Church building a $739,000 addition

January 16, 1995|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

For years, St. John Lutheran Church's Sunday school has been overcrowded, offices have been cramped and space for meetings and programs has been tight. But all that will change when an addition to the west side of the church is finished.

By spring, the Linthicum church will have new music and youth rooms, office suites for a bookkeeper, secretary, senior and assistant pastors, a conference room and storage space.

The pastor's old office will be converted into a library and a reading room; other space will be used to create additional room for Sunday school.

"As big as this church is, we were using every available space we had," said the Rev. W. F. R. Gilroy, St. John's pastor for 10 years.

It became obvious by the late 1980s that the congregation needed more space, he said. The members discussed it for several years before accepting a bid in June from C. W. Jackson Construction & Development Co. in Jessup, he said.

Construction began in October. Meanwhile, Sunday and weekday services have continued as usual at the Gothic-style church in the 300 block of W. Maple Road between Medora and Hammonds Ferry roads.

Church members have contributed $100,000 toward the $739,000 cost of the expansion and plan to pay the remainder in six years, said Mr. Gilroy, 47, the fifth pastor in St. John's history.

The church dates from 1919, when it was organized by 29 charter members.

It now has 900 active members and is one of the largest congregations in the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Lutheran church, Mr. Gilroy said.

In 1920, the church moved into a 25-by-41-foot prefabricated building on Hammonds Ferry Road near Maple Road. The small building soon became crowded as church membership grew. In the mid-1940s, unable to afford a contractor, members began putting up their own church.

"It took us three years to build that church. We had a group of about 25 men who had some skills. We had an electrician, a plumber, a couple of carpenters," said Carl W. Folkemer, 78, the pastor at the time.

George Law, a member of the church, acted as the men's building superintendent, showing them how to lay bricks, he recalled.

"It was really a Herculean effort," said Mr. Folkemer, who still lives in Linthicum. "If I had better sense I wouldn't have tried it."

The men worked four evenings a week and every Saturday. Every week night, their wives brought them coffee and doughnuts. On Saturdays, the women brought complete meals, said Mr. Folkemer, who borrowed $20,000 from his father's church, Christ Lutheran, in Baltimore, to help buy building materials.

The project became something of an attraction in the community, with people coming out to watch the men work. Mr. Folkemer estimated 300 people watched from the parking lot as the men put roof trusses on the building.

"It was like a circus," said Mr. Folkemer.

This is the second time St. John's has expanded.

In 1959, the church added an educational wing, lengthened the chancel nave, built a new entrance, added a chapel, an all-purpose room upstairs and three wings downstairs for classrooms.

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