ELDERSBURG — Members of Wesley-Freedom United Methodist Church eagerly await the opening of their new home, which will replace their quaint country church beside Liberty Road.
Church members attended a cornerstone-laying ceremony on June 2 and are planning to move into the 350-seat sanctuary in September.
The congregation decided to build the $1.3 million facility last year when membership hit 1,000, and the Sunday School boasted 220 members.
"When I came here, I thought it was just a little church by the side of the road," said Edna Taylor, a six-year member. "I was surprised by how many people attended. We have two ministers now because there are so many people."
The Rev. Perry Miller and the Rev. Marianne Sickles are pastors of the church, which has had two services each Sunday morning to accommodate the approximately 420 families that attend.
At the cornerstone-laying ceremony, a copper box was placed inside the stone with pictures of the church construction, signatures of members, and an 8-by-12-inch quilt made by Taylor and embroidered with the names of the 41 babies born since January 1990.
"They'll be the first new children in the church," said Bonnie Miller, wife of the Rev. Perry Miller. "The church will be their church without(their) remembering any other, and they will be the ones to represent the future."
The cornerstone -- laid at thefront entrance to thechurch -- is engraved with the abbreviation for Ephesians Chapter 2,Verse 20.
The chapter -- written by the Apostle Paul -- says thatregardless of differences, all people can be Christians.
It was chosen to emphasize that the true church is built upon Christ's teachings and consists of people bonded together by love, not bricks and mortar, Miller said.
The new church adjoins the present education building and has a sanctuary and four Sunday School classrooms.
Classes currently are taught in the old education building. In addition to the four classrooms, Sunday School students meet in the kitchen andin the fellowship hall.
"Every inch of space in the Sunday Schoolarea is taken up," said Mary Ann Reese, chairman of the external communications committee. "We're looking forward to the new space."
Each new classroom -- about 600 square feet -- contains two closets and its own bathroom.
"Now, we each will have our own space," Reese said.
The sanctuary -- lighted by some 30 stained-glass windows --will have a glass-enclosed crying room on a balcony, complete with rocking chairs and a quilt showing the handprint of each baby born to the congregation since the new church was planned.
Loudspeakers will enable new mothers to hear the service.
"Now mothers have to take their child to the nursery in the education center and walk acrossto the church," said Reese. "We're real excited that mothers can nowcome to church and participate and bring the baby."
A large, round stained-glass window -- created by Art Glass Crafters Inc. of Monkton -- will depict a Christ figure, said Dorothy Jones, church secretary.
The smaller windows, about 15 feet off the floor across the back of the sanctuary, will have abstract designs in all the colors of the rainbow, she said.
"The decision (for the window design) was made through many hours of discussion, presentation and compromise," Jones said.
Outside the sanctuary, members plan to display the workof local artists, many of whom are members of the church.
Church history will be displayed in the form of a quilt. The wall-hanging --comprised of 30 blocks, each a foot square -- portrays the differentplaces that church members have met since the congregation formed in1780.
Former church pastors and religious symbols will surround the Methodist symbol of a cross with a flame. The church's name will be at the top and Eldersburg, Md., at the bottom.
Church members are sewing the squares.
"The idea was the Rev. Perry Miller's," saidTaylor, who is designing the quilt. "I had been involved with another church that had made a quilt for the bicentennial year, and I brought it up to one of our spring bazaars.
"Reverend Miller saw it andsaid, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have a quilt with the history of the church on it?' "
Members are not sure how the old building will be used.
"The sanctuary will remain as is," said Jones, adding that it will be used for weddings or overflow seating. "We'll use the rest for classrooms or offices as the need arises. We'll have a clearer picture after we're done filling the new facility."