Even pragmatic, feet-on-the-ground Arlington has its metaphysical side.
Next time you find yourself speeding down Wilson Boulevard, slow down around Bon Air Park and keep your eye out for the Arlington Metaphysical Chapel.
The modest shingled white structure punctuated by stained glass is the gathering site for what is likely the county’s least doctrinaire flock of worshipers.
When I pulled in this rainy Saturday, its community of nondenominational spiritualists was celebrating “Rainbow Weekend,” a gala featuring a free concert, services, classes and séances marking the 30th year of a local movement that strives to take its enthusiasts beyond the mundane.
“Metaphysics is looking for spiritual truths beyond the physical, and we find them in the all the major religions,” I was told by the Rev. Allyson Jones, one of several current leaders of the congregation of about 120. “It embraces all of the sacred texts. It’s inclusive.”
Arlington’s nod to metaphysical was founded in 1981 in the Military Road home of psychic medium F. Reed Brown, who retired four years ago but is available for consultations. “It was built on the strength of his personality,” Jones says.
The church belongs to a national network of 13 metaphysical churches, including franchises in Takoma Park, Md., and headquarters in Roanoke, Va. Arlington’s boasts a mailing list of 3,000.
Its 105 charter members took over an early-20th century facility built as Bon Air Baptist Church, which by 1949 had morphed into an Odd Fellows Lodge. Entered best from the paved parking lot on its North 8th Road side, the restored chapel is flanked by two out-buildings. One is a “parsonage” with an empty apartment used as an office and for classes, and the other a “school,” though there presently are no children. There is a bookstore and lending library, and a tent outside for the weekend’s book sale.
The lobby of the sanctuary is bedecked with framed charters and signs bearing adages (“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness”). Inside are pews, a portrait of Christ and Hindu-themed windows, an organ and piano used for services, weddings and funerals.
During my visit, I glimpsed a class on Tarot cards and another on readings from the 19th-century study of theosophy. Others involve eclectic offerings such as massage, vedic astrology and healing through colors. Classes during Rainbow Weekend cost $100. “Circles” (séances) go for $25, though Jones stresses that “all member donations are given by free will.” Funds are also raised via yard sales. The garden and fountain are tended by volunteers.
This weekend’s guest speaker was Rev. John Lilek, in from Indiana. He’s billed as a “developed clairvoyant, clairaudient, as well as a trance, transfiguration and materialization medium. His talk, “About Heaven: What Really Happens on the Other Side,” examined “what happens when our physical body shuts down, and the spirit and soul moves on.”
Skeptics, says Jones, don’t interfere. She ascribes the receptivity among locals to the fact that “Arlington is cosmopolitan, with people of all backgrounds.”
Pondering the Metaphysical Chapel before resuming my suburban physical lifestyle, I noted that the church endorses a familiar prayer called Desiderata (“Go placidly amid the noise and haste….”) It was big as a college dorm poster back in the late 1960s.
I recited it as I drove placidly back onto the solid ground of Wilson Blvd.
Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org