Hampstead church expansion stays true to stone NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

January 12, 1993|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer

A congregation that outgrows its church presents "a wonderful dilemma," says the Rev. John Smaligo, pastor of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hampstead.

Built to accommodate about 100 worshipers, St. Mark's looks small and quaint at the north end of Main Street.

But more than 200 people usually attend Sunday services, and more than 450 arrived on Christmas Eve. With more than 120 enrolled for Sunday school, the congregation decided to tackle their problem of space.

After 25 weeks, the church has been expanded and renovated. Skillfully blending the new with the old, the stone edifice was copied and the school building behind it was enlarged. To dedicate the completed work, more than 200 parishioners drove through a snowstorm to herald the event Sunday.

A trumpeter and the choir led the distinctive music that featured cantors Rudy Klima and Mary Smaligo. The choir sang the Brahms anthem, "How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings Fair."

The Rev. Andrea Diegel, assistant to the Bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod, gave the dedication sermon, saying, "This exceeds expectations I had about what you might do. At a time in recession, you took a step forward in faith. The feeling is gratitude. You've given to something we know makes a difference."

Under their feet, and above their heads, the worshipers had lived through 25 weeks of steady change.

"I'm very proud that we kept worshiping here during the construction," said Martha Hyson, chairman of the Finishing Touches Committee. The committee had met weekly since July to make decisions about colors and improvements, "right down to the baseboard," she said.

During the work, the Sunday school held classes in storefronts, a barber shop, a private postal company and the parish house. The

pastor and secretary lost their offices. Senior Bible study became known as "the kitchen class."

"Over at the Big A [a former auto parts store] it would really get noisy," said Chris Winemiller, who teaches Sunday school to fourth-graders. The storefront had housed grades three through six.

Viewing her bright new classroom, Ms. Winemiller said, "I'm looking forward to four walls and only 10 kids."

Architect Centura Associates and Geesaman-Rock, the general contractor, designed the expansion to wrap one side of the church and connect it to the renovated former Sunday school wing. They added a front door for handicapped access, plus an elevator and air conditioning. The social hall was enlarged. The choir gained a practice room, the babies got a nursery, the pastor got a sacristy to prepare communion and the congregation got extra seating for 60 people.

Every room received fresh Dover white paint, new carpet or tile on the floor and new ceilings. Subtle renovations in the sanctuary now permit the choir and acolytes to sit abreast of the altar. The former baby blue sanctuary now gleams in white, with warm red carpet.

St. Mark's congregation began Nov. 11, 1879, with 14 charter members. The first church, built of brick carried by horse and wagon, was completed in 1883.

In 1940, the brick was razed and the church was rebuilt in gray granite quarried in Delta, Pa.

Church member George W. M. Shaffer contributed the stone and expertise. His legacy is remembered on a plaque inside the church as "builder, member, friend."

In the new foyer of the church, one granite wall has been preserved as an interior focal point. "We allowed the stone to show because it was so beautiful," said a young woman who led informal tours after the dedication service.

Adding space to St. Mark's was an issue that gained momentum as more and more homes were built in the Hampstead area in recent years.

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