Parishioners of historic Arlington church search for location for future services after fire

After a fire broke out early Friday morning at Arlington’s Mount Olivet United Methodist, the church is now scrambling on how to proceed with their normal services.

While parishioners were able to hold an impromptu outdoor service on Sunday, they will look toward other options as they repair the damage.

“When you hear ‘church fire,’ you get worried,” said head pastor Rev. Sara Keeling. “There’s no assumption that it was arson.” 

Keeling told WTOP that they assume an electrical fire burned through the church’s office building, leaving a scorched hole in the roof. The office building also saw significant smoke and water damage.

The Arlington County Fire Prevention Office said in a news release that the fire started in the attic space, but the cause remains undetermined. The fire caused $1 million in damages.


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“We’ll be back in the sanctuary and into the preschool buildings as soon as we can. But with air quality and things like that, we just don’t know right now,” said Keeling.

They said outdoor services won’t be an option as it gets colder and rain will likely spoil the forecast. They are seeking outside help.

“We’re going to be working probably with an area church. Walker Chapel is three miles up the road from us,” Keeling told WTOP. “Mount Olivet planted that church in the 1950s and so we have a strong relationship. And so we’re exploring that avenue of being together.”

In the meantime, the Northern Virginia District of the United Methodist Church and Mount Olivet will look to rebuild and repair.

“Praise God for insurance,” joked Michelle Holmes Chaney, the church development coordinator with the Northern Virginia District. “We will work with the church in terms of navigating that whole piece and the construction that needs to come afterward. The district trustees will help any way we possibly can to make that as quick and as smooth of a process as possible.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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