Woods Memorial opens new roomy sanctuary

February 28, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

D-Day neared last week at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, and people were happy.

One man leaned from a ladder to dust the cross in the church's new sanctuary, in preparation for Dedication Day this morning. Other church members moved chairs from the old sanctuary into the new 575-seat sanctuary. They moved the grand piano over. They cleaned.

After months of crowding into makeshift rooms, the 2,000-member congregation can finally stretch and enjoy its view.

"It's wonderful!" rejoiced Elsie Wilson, church secretary for 25 years. "I'm just bursting!"

She may be, but not Woods Memorial. The 81-year-old Severna Park church's new building has room for everyone to spread out, and then some.

With the completion of the first of a three-phrase, $6-million project, the Woods congregation can now retrieve the church organ from storage, gather church belongings from rental trailers where they've been stored and again hold classes on its own property, instead of borrowing space from kind neighbors.

The worship space has doubled with a 28,000-square-foot addition. A new educational wing, including space for the day care center and church school, has been constructed in the basement of the new building, permitting both activities to double in size.

For several years, Woods has been forced to hold three Sunday morning services and four on Christmas Eve and Easter, said the Rev. W. Terry Schoener, pastor. The church has been running two Sunday schools, but even with double classes, parents were sometimes told not to bring their children to the early Sunday school. There just wasn't enough space.

"The church has been overcrowded for really the whole 12 years I've been here, particularly the last half-dozen years," the pastor said.

Church officials attribute the increased numbers to a rise in membership, but also a rise in attending members. Mrs. Wilson, who has watched the congregation for more than two decades, says people are simply drawn to the church's loving atmosphere.

"They are very caring. They are totally unselfish with their funds. It's a middle-class and upper-middle-class congregation, but they're totally supportive of the community around them," she xTC says. "We keep very little money here. It goes out."

About two years ago, the church began planning for an extensive 10-year building project. The first phase of the expansion, which cost several million dollars, took just over a year.

The subsequent phases will be short and less expensive, merely a renovation of old spaces, says building director Jim Allen. Phases II and III are loosely scheduled for the next 10 years. If all three phases work out, the 32,400-square-foot church would almost double in size.

The parishioners scurrying to get ready for today's dedication services had one last errand to run last week -- meeting the pastor of Woods' Jamaican sister church, the Rev. Raymond Coke, and his wife, Ruth, at the airport. The couple and four of their church members were flying in to help officiate at the dedication.

When a Presbyterian church is built, part of the financing is delegated for missions beyond the community. Woods delegated part of its $225,000 campaign to rebuild a church orphanage in Jamaica that was destroyed by a hurricane.

Also expected to officiate at today's 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services were the Executive Presbyter of the Baltimore Presbytery, Herb Valentine, and the Associate Presbyter, Ken Byerly.

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