NEW WINDSOR — When the Rev. Wayne Gaines heard that the pastor of the Church of God here wanted to move to the Eastern Shore, he jumped at the chance to return to Western Maryland.
Gaines and his wife, Dot -- who had led the parish in Bridgeville, Del. for two years -- were impressed by the area when he was assistant pastor of the Marantha Church of Godin Frederick.
They also had worked with the Williamsport Church of God in Washington County about 10 years ago.
"We always liked this area," he said. "Carroll County is one of the prettiest counties in Maryland."
After the Rev. Ernest Bailey -- former pastor of the New Windsor church -- decided to move to the Eastern Shore and be closer to his family, the Gaines agreed to come here with their 15-year-old daughter, Lynnette.
"(Bailey) got in contact with us, both congregations approved, and we just exchanged churches," Gaines said.
The couple's other daughters -- Beth Cander, 23, and Beverly Despra, 20 -- are both married and living in Cleveland, Tenn.
Beth has graduated and Beverly is attending Lee College, the school where their father received his ministerial training.
Since his November arrival, Gaines hasoffered several ideas to help the congregation of 30 grow.
"With a small congregation, you have a chance to see it grow," he said. "There is a personal satisfaction in that, and I expect to see that happen here."
One suggestion was to change the church's name -- from New Windsor Church of God to Abundant Life Church of God -- reflectingthe way people choose a church, he said.
"More and more people identify with a church name rather than a specific denomination in a specific location," he said. "People will find a church they like and travel to it."
Parishioners agreed and voted to change the name.
Gaines said it was selected from the Book of John, Chapter 10, Verse10, where Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and thatthey might have it more abundantly."
"I like the ring of a specific name for a church," Gaines said.
New services and groups have also been added to the church's worship schedule in Gaines' first six months as pastor.
Evening services -- conducted 7:30 p.m. Friday instead of Sunday -- have been dubbed "Friday Night Alive," with performances from guest Church of God ministers and singers.
"It's justto give an alternate night for evening services," said Gaines. "It'sabout the same attendance as was on Sunday nights, but the people seem to like the change."
Revivals are also being scheduled regularly. The next is on Friday, with the Rev. Alan Greijack of WilliamsportChurch of God as guest speaker.
"This is kind of unique, because he became a Christian while we were pastoring that church 14 years ago," Gaines said. "He has pastored other churches, and now has been called back to the church where he came to the Lord."
Youth activities -- such as Bible studies and bowling parties -- are being initiated by the Gaines' niece and nephew-in-law, April and David Pickerall.
The couple, who just moved to the area from Boonsboro, Washington County, to start the youth ministry, has begun meeting with the church's young people at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays for study.
However, numbersare less important than building a good base for the congregation, said Gaines.
"Basically, you try to get the church on a good foundation, to know the people here and minister to them," he said. "Then you train them to reach out to other families in the community."