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Pancakes & Ashes


Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Lenten activity stations, and worship service.

Donations will be accepted to benefit the Youth Summer Mission Trips

Schedule of Activities:

  • 5:30 pm – 7 pm: Pancake Supper, hosted by youth in Fellowship Hall
  • 6 pm – 7 pm: Lent stations, activities, devotions & crafts for all ages to help us focus more fully on following Jesus during the Lenten season
  • 7 pm – 7:30 pm: Worship service, featuring youth band in the Sanctuary

No Need To RSVP
All are welcome!
Please stop by any time during the event – and stay for some or all of the activities!

Child care is available in the Nursery during the event.


What is Shrove or Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras)?  The day before Lent begins is known as Shrove Tuesday.  For those who practice fasting during the season of Lent, all tempting foods are used up in a great feast (eggs, butter, sugar, meat) prior to Ash Wednesday.  In our church, we serve pancakes to remember this tradition.

What is Lent?  Lent is a Christian season 40 days (excluding Sundays) prior to Easter.  Lent is observed in several Christian denominations with a variety of traditions, all with the focus of prayer and preparation for Easter.

What is Ash Wednesday?  Ash Wednesday is the first day of the forty-day Lenten period.  It gets its name from the practice of rubbing ashes on your forehead.  At our service, everyone is invited to come forward to receive the ashes.  One of the pastors will smudge the ashes in a cross on your forehead.  You are invited to participate, but it is NOT required.

How much does this event cost?  Pancakes & Ashes is a free event.  For the Pancake Supper hosted by the Youth Ministry, a free-will donation is accepted.  All donations will go towards Youth Summer Mission Trips.  The Lenten activity stations are also free.

What ages are allowed? All ages are invited and allowed at this event. You are invited to stay for as short and as long as you want. Our church offers childcare for major events, including this one. However, we hope you’ll stay together as a family and enjoy the activities. Children are definitely a welcome part of our church experience.

Is there stuff planned for kids? Yes. In fact, all of our activities are designed to be experienced as a household. We have crafts which can take as little or as much time as you’d like, and plenty to take home with you to finish and enjoy later. Specifically, families will be able to assemble Lenten centerpieces to take home, eat pancakes, play board games, and much more!  The supper is served from 5:30-7:00pm.  The stations are open from 6:00-6:55pm.  The 7:00pm worship service is especially designed for children to understand and participate.

Do I have to be a member of the church to attend? No. This is a chance for us to share with our community a part of our church’s culture. You do not have to be a member to attend.

Do I have to be a Christian to attend? No. This is a chance for us to share with our community a part of our culture. You will not be asked to join the church or proselytized to. We intend this to be a gift given to all, without price or expectation.

Is there food? Yes. We will have a Pancake Supper with pancakes, sausage and juice, free for all. A free-will donation will be accepted to support Youth Summer Mission Trips.

What time should we arrive? You may arrive any time between 5:30pm and 7:00pm.  Please come when you can and stay for any or all of the activities. The Pancake Supper will be served during this time. Craft and activity stations will be open from 6:00-6:55pm. If you visit every station, it should take you about 45 minutes to enjoy.  At 7:00pm there is a 30-minute family worship service featuring the Youth Band.  Part of the service will include a Bible story and the imposition of ashes. 

What is there to do at Pancakes & Ashes? A lot! The main event is a Pancake Supper.  We’ll have a variety of stations for you to visit during your time. Stations include a Lenten centerpiece station where you may make your own candle centerpiece (all contents provided for free), a family board game room, and several other hands-on-activity stations for exploring the practice of fasting during Lent. You can also help us make tissue paper flowers to prepare for Easter.  After 7:00pm, there is a short worship service.

Why is Lent 40 days?  The number 40 is found several times in the Bible– it rained 40 days and nights during the flood, the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying, and was tempted, at the start of His earthly ministry.  The Lenten season mirrors these Biblical stories.

So, why ashes and where do they come from?  Ashes are a symbol of our temporary earthly bodies, which will one day decompose.  Ashes also connect us with the ancient practice of heaping ashes of your head as a sign of your repentance.  Our church tradition is to save the palm branches from Palm Sunday and burn them the following year for Ash Wednesday.  You are invited to participate, NOT required. 

What is fasting?  Fasting is a Biblical principle that we find in both the Old and New Testaments.  The references to fasting in the Bible present a time period of prayer during which one abstained from food.   Often we hear people say, “I’m giving up _____ for Lent.”  Lent is a personal time of self-reflection.  Some choose to fast from a certain food item (ex. coffee or chocolate), while others in the spirit of fasting, choose to restrict their activities (ex. digital fasting).  Fasting is an opportunity for you to get closer to God. It is a means to empty yourself of your desires, opening yourself to God.

Get Thinking about Lent

Will I give something up this year?  What does the Bible say about fasting?  How does fasting work with kids?  This year’s Lenten stations at Pancakes & Ashes focus on fasting.  To get you thinking ahead, check out these resources on fasting, and find ideas of how you can practice Lent with your family this year.

UMC Video about Fasting

UMC: On Lent, prayer and fasting

UMC: What do we believe about fasting?

Focus on Fasting with Kids in Mind

Courage Quest 2019

We’re going to West River UMC Retreat Center on the Chesapeake Bay and are challenging students in 3rd-6th grades and AT LEAST ONE of their parents to explore together what it means to live courageously for Christ.

Saturday, March 23, 12:00 PM –

Sunday, March 24, 3:00 PM

Cost $80 per person includes lodging, 4 meals, & one outdoor challenge activity.


OPENS –  February 4, 2019

CLOSES – March 3, 2019

Register online using the form below

Read more

Valentine’s Day Dinner & Dance

Mark your calendars for Saturday February 16! The United Methodist Men are throwing a Valentine’s party! Gathering at 6:00, Buffet Dinner at 6:15, Dancing 7:00 to 9:00! Our DJ will play a mix of music! Cost is just $20 per person. Couples, single and children over 10 are welcome. Tickets will be on sale in the Gathering Place after each service today, January 27, February 3 and February 10! See Gene Pettit, Ken Bryant, Jerry Tussing, Dan Watkins, Jay Evans, Chuck Smith, or call Chuck at 703-451-3957. PARENTS come have an evening out! Childcare available: Nursery for under age 5 and Candy Crush Fun & Games for ages 4-6th grade.

The Children’s Ministry invites kids ages 4-6th grade to join us for an evening of fun and fellowship on Saturday, February 16, from 6-8:30pm. We’ll have dinner, games, crafts, activities, and treats in the Fireside Room, while parents connect and enjoy dinner & dancing at the Valentine’s Dance in the Fellowship Hall. Nursery will be available for younger children.

Youth Mission Trip Application

mission trip sign up
For over 20 years our Youth Ministry has sent teenagers out each summer to serve their neighbor and put their growing faith into action.

This summer we have not one, not two, but three Mission Trips!

Our 7th and 8th Graders will go to Winchester, Virginia with the Jeremiah Project from July 14-20.

Our 9th-12th Graders get to choose between two trips, both from June 23-29.

1: A Jeremiah Project trip to Jonesville, VA

2: An Appalachian Service Project trip, location to be determined.

Want to learn more? Download our flyer!

Questions? Ask Pastor Drew.

Register Using the Form Below
Registration Closes January 27!

Christmas at St. Stephen’s

Join us on December 23rd for Worship at 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 am and for a Living Nativity from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. 

On Christmas Eve, we will have 3 services:

At 5:00 pm: A Contemporary Service with a Children’s Message

At 7:00 pm: A Moravian Love Feast

At 9:00 pm: A Traditional Service with Candlelight and Communion.

Childcare is available at all three services. 

BBQ Sunday


Beginning immediately after the 9:45 am service and continuing through the early afternoon, please join the church for a BBQ Cookout on the front lawn and in Fellowship Hall. Moon Bounce, Corn Hole, Volleyball, and
a variety of self-directed fun and games for all ages. This is a GREAT Sunday to invite a friend to one of our worship services and then stay for food & fellowship as we kick off the fall season together.


Hypothermia Shelter

Your help is needed: meals, visiting, driving!

St. Stephen’s will be serving as a shelter for 40 to 55 homeless men and women again this year!

Whether you have an hour or several hours to donate, your help is needed and greatly appreciated:

  • Late afternoons and evenings: opening up, hosting, cooking dinner, preparing bag lunches, talking with guests
  • Overnight: serving as a host, fixing coffee, talking
  • Mornings: setting out breakfast, hosting, fixing coffee, cleaning

Breakfast volunteers will be expected to put out breakfast and lunch items, and to clean as necessary.

Evening Volunteers will be expected to assist with putting out snacks, and visiting with our guests.

FACETS staff will be present for all shifts. Email Pastor Drew or Cathy Liverman with any questions.

Your donations are also needed: travel size toiletries; adult socks, underwear, gloves, and hats; $5 McDonalds gift cards.

Click HERE to view and sign up for available times.

5k Videos


Just like athletes training to compete in a race, Christians follow spiritual practices to empower them on the journey of faith.  To raise awareness of St. Stephen’s new Adult Discipleship plan, we’re doing a 5k together as a church on Saturday October 29 at 9:00 am.  We’re doing it at Lake Accotink Park, and you can run, walk, or observe and celebrate.  We will meet at the main pavilion. Watch the videos below for more information, or click the image above to register!


St. Stephen’s 5k from St. Stephens UMC on Vimeo.

St. Stephen’s 5k Part 2 from St. Stephens UMC on Vimeo.

St. Stephen's 5k Part 3 from St. Stephens UMC on Vimeo.

Our Primary Relationship

Our Primary RelationshipOctober 2016MORE

How many vital, active relationships do you have? Setting aside acquaintances and counting those with whom you share a significant connection, what do you come up with? Of those, which are the most vital relationships? Which are the ones you consider crucial? Which are indispensable, enduring, and thoroughly healthy?

If we linger with this exercise long enough, we come to the point of understanding that our relationship with God is our truly primary relationship. It’s the one that can legitimately address our core needs and strengthen us so that we can bring health into our other relationships. If we can gain this vantage point, and work on developing this primary relationship, some other things start to fall into place. Whether it’s how to approach and cope with the looming presidential election, find our place in the new Adult Discipleship Plan at St. Stephen’s, or respond joyfully to our church’s fall stewardship campaign, approaching all things as a dialogue with God makes all the difference.

From October 16 through October 30, we’ll share a sermon series called “Our Primary Relationship” where we’ll take a look at how to identify and nurture this one relationship from which everything else flows. So, bring a friend and join us for worship in October!

#storiesmatter: A Faith Story from Pastor Deborah

This past Summer, we ran a Sermon Series focusing on individual faith stories. As part of that series, we began soliciting faith stories from members and constituents here at St. Stephen’s. Many people think their stories are too small, but often the process of articulating the story will help you to see a larger role God has played in your life, and you never know who may draw comfort or inspiration from reading or hearing your story shared. Pastor Deborah’s story is below.

My witness is that of God’s healing. When I was a 19 year old college student, my back suddenly began to ache. It seemed to me that studying must be causing the pain. A few years later, as I was leaving Duke Divinity School and taking my first pastorate in Virginia, I asked a doctor to look at my back. The pain was severe, even debilitating. I was told I had scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. I saw a physical therapist to learn how to control the pain through exercise. A routine of sit-ups before bed was to become a strong habit of mine. I rarely missed. This regimen became my method of coping with the pain, a way to keep both my back and my perspective strong.

I also began to learn how to abide in Christ. I was realizing the power of God’s love to work wholeness in me and in the people of the church. Basil Pennington was the one who taught me, a monk who traveled the world to teach people how to train their hearts to continually seek God’s Spirit. The practice is an ancient one, called contemplative prayer.

One day after I had entered my forties and was on my fifth pastoral appointment, I asked my doctor about my scoliosis. At the time, I was sitting on the examination table. She replied, “What scoliosis?!” Unbelievably, my spine had become straight! I remember she was as astonished as I was. I knew it was God. It was very hard for me to wrap my mind around it all and I felt deeply humbled that God had worked this healing in me. As I began to accept what had happened, I became aware of the various aspects of God’s good gift. My 23 year struggle with back pain was over and I could now better handle the physical demands of being a pastor. And I was shot through with new faith. In this time I saw my faith grow by leaps and bounds. I realized God was releasing joy in me.

It is a wonderful thing for a pastor to believe in healing. And how does a pastor best have faith in God’s healing? It is when the
pastor knows healing first-hand.

-Reverend Deborah Austin

If you would like to share your story, please email your written copy to Carol Knachel, knachel7[at], or give it to her directly. She is often at the front doors at 11 am on Sunday mornings.


#storiesmatter: A Faith Story from Carol Knachel

This past Summer, we ran a Sermon Series focusing on individual faith stories. As part of that series, we began soliciting faith stories from members and constituents here at St. Stephen’s. Many people think their stories are too small, but often the process of articulating the story will help you to see a larger role God has played in your life, and you never know who may draw comfort or inspiration from reading or hearing your story shared. If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact Carol Knachel, knachel7[at] Her story is below.
Bob went to his Heavenly reward on January 23, 2014. I took his wedding ring from his finger and placed it on a chain around my neck. I planned to wear it until his burial in Arlington on May 13, then on our anniversary, his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the one-year anniversary of his passing. Those day’s came and those days went. The ring remained on the chain around my neck. I felt comfort in slipping it on my finger and I did that often. One day, as I was walking down the hallway toward our living room, I softly prayed, “Dear God, what am I to do with Bob’s ring?” Immediately, I felt drawn about twelve steps ahead to our curio cabinet. This cabinet had been in the same place for over thirty years. I stood there for a few minutes, wondering why I was there. Just a few days before, I had polished the wood, cleaned the glass shelves and mirror, and dusted the treasures displayed there. I looked at each of the shelves. I realized that the top shelf, with Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus, represented Birth. The middle shelf, with a collection of items from our homes and travels, childhood to the present, represented Life. The bottom shelf, with the circle of angels and a recently added crystal cross from one of Bob’s funeral arrangements, represented Eternal Life. In all of these years, I had never thought of it in this way. I looked back at the middle shelf. There, in the far left, front corner, was Bob’s tiny baby ring! I immediately removed the chain and Bob’s ring from my neck and placed them around his baby ring. I felt a tremendous sense of peace and remembered a card I had received at his death. I reread the words:
God knows what you need before you know you need it.
Carol Knachel

Endowment Fund Opportunities

Outright Gift: Make a cash gift or transfer securities or property to the St.Stephen’s Permanent Endowment Fund.

Bequests: Bequests offer an excellent opportunity for you to make a significant gift to the St. Stephen’s Permanent Endowment Fund. You may designate in your will a specific bequest amount or a percentage of your estate.

Life Insurance: Make the Endowment Fund the primary beneficiary or the contingent beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy.

Charitable Remainder Trust: Place money, securities or property in a charitable trust and receive an annual income for life. The donor may designate The Endowment Fund to be the remainder beneficiaries. The donor receives an immediate substantial charitable tax deduction determined by the market value of the assets placed in the trust and the donor’s age at the time of the gift.

Charitable Gift Annuity: A charitable gift annuity can provide a guaranteed income for life and the assurance that the remainder will go to the Endowment Fund. Gift annuity agreements contain standard annuity rates which vary with the donor’s age. A confidential estimate of benefits and tax consequences will be prepared at your request. There are significant tax benefits in a single life or a two-life charitable gift annuity.

Additional information on Endowment Fund Opportunities is available HERE or contact Jim Allison, Chair of the Permanent Endowment Committee (703-323-8132).