Church looks to rise from its ashes House of Prayer works to rebuild ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

December 30, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

In his Owensville basement, the Rev. William Pinkney III is building a new church from scratch -- a tiny scale model of his dreams.

In the year since fire gutted its building, the House of Prayer No. 1, a small nondenominational black church, has moved several times before settling in a borrowed church.

But the congregation's spirit has not wavered, says Mr. Pinkney. The 75-member congregation has grown in that year of wandering, adding members and reaching out to the community in new ways.

Now, members are planning to rebuild on the original site.

The miniature church complex, a 2-foot model on a plywood plank, shows a parsonage, a parking lot and a main building that would hold 200 members. Mr. Pinkney, 55, figures making the dream a reality will cost at least $300,000.

"Whooooh!" he says. "We sure don't have that money."

But they will, he says.

A year ago, even staying together seemed optimistic for the small congregation.

A self-described mixture of Baptist, Methodist and holiness churches, the congregation in southern Anne Arundel County lost its brick-and-stucco building in August 1991, when faulty wiring caused a two-alarm fire. The church on Sudley Road had not met building codes, so the congregation had not been able to purchase insurance.

No one was hurt in the fire, but nothing was left but the masonry walls. Fifty years of records, the wooden pews, two Hammond organs and a piano were destroyed.The damage was estimated at $75,000. The church had no money for rebuilding and no place to go.

But in the year since, the outpouring of concern from the community and other local churches has not wavered, says Mr. Pinkney and his wife, Izetta.

Neighboring churches gave money and offered help. "People have said, 'Use this, use that. It's no problem.' They've been very supportive," he says.

Still, it was not an easy year. The church first met in a tent on the property, a few yards from the heaps of black, singed bricks. Then it moved to a tiny building behind the church, which had been the original meeting place of the congregation 50 years ago.

Only about 40 people could fit in that space, so the congregation found an unused Episcopal church in Shady Side it could rent from the Diocese of Maryland.

Personal hardship added to the church's burdens. Mrs. Pinkney suffered two heart attacks in the past year, making it difficult for the once-busy woman to walk, cook or even write a letter.

"I feel like another person," she says. "I can't do the things I'm used to doing, and that depresses me. But the church is doing real nicely."

Despite the difficulties, the House of Prayer has added about 20 members to its original 50. It has increased community outreach as well, says Mr. Pinkney, who works at Howard University and receives no salary from the church.

The church has always maintained a "help closet" on the premises, he says. "In church, if someone needs a coat, you go back and get it, and it doesn't cost you a dime. You need food, you get that. We have household items, too."

Last summer, church members started a new program and donated so much food the church didn't know what to do with it.

"Practically every Sunday, we had loads of bread, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, cabbages," says Mr. Pinkney. "We had 50 sacks of potatoes left over. We distributed them to other churches in the area, then took a truck to Annapolis apartment complexes and gave them away. This happened week after week."

The House of Prayer wants to continue and expand work for the needy, and it also would like to buy a used van to transport people who need a ride to church.

But the foremost goal for the congregation and Mr. Pinkney is building a sanctuary. The Episcopal church they are renting on Snug Harbor Road is a "beautiful building," but doesn't have a parking lot, Mr. Pinkney says. The church borrows the lot of a nearby Kiwanis Club, but it has only about 15 spaces, which isn't enough even for the existing congregation.

So church members want to build their own place.

The church received county approval for initial ground testing and hired an architect. Building plans should be completed in early 1993.

"I'm putting this together with my own hands," Mr. Pinkney says of the scale model. "It will look like just what we want; I'm even going to do the landscaping."

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