Congregation plans expansion of St. Paul's Methodist Church

May 17, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Well into its second century, the building shows its age, but the spirit of St. Paul's United Methodist Church has lost none of its vitality.

The congregation of the church, a fixture on Sykesville's Main Street since 1889, is still growing and plans a $600,000 expansion and restoration.

The facade, replicated in wooden miniature churches the congregation is selling for $12.50 as part of its fund-raising efforts, will not change. The interior of the church will undergo extensive renovations.

"Our foundation wall is collapsing, parts of the roof are caving in, and we have to check folklore before we can locate some wiring," the Rev. Roland "Bud" Brown said with a laugh.

The pastor said new wiring might put a stop to "bizarre electrical events" -- such as when the electric organ started playing by itself five minutes into a service.

The state of the building, which holds about 150 people, does not deter worshipers. Each Sunday draws an average of 175 people, many of whom spill over into space on the side of the sanctuary.

"There is an overflow of 20 to 30 people every week," Mr. Brown said. "The overflow area is a poor place to worship, with horrible acoustics."

When the altar is moved to the back wall, which faces Church Street, the seating capacity will expand to 250.

This will be the second time the church has moved its altar. The original sanctuary, at the church's Main Street entrance, was relocated during the church's last major remodeling project 60 years ago, Mr. Brown said.

Steps will be eliminated from the sprawling first floor, which now contains offices, a nursery and the church hall on multiple levels. Although most worshipers will have to climb stairs to reach the main church, the remodeling includes an elevator to help the elderly and disabled.

Mr. Brown, 46, takes no credit for the increase in attendance since he arrived seven years ago.

"The secret of church growth is to put the church where they are building the houses and invite everyone in," he said. "The people of St. Paul's are the reason why it has grown."

They have raised more than half of the $600,000 needed for the proposed renovation. Work can begin as soon as plans win approval from county agencies, church leaders and the congregation.

The first decision the building committee faced was whether the church should move from its "land-locked" location where little expansion room exists.

"We decided it was overwhelmingly important to stay where we are," Mr. Brown said. "Our history is intrinsically linked to Sykesville. We are a vital part of the town."

Plans call for upgrading the electrical and mechanical systems, installing the elevator and handicap-accessible bathrooms, and giving a pitch to the flat, leaky roof.

The architects, Centura Associates of Chambersburg, Pa., have recommended no changes to the front of the building.

"We wanted to preserve as much of the facade as we can," said Mr. Brown, who added that all the stained glass windows, memorials and murals also will be preserved.

Posters with drawings of the renovated building and the logo -- "Remembering our past. Anticipating our future." -- are everywhere in the adjacent classrooms and meeting areas, which church and community organizations use every day and night of the week.

Mr. Brown said he is not surprised that his congregation has pledged $295,000 for the project -- including $2,500 raised by 13 teen-age members of the Youth Group. That money and $100,000 raised previously will allow them to move forward with the project.

"The people here love God and this church," he said. "They want to make sure it is here for future generations."

During the eight-month remodeling, which could begin this fall, St. Paul's may change service times and ask to borrow worship (( space from its sister churches.

Today, Mr. Brown will meet with the United Methodist District Committee, which reviews plans and approves proposed funding. Once he has the committee's approval, he will take the proposal to his congregation. He anticipates full support.

"Everyone is really excited about leaving a heritage into the next century," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.