Sunday, January 11, 2015

One Gas Station Under God, Indivisible

After I wrote about a church with a movie theater underneath it in Zhangzhou, China, a reader in the Washington, D.C., area brought my attention to a building with a similar unconventional mix in the U.S. Instead of a movie theater, though, the "Our Lady of Exxon" church has a gas station underneath it.

"Our Lady of Exxon" -- Arlington Temple Methodist Church, Arlington VA
Photo by mj*laflaca on flickr (original and copyright information)

As The New York Times reported over 20 years ago:
It's a place of worship. It's a gas station. It's Arlington Temple United Methodist Church. Newcomers to Rosslyn, Va., a suburb of Washington, often gawk at the odd structure. But locals breezily refer to it as "Our Lady of Exxon."

The Rev. Jack Sawyer, the church's pastor, doesn't mind at all. "People can call us whatever they want," he says. "We're happy to have them here. We're happy with Exxon too."
A more recent independent report on "this architectural magnificence" indicates the gas station changed from Exxon to Chevron. Whatever the case, according to UMTV, the mix of religion and capitalism was no accident:
This ministry has existed in the middle of the marketplace for more than 30 years. Founder Dr. James Robertson wanted an urban church, but land was expensive. And Dr. Robertson rightly predicted that its value would continue rising.

The Rev. Jean McDonald-Walker: “He said that if we have a gas station underneath the church, the church will never be at a loss for funds. They’ll always have some income, even if there aren’t many members.”
Despite its uniqueness, like the church in Zhangzhou, the church in Rosslyn could be seen as symbolic of broader issues in its country. The environmentally-concerned Christian group who once ran an advertising campaign asking "What would Jesus drive?" to "gas-guzzling Americans" might have some suggestions.

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