WESTMINSTER — Down the lane past the row of apple trees, it looks as if the circushas come to the country.
Similar to the circus, because there's abig tent.
Although there's something for the whole family under this big top, it's home to the Firm Foundation "Rock" Church, not the circus.
The 70-member church is described as a non-denominational Christ-centered family ministry, said the Rev. Tom DiMaggio, the pastor. The church is affiliated with the "Rock" Ministerial Fellowship Family.
The group meets in the spacious yellow, white and green tent on 31 acres it owns. Finding a location is a story in itself, DiMaggio said.
After many disappointing attempts to buy property, DiMaggio and his wife, Marge, said they gave up and "put it in God's hands."
Not long after, Jack Good, a deacon with the church, was coordinating a prayer breakfast and invited George Summers, from whom Good he rented a house.
When Summers learned the church was looking for land, he offered them the ground at an affordable price. Grass, woods, a pond and wildlife complement the serene setting, which extends from Coon Club to Leisters Church Road.
The church's basic teaching is that the Bible is a "way of life, not just to read, but to live," said the 47-year-old DiMaggio, a retired Baltimore County fireman.
Said Marge, "My husband and I had a vision of a ministry of family and marriage reconciliation."
The couple lives in Finksburg.
Among the church's objectives, the pastor said, is to provide a family setting where the congregation can care for and pray and with each other.
The church also wants to provide support services to members whose lives have been shattered by divorce, drugs and alcohol.
Music plays amajor role in the 2 1/2-hour Sunday morning service. Led by Marge, worshipers sing along on songs such as "I Will Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving."
The DiMaggio children also help out with the music. Kevin, 24, Brian, 23, Shawn, 21, and Tom, 18, accompany on electric keyboard, drums, bass guitar, and lead guitar, respectively. Kevin's wife, Ann, and Shawn's wife, Joann, provide backup singing.
At a recent service, DiMaggio recently passed on to listeners "The Secret of Understanding," found in Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . . acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."
Sunday night is family time with songs, videos and refreshments. Bibleor Christian book study and youth activities are offered on Thursdaynights.
DiMaggio, who formerly was men's director at Westminster Assembly of God, said the church first incorporated in 1984 as the Firm Foundation Bible Fellowship with the independent Assemblies of God.
Two years ago, they decided to join forces with an East Coast ministry and are now included in the "Rock" Ministerial Fellowship Family, which is headed by Bishop John Gimenez, of Virginia Beach, Va. About 35 fellowships exist in the United States, Costa Rica and Germany.
For three years, the church members gathered for services at Westminster High School. The next two years, services were conducted in a renovated warehouse on John Street.
The church hopes to replace the 2,000-square-foot tent with a multipurpose building this fall. Intime