The world is a crazy place, but some have found peace at Calvary Chapel. Every Sunday since January, pastor Tom Buckingham has taught the Bible verse-for-verse in Rose Hill. The self-described church movement, at 4913 Franconia Road, believes in the inerrancy of the good book, from Genesis to Revelation. Understandably, the spine of Buckingham’s Bible, after years of dedicated use, is now held together by tape.
“I don’t know what I would do without the Bible,” Buckingham said. “Anybody can read it, but we all need to be taught it. What bearing would we have to guide us through this insane world we are living in? The word of God is the only thing that will keep us stable.”
The church was founded in 1992. After moving to multiple locations in the Mount Vernon area, Buckingham’s wife, Tina, found Calvary Chapel’s latest home. Tina Buckingham, who works at Clermont Elementary School, discovered the unused space in the rear of the Howard Gardner School on Franconia Road. Rent is $1,200 for a month-to-month lease.
“Tom is the most amazing man,” Tina said. “Even at home he puts himself last and serves others. He’s just got a gift that way.”
Alexandrian Jeff Hale has been with the church for six years. “The economy is tough and things are rough, but the Lord is taking care of me,” he said. “I basically came from a denominational church that didn’t sit well with me after a while, so I started looking for something else. I like this place because it is a Bible-teaching church. Every word is read and every word is instructed upon. I like the structure better. This week, Pastor Tom read eight verses and explained them. It helps you grow and gets you anchored. It put me more into the Word instead of picking a verse here or there.”
The church service is unstructured compared with most masses. The congregation sings Christian Rock to a CD player, reads from the Bible and then receives the Word from Pastor Tom. “Let’s see. Romans 15. You’re going to love this. It’s about you,” Buckingham told his congregation on a recent Sunday. “Father, open our hearts to the Word this morning. It is a blessing, but also a challenge and it’s going to cost us everything we are in ourselves, plus some more.”
But the Buckingham story was almost cut short. In 1984, Tom fell down three flights of stairs and almost died. “We were living in the Shenandoah Valley area and were praying on whether to leave,” Tina said. “He suffered brain damage and they had to remove a part of his skull. They didn’t expect him to live or how he would live if he pulled through.”
Pastor Tom survived and the couple moved to Mount Vernon in 1986. He graduated from Washington Bible College in 1992. “People need the hope of eternal life so badly and very few have it. When I walk around Alexandria and go into stores, I see a kind of hopelessness, fear and uncertainty in people’s heart that they don’t need to have,” he said. “See, I have such a positive outlook because I put my faith in Christ, and anyone can who does the same. It’s eternal hope.”