Honoring Elizabeth "Lib" Cain

This Sunday, we will be honoring Lib Cain who, along with her Husband, were instrumental in establishing the St. Anne's community. Throughout her life she has dedicated herself to the service of the church and has gathered community wherever she finds herself. Recognizing needs in the community she helped found Damascus Help (which still exists today) and Widening Horizons which provided much needed social programming for seniors. Widening Horizons was absorbed into the Damascus Senior Center. Today she continues to gather community at her residence, bringing others to the knowledge of Christ.

Blessings to you Lib!

In honor of Lib and her husband, Herbert Cain, we are posting this early history of St. Anne's Episcopal Church.


St. Anne's has the distinction of being the only church in the Diocese of Washington which started on its own initiative rather than as a mission project of the diocese or an older church — "spontaneous combustion" as Bishop Creighton called it.

In the late fifties Episcopalians in the Damascus area had the choice of attending another denomination or of going to another town.  Many made the weekly trek, going as far as Laytonsville, Gaithersburg, Olney or Frederick.  But the number choosing to leave the church rather than the community grew steadily; and the opportunities for them to do so began to multiply as other denominations started local churches. The time to start an Episcopal mission had come, concluded some local Episcopalians.

And so one of them, Herbert Cain, went to Bishop Creighton, then Coadjutor and in charge of missions.  But, since the diocese regarded Damascus as a prospect far in the future, Bishop Creighton gently suggested that perhaps he should go back and find out how many Episcopalians actually were in the area.  For several weeks he rang doorbells, starting with known Episcopalians but learning of others at every visit.  It was an exhilarating experience as people became excited at the prospect of a local mission.  After a few weeks the telephone started ringing as those already called on began clamoring for the start of services.

Bishop Creighton welcomed the report and asked Rev. Alfred Burns, Chairman of the Department of Missions, to come out to advise us how to start.  A group was hastily formed to meet with him composed of one person from each of the neighboring churches being attended by Damascus Episcopalians.  A plan of action was drawn up, beginning with an organizational meeting to which every know Episcopalian would be invited.  And so on January 25, 1960 twenty-five met at the Eckloffs’ home; also present was Rev. John P. Coleman, Chairman of Mission Development, who from then on would be our diocesan contact and adviser.  Plans were made and committees appointed.  The Damascus Mission was under way.

At about this time Holy Trinity, Collington, placed a notice in the diocesan paper offering their old altar to any interested church inasmuch as a parishioner had given them a new one.  A quick phone call reserved it, and shortly after Don Walker and Herb Cain went to Collington in a borrowed pick-up truck to bring it to Don's house.  It was a real find, hand-crafted in colonial days of Solid walnut.  Later it would be moved to Ralph Modlinger's basement, where Ralph lovingly repaired and refinished it.  This is the altar we now use.

This event was the first of a remarkable series of coincidences so numerous and so extraordinary that we became convinced the Holy Spirit was helping.  No sooner did we realize a need but an offer something to meet it would come from somewhere.  Even more impressive, it never failed to happen, and at just the right time.

On February 21, 1960 the first service was held in the music room of the Damascus High School, which was to be home for the next two years, by the Rev. Herbert Lamb, rector of Grace Church, Silver Spring. Being too few in number for official mission status we were for the time being on our own, just a group of Episcopalians meeting independently, and it was up to us to provide for ourselves. Services were held by our two lay-readers, Frank Blood and Herb Cain, the lay-reader-in-charge, with Holy Communion celebrated once a month by whatever priest we could find.  A familiar sight was Pat (F. J.) Eckloff lugging a lectern and "portable" Communion rails from his garage to convert the music room into a church.  The Altar Guild led by Margaret Hough (???) completed the transformation.  The pianist was Lib Cain.  Betty Teal Miller headed the Sunday School, which met in nearby classrooms.

Cur first goal was a membership of fifty communicants to qualify us for official recognition as an established mission.  To achieve this goal and to weld a group of almost total strangers into an effective unit we used several means.  Frequent congregational meetings kept everyone aware and interested and involved.  A coffee hour every Sunday after service, attended and enjoyed by everyone, enabled each to know everyone else and established strong personal ties.  Family parties were held frequently.  An effective tool was the telephone committee, headed by Frances Walker, who also led the hospitality committee providing refreshments for the coffee hour. Most important of all, the focus was kept on God, with the church e means to an end rather than an end in itself, so that there was a strong sense of mission and outreach.  To avoid an in-grown self-centered attitude such activities as fund-raising projects were limited, and at least half the net proceeds from any activity that made money was given outside the church. The building we planned was designed for our activities rather than our comfort, and with a kitchen just large enough for our needs instead of for commercial dinners.  Attention was focused on giving rather than getting.  The result was a spirit, an atmosphere, that made membership a glowing experience and inspired those who came in contact with the mission.

There were many tangible results of this early spirit.  Three community projects were started by members of St. Anne's:  Damascus HELP, providing emergency food, transportation, clothing and furni­ture for anyone needing them; Widening Horizons, the local senior citizens' club; and Meals on Wheels, providing daily meals for the elderly and incapacitated.  Use of the building was given Alcoholics Anonymous, Girl Scouts and other community groups.  Volunteers regularly visited the Marylander Rest Home in Germantown; Hope Goodwin was licensed as a lay-reader to hold weekly services there.

Five months after our start we held our first service of Con­firmation on September 25, 1960.  Bishop Creighton confirmed eight: Amy Gill, Marvin(?) Gill, Nina Lee, Sandra Leizear, Douglas Lindsay, Reid Power, Jeanne Sims and R. W. Sims (who later became a lay-reader and was the first member of St. Anne's to enter the priest­hood) .

Our first service of Baptism was held on January 29, 1961. Dr. Horace Lilley baptized Mary Cain, Anne Lee and Suzanne Leizear.

As membership grew we faced a second goal, a permanent home. By early fall ten and a half acres had been found, priced at $15,500. All Saints, Chevy Chase, had just given the diocese $15,000 for use in mission development.  The diocese pointed out that All Saints had in effect bought the land for us.  It was the beginning of a warm and most helpful relationship as All Saints, led by Dr. Edward Berger, took us under their wing.  In October I960 their vestry came out to look over the situation and promptly voted to give us $40,000, a magnificent gift that when added to diocesan loans and the results of a fund drive among our own members enabled us to erect a first building, costing $91,058.07.  A bronze plaque by the side door commemorates All Saints' help.  For several months they also provided a priest for Communion services, and Dr. Berger and his assistants, Rev. W. A. Opel and Dr. Horace Lilley, became warm and close friends as a result of their monthly visits.  In recognition of his leadership in obtaining All Saints' help for the Damascus Mission, the diocese asked Dr. Berger to name the young church.  Since his birthday was St. Anne's Day, he suggested the name St. Anne's.

At the tender age of ten months we had reached tie required number of communicants and held our formal organizational meeting on January 8, 1961 at the home of the Walter Keel(?). Our first officers were elected:  Senior Warden, Herbert Cain; Junior Warden, F. J. Eckloff; Registrar, Bessie Harris; Chapel Committeemen, the three officers and Polly M. Bennett, Norton Goodwin, Margaret G. Hough, Walter A. Kee, E. Brooke Lee, and R. W. Sims.  The Committee then elected Frank Blood as Treasurer.

In June 1961 Andrew Keady, a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary who had been chosen by Bishop Creighton as our future vicar, was named Lay-Reader-in-Charge of St. Anne's for his senior year. So now we had to add a vicarage to our plans, and the following year built a house on land we purchased on Kingstead Road.

Ground-breaking for our building was held on October 21, 1961 after a busy year of planning and preparation.  To make the money go as far as possible we decided to erect first the parish hall as the most versatile unit of our future plant, planning a real church building later when the size of the congregation would justify it.  The firm of Bagley & Soule had been chosen to design our buildings.  After a year of hard work it was a thrilling day when Bishop Creighton, Dr. Berger and members of St. Anne's turned the first spadefuls of earth.  Our dreams were finally becoming reality, and following the ceremony we repaired to the Goodwin's recreation room for a memorable party in celebration.

By next spring the building was complete, and on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962 it was jammed with members and well-wishers from other churches as Bishop Angus Dun dedicated the building in an impressive ceremony.

In June Andy Keady was ordained Deacon and moved into the new vicarage.  He was with us for the next two years, leaving in August 1964 to become assistant rector of St. Alban's.  Through the diocese's help another vicar was found, Rev. Jack Berlin.

The turmoil of the sixties that afflicted the national church took its toll at St. Anne's.  The political and social activism of the church and its leaders cost the Episcopal Church in America nearly a third of its members.  Many members of St. Anne's left, including some of its original leaders who felt that they could not in good conscience be a part of or support an organization that stood for what the Episcopal Church then stood for, and that withdrawal was the only effective way of opposing its current policies.  Others felt that, they should support the church, whatever its goals and policies, and so they stayed.  Feelings at St. Anne's became strong, partly because the vicar was himself a determined activist.  Active membership reached its lowest point since the start of the mission.

After the vicar left in October 1969 the remaining members kept the mission in operation with Chaplain David E. Nyberg con­ducting services.  After a long search they called Rev. Roy Kephart, who arrived September 1970.  Strongly Anglo-Catholic, he introduced the trappings, beliefs and practices of the high church, slowly at first but with increasing tempo.  Again members left the church, feeling that they had been deprived of the church they had worked hard to start.

Damascus grew in the seventies, and with the influx of popu­lation came new members for St. Anne's.  By dint of much straining we managed to support ourselves financially for a year, petitioned the 1975 Diocesan Convention for "parish status", elected a vestry and officers (rather than a chapel committee) and waited another year for acceptance by the Convention in 1976.  Because St. Bartho­lomew's Church, Laytonsville, within whose parish bounds Damascus is located, refused to yield territory we became an independent church rather than a parish.

Now financial problems pressed.  Despite strong annual can­vasses, special mid-year canvasses and ambitious fund-raising activities, St. Anne's was unable to pay her bills and had to turn to a bank loan to pay overdue bills.  At the same time the vestry was faced with another problem as Sunday School enrolled for a new year with too many children for the room available.  A short-term solution had to be found immediately as well as a long-term one.  A trailer was found to house the current overflow, but plans had to be made for more permanent class-room space.   The advocates of a regular church building seized the opportunity to work instead for that.  Their timing and tactics angered many, and more members left the church.  The fight continued for years until inflation and mounting operational deficits proved the project hopeless at the time (1980).

In September 1979 the Rev. Roy Kephart celebrated his ninth year since his ordination and his ninth year as rector of St. Anne's and left for a vacation, never to return.  In November his resigna­tion was announced by the Senior Warden.  In his absence Br. John Nidecker, a member of the Order of St. Gregory, who had been as­sisting the rector for several months, took over the reins as Admini­strator with Dr. Henry Fukui serving as priest.  A committee was formed to look for a new rector.

Herbert L. Cain July 1980