It is said that faith can move mountains. So, the small congregation of Grace Fellowship Chapel in Westminster should have no trouble building an 80-foot octagonal church.
Faith has helped the congregation grow from the five founding families in 1985 to the current 50 families who make up this nondenominational, Christ-centered church.
When construction on the church began in September, it started a new chapter in Grace Fellowship Chapel's history. With weather permitting, the congregation hopes to celebrate Christmas in its new home.
"Our original goal was to have Christmas Eve services in the church, but right now everything depends on the weather and if we have no other delays," said Pastor Ralf H. Nies.
"If we're not in by Christmas, then early 1995," he said. "Our church members will help with finishing the interior work once the walls are up, to speed the process."
The families who began Grace Fellowship Chapel dreamed of having their own church. The five founding families, from diverse religious backgrounds in search of a Bible- and family-oriented church, decided to start a congregation in 1985.
The group found a pastor and a meeting place and Grace Fellowship Chapel was formed. Two years later, the church bought a 5.5-acre lot on Bell Road.
"When the first pastor left, everything kind of came to a stop, but the property was paid for and the building fund was in place," said Mr. Nies, who has been with the church almost four years.
This year, with plans drawn by the Melvin Arbaugh Architecture Studio, the Black Diamond Construction Co. of Westminster "started pushing dirt around" Sept. 6, the pastor said.
The 80-foot octagon will be divided in two, with half being the sanctuary and the other half used for offices, study and fellowship.
"Our philosophy was to figure the largest size we needed, with movable walls so we could expand as we grow," Mr. Nies said. "We're hoping this will be the major building, and maybe later add an education wing and fellowship hall."
The initial sanctuary will seat 125 to 150. The building will feature a covered entrance, steeple and brick facing on the front and back.
The bulk of the $375,000 cost is being borrowed, with much of the money expected to be donated by church members, Mr. Nies said.
"We feel very confident with the way things have gone -- we expect the congregation to grow, and we're very excited about getting into our own facility and reaching out to the community," he said.
The church is renting office space for Mr. Nies at 63 E. Main St. in Westminster. The congregation has its worship services at East Middle School on Longwell Avenue.
But once the building is complete, the church hopes to draw new people into the congregation, especially from the nearby Greens and Eagle View Estates subdivisions.
"We have a family emphasis -- we believe in society as a whole there's been a breakdown in the family unit and we want to strengthen that," Mr. Nies said.
Besides services that blend contemporary themes and music with traditional hymns, the church offers Sunday school for all ages, youth groups for sixth to eighth grades and ninth to 12th grades, plus other activities and services.
"We try to do as much as possible to meet the different needs of our people," Mr. Nies said.