Provided by Jane Fullerton Lemons
It’s been nearly a quarter-century since Bishop Lyle Dukes held his first church service in Woodbridge, the beginning of a community-service journey that has led him to helm one of the largest churches in Northern Virginia along with the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.
The church Dukes founded has grown from those early days in 1995 when about a dozen members gathered in the music room at Potomac High School. Harvest Life Changers Church now has more than 8,000 members and is constructing a new state-of-the-art facility.
While Dukes — who shares the ministry with his wife, Pastor Deborah Dukes — came with a mission to establish a church, he also wanted to support the larger community. So two years after arriving, Dukes joined the Chamber as a way to champion the area’s growing business community.
Now that portion of Dukes’s journey has come full circle. After completing the two-year process for onboarding new leaders, Dukes took over in June as chair of the board for the Chamber, the largest in the Washington area. The Chamber bills itself as “the voice for business,” and as its new leader, Dukes will spread the word on behalf of its members and their 70,000 employees.
Meeting the Needs of the Community
Dukes, a graduate of the University of Virginia and former U.S. Army officer, moved with his wife from Washington, where they were sweethearts at Dunbar High School, to Woodbridge, holding that first church service on Jan. 15, 1995. Along with their daughter, Brittany Dukes-Bryant, who is currently the church’s youth director, they generated attendance by handing out flyers and talking with people face-to-face.
“It has always been Harvest Life’s vision to meet the needs of the surrounding community,” Dukes said. “The church joined the Chamber in 1997 with the vision of reaching and meeting the needs of the business community.”
With that larger role in mind, Dukes soon decided it was time to move the church into its own facility — a vacant furniture store on Telegraph Road. Illustrating the business acumen he now brings to the Chamber, Dukes and the church bought the property and renovated it, paying off the $5 million investment in three years. In September 2001, they moved from the high school to the current building.
Having subsequently grown into a megachurch, Harvest Life is planning to move again. The church is currently building a 204,000 square foot facility on Neabsco Mills Road, across from Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge campus.
In addition, Lyle and Deborah Dukes have a television ministry and record spiritual music. They even had an album — “In His Presence” — that peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard charts in 2005.
Harvest Life plays an active role in the Prince William community. “We are a nonprofit business of businesses’ — because we do so many different things,” Dukes said. Volunteers from the church regularly conduct prison ministries, stock food banks, hold community cleanups and host youth mentoring programs. The church serves Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless community and holds annual collections for school supplies, winter coats and Christmas toys.
In addition, the church conducts global outreach projects in Haiti, India and Africa, where it built a 2,000-seat facility in Nakuru, Kenya, that serves as a headquarters for food distribution, pastoral training, counseling and conferences.
“We are engaged in helping to minister to people’s physical, mental and spiritual needs,” Dukes said.
Implementing a New Strategic Plan
It was a similar vision of meeting the needs of the business co munity that initially brought Dukes to the Chamber and eventually landed him on its leadership track. His journey to becoming chair began two years ago when he was selected as chair-elect nominee, following that with a year as chair-elect. Now he’ll serve as year as chair, then spend another year as immediate past chair. Ultimately, it’s a four-year commitment to helping lead the Chamber.
Dukes will be joined by a new board of directors comprised of Chair-elect Kathy Johnson of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, Chair-elect Nominee Gayle Whitlock of Whitlock Wealth Management, Secretary Gary Jones II of The Fauquier Bank, and Treasurer Rick Nishanian of Vanderpool, Frostick
Dukes sees his role as providing leadership for the board and working in partnership with CEO Debbie Jones and her staff. With a mission of creating an environment for business and people to thrive, the Chamber focuses its advocacy and education efforts on business growth, economic development
and community outreach.
Dukes co-chaired, with Immediate Past Chair Betty Dean, a committee that developed a new strategic plan to help the Chamber achieve those goals.
Now Dukes will help implement that plan. “We have an incredible Chamber schedule,” he said, “and for the past year, we have been working on a new strategic plan.”
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce headquarters is located at 9720 Capital Court, Suite 203, in Manassas. It also has offices at 14000 Crown Court, Suite 204, in Woodbridge. For more information, call (703) 368-6600 or go to pwchamber.org.
Jane Fullerton Lemons ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and journalist. A longtime resident of Prince William County, she holds an MFA from Goucher College. Follow her work at
janefullertonlemons.com and on Instagram.