about how am I going to minister to the church and to the community in the midst of this moment. I also wasn’t surprised because we’ve been through this before.”
Every time Pastor Lindsey travels the long driveway to his church he’s reminded of a haunting past. Slaves once worked this land for the Gooding family. In fact, the Gooding’s burial plot resides only a stone’s throw from where the church sits today. And it’s believed some of their slaves are buried nearby.
Nearly 100 years later the church, originally called Congregational Christian Church, broke ground. The present building is nestled several hundred yards off Little River Turnpike.
You may wonder why the church was built so far back in the woods. Well, Pastor Lindsey says realtors refused to sell church founders land along this busy roadway because the congregation was progressive.
“We have very little land out there because frankly no one wanted to see us in those days,” says Pastor Lindsey.
He says they faced threats for being among the first integrated churches in Northern Virginia. They performed inter-racial and same sex weddings before they were legal. They are a congregation with a history of proudly fighting for social justice.
“I felt that I was comfortable and I felt that I was welcome,” says Mildred Shiver.
94-year-old Mildred Shiver believes she and her husband Jube were the church’s first African-American members, joining in 1964.
But Shiver says when they moved to the DC area two years before joining the church she and her husband faced rampant housing discrimination.
Shiver says, “So then my husband decided he’ll go into real estate himself and build his own house.”
Not only did Jube Shiver, who passed away several years ago, build his own home, he built the entire subdivision.
As for Mildred Shiver, she’s relieved that police made an arrest in the recent vandalism that hit her place of worship.
But she also knows, after all she’s been through, that building a just world is a work in progress.
“Oh we have more to work on, definitely, because some of this is still going on,” says Shiver.