Woodlawn Baptist Church, part of Woodlawn Estate gifted to Nellie Custis (George Washington’s adopted daughter), history begins in 1850 when John and Rachel Mason, both Baptists, purchased Woodlawn Mansion. Nine years later, the Masons founded a Sunday school that met at Woodlawn Plantation. In 1868 while meeting at Woodlawn Plantation, Woodlawn Baptist Church was constituted and received into the Potomac Association of Southern Baptists. Members during this period probably met in Woodlawn Mansion’s parlor while waiting for God to provide the first sanctuary. The Masons’ son, Otis, gave a portion of his estate in 1872 for building a “meeting house.” From 1872 to 1876, Otis preached until Reverend Samuel Chapman, a member of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry who was known as Mosby’s Fighting Parson, was called as the pastor. Chapman served as the pastor from 1876 to 1878.
From 1876 to through 1940s, Woodlawn Baptist Church grew as the Mount Vernon and Fort Belvoir area developed. The building was expanded to include a basement, belfry, education building with a baptistery. The church membership blossomed from 1943 to the late 1960s. By 1969, the church membership was 394. Due to this growth, in 1962 the church body was in need to replace the original meeting house. Woodlawn Baptist Church expanded our property line into Fort Belvoir. Under the leadership of then pastor Roy Whitescarver (served from 1962 to 1970), Woodlawn Baptist Church with generous and gracious assistance of Congressman Joel T. Broyhill, Senator A. Willis Robertson, and Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. House Resolution 11064, An Act to Provide for the Conveyance of Certain Real Property of the United States Situated in the State of Virginia(2), was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 14th, 1964. This allowed the church to purchase three acres of land from the United States Army for around $12,000. Construction for this endeavor began in May 1969 and on December 25, 1969 the church held its first worship service in the Fellowship Hall. In 1996, the church built a new sanctuary that was completed in April 1997. Our church grounds also has a historic cemetery. Click here to read more about the cemetery.
The Pillar Church of Woodlawn Cemetery is considered part of the Woodlawn Historic District in Alexandria, VA and is in the application process of being added to the National Register of Historic Places. The history of the cemetery began in the 1870s, shortly after the original church building was constructed. A site survey conducted in 2012 indicated there are 177 burials. The purpose of the cemetery was to provide a place of rest for those that were unable to afford a grave. Most of the people in the cemetery are extended members of the Mason family and/or at one time members of the church, then known as Woodlawn Baptist Church.
In April 2000, the cemetery was officially closed by the members of Woodlawn Baptist Church. The cemetery is now operated by Pillar Church of Woodlawn and maintained by funds provided through Elta Winstead’s estate.
The Church Today
Since it founding, the church body has been faithful to hearing, learning from God’s Word. Additionally, this local New Testament church has been faithful at spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ through church planting and supporting missions within North America and internationally. Woodlawn has endured transitions within the leadership and membership over these 140 plus years. In late 2008, Woodlawn called Travis Hilton and his family to serve this body and community. During Pastor Travis’ tenure (September 2008 to February 2014), he began revitalizing and reforming Woodlawn to be a brighter and bolder witness for Christ according to the Scriptures. In the summer of 2013, God began pruning the church so that the efforts of revitalization and reformation could continue unhindered.
In the Spring of 2014, Woodlawn Baptist Church Council continued bringing about revitalization and reformation while praying for wisdom to lead the small remnant and extending a witness and ministry to those residing in Ft. Belvoir and the surrounding communities. However, for Woodlawn Baptist Church to continue to extend its witness, it became clear they needed to join the church planting efforts of Pillar Church of Dumfries and The Praetorian Project . In late 2014, the remaining Woodlawn Baptist members voted to disband and turn over church assets to Pillar Church of Dumfriesin order to plant a new church near Ft. Belvoir.
In early 2015 a core team began to assemble and prepare to plant a new church. In September 2015 Pillar Church of Woodlawn began to meet Sunday mornings for worship services. One year later, September 11th 2016, gathered members covenanted together and committed themselves to know Jesus and make him known to Ft. Belvoir, the surrounding community, and around the world.