The Early History of Washington Community Fellowship
The WCF story begins in the fall of 1980 when Myron and Esther Augsburger attended a missions conference in Goshen, Indiana that included conversations about a possible church plant in Washington, DC. Myron had just wrapped up 15 years of service as president of Eastern Mennonite College and Seminary in Harrisonburg, VA. Esther was a trained artist and teacher. The Augsburgers were spending the 1980-81 academic year at Princeton Theological Seminary where Myron was a resident scholar.
Upon finishing their term at Princeton, the Augsburgers moved to Washington, DC in early May, 1981 to start a church plant. They were joined a month later by Curt and Judy Ashburn, whom the Augsburgers had known while living in Harrisonburg. Curt, a former high school English teacher, joined Myron on the pastoral team.
A group of worshipers soon began meeting at locations throughout the city including Georgetown Baptist Church and then on Capitol Hill in June 1981. In September, the former Keller Memorial Lutheran Church (built 1891), located at 9th and Maryland Avenue, NE, was purchased. The Sanctuary was used by the city for storage and what later became the Fellowship/Education Annex was initially an anti-drug social service methadone clinic.
The first WCF work day was held on October 3, 1981 and the first Sunday service was held in the building on November 1, 1981. A dedication service was held March 14, 1982.
Forty-eight people signed the Covenant of Membership on March 21, 1983, and were known as the “Founding Members.” The congregation was organized with a Council (later Elders and Deacons) and five Commissions: Fellowship, Missions, Nurture, Stewardship and Worship. The decision was made early on to be “multi-denominational,” as the congregation desired to honor the rich denominational traditions of many of its members and regular attenders.
Myron Augsburger, serving as WCF’s first pastor (for the next 15 years!) interpreted the essence of this fellowship as:
- Walking with the risen Christ as disciples
- Being a community of new creatures in Christ holding each other accountable as disciples, and
- Practicing love as a lifestyle.
Rev. Augsburger often challenged the congregation to explore and live out “the third way.”