History of the Washington New Church

The roots of this congregation go all the way back to 1846 when it was officially called “The Washington Society of the New Jerusalem Church.” By 1908 most of its members had affiliated with a new organization called “The General Church of the New Jerusalem” based in Philadelphia, and services were being held in the District of Columbia in members’ homes. The first visiting pastor to begin regularly serving the group was the Rev. Alfred Acton. That was in 1910. He continued to serve the congregation from Philadelphia until 1952.

Douglas Street Church, Washington, DC

Douglas Street Church, Washington, DC

At that point the church obtained its first resident pastor, the Rev. Dandridge Pendleton, who served here for 6 years and helped to consolidate the group’s resources with a view to owning their own building and property. Mr. Pendleton was followed by the Rev. Frederick Schnarr, who led the congregation through an unprecedented era of growth and development. In 1959 they purchased a church at 2800 Douglas St. NE in the District where they continued to worship until December, 1964. Then, realizing that the potential for further development there was limited, they bought approximately 10 acres of land at our present location and began to plan a new building with the vision of a distinctive church community surrounding it. This building, including the present sanctuary and original classrooms, was dedicated in November, 1965 (when most of the surrounding area was farmland and you could still ride a bicycle down the middle of Enterprise Rd.)

Between 1965 and 1968, with the help of generous church friends, nearly 28 more acres of land were purchased including two houses adjacent to the church. And in January, 1972 another 57 acres were added to the development so that altogether approximately 100 acres was dedicated to the church community project.

Rev. Schnarr stayed until the summer of 1977, when he was called to other work, but during his time not only was the church community established but the school began to grow and flourish. Since that time there have been four other pastors, now including Rev. Gladish, and a succession of assistant pastors, many of whom had their first assignments and early mentoring in the ministry here.

Present (official) membership of the congregation is about 100 adults, of whom 39 live in the community. But only a small portion of the land has been developed so far, and a new subdivision is in the works now, with twelve half acre lots ready for immediate sale. Ask to see a large aerial view of the project if you are interested.

Acton Park

Acton Park Nature Trail

Acton Park Nature Trail

The land mentioned above that was purchased for use by the congregation provides a lovely buffer from the onslaught of development in the area.  The congregation and especially the Washington New Church School enjoy the wooded acreage complete with a network of nature trails that is home to many species of birds and animals including hawks, eagles, foxes, beaver and of course the local white-tailed deer.

In order to do the community development described above it was necessary for the church members to establish a separate legal entity to conduct the required business. This was done in May of 1964 with the incorporation of Acton Park, named for the Rev. Alfred Acton mentioned above. It is this corporation that is currently offering new lots for sale.

Any member of the Washington New Church is eligible to become a member of the AP Corporation and to serve on its board of directors. The pastor is, ex officio, president, and a copy of the bylaws is available from him or from the church secretary. However you do not need to join the corporation to purchase a lot or own a home in the community.


The Washington New Church would be happy to welcome you to one of its worship services or other religious or academic programs.