For many years, the congregation of the Mount Carmel Primitive Baptist Church east of Bel Air has baptized new members in nearby Deer Creek.
But now the parish, worried about pollution in Deer Creek, plans to build an addition for a baptismal for the day they decide to abandon the old ritual of dunking new believers.
Church elders, citing their aversion to secularity, refused to talk to a reporter for this story.
But the church deacon's point of view on the issue can be found in records of their testimony at a zoning hearing about the proposed addition to the church, during which they said they fear there may come a day when Deer Creek is too polluted to be used for outdoor baptisms.
Donald Malcolm, a deacon of the church on Route 22 near Route 543, testified March 6 that "the water quality of Deer Creek is debatable and that access is becoming moredifficult each time the church wishes to baptize," zoning hearing records show.
The church sought and won permission late last month to construct a one-story addition for a baptismal, county records show.
At the hearing, Malcolm said the approval of the variances wouldalleviate concerns about the future of the Deer Creek baptizing site.
But county officials say the church should be able to continue to use Deer Creek for baptisms, as they prefer, for many years.
"Deer Creek is one of the county's less-polluted streams," said Moe Davenport, a county planner. "I wouldn't drink it, but it is stocked withtrout by the Department of Natural Resources and it is capable of maintaining several species of fish, unlike Bynum Run."
The water quality of Deer Creek may improve with time, however, if the land surrounding it is used for residential building instead of agriculture, Davenport said.
"We have a zoning requirement for a 150-foot buffer of undisturbed land that takes effect when the area changes from agricultural to residential use," Davenport said.
"About all of Deer Creek is agricultural zoned and that means there is farm runoff such as manure, sediment, fertilizer and pesticides. So the more residential development increases, the higher the water quality should be."