Friendship being built by volunteers' 'crazy faith' Church's members, another congregation join in construction

July 19, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

It was a "crazy faith" idea.

Men who work as police officers and computer specialists would become construction workers, toiling for months in their spare time to build their Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Glen Burnie.

Yesterday, they put on the makings of a pitched roof -- and the wooden frame skeleton started to look like a church.

As they hammered trusses into place under the hot sun yesterday, the men from Friendship Missionary were joined by members of the Glen Burnie United Methodist Church, which has shared its building with Friendship for five years.

The Friendship congregation has been trying to build its church on the Lincoln Drive site since October 1996 but has been hampered by delays in acquiring the necessary building permits and other government reviews.

In April, Friendship leaders realized that their $385,000 loan would leave them short by more than $100,000 because of unexpected expenses, including the construction of an underground water-filtration system, said the Rev. H. Rick Payne, an assistant minister.

That's when Deacon Maurice Davis came up with what the Rev. Pierre A. German calls a "crazy faith" idea.

The men from Friendship would use their days off and vacations to provide volunteer labor this spring, summer and fall. Since then, the men have put in countless hours each week under the watchful eye of two paid construction managers and a foreman plucked from their own ranks.

The foreman, Alton Jasmine, 51, has spent eight hours a day at the site after putting in eight hours each night as a Department of Defense computer specialist.

The construction knowledge of the husband and father of four was limited to building a shed and doing odd jobs around the house.

"They're one of the most diligent groups I've ever run into," said Kenny Rogers, a construction manager who has built 25 churches.

The 6,800-square-foot building will be the first home for Friendship, which began eight years ago in a rented space in a private school.

The predominantly black congregation started renting space for Sunday services at Glen Burnie United Methodist in 1993.

Coming together

About six months into the arrangement, leaders of the Glen Burnie church asked for a meeting with Friendship's leaders.

"We thought they were going to tell us it was time to go," German said. Instead, "they asked us how things were going and what they could do to better our stay," he said.

Since then, the two congregations have shared more than a stately brick building on Crain Highway in the heart of Glen Burnie.

The men from the two churches attend monthly Methodist prayer breakfasts together and the churches hold services together on Easter and other occasions.

Friendship, a church of 250 members, also has joined the Methodist church, with 980 members, in providing shelter and food for the homeless.

"We don't view it really as two churches; we're all the same in Christ's family," said the Rev. James Lucas, associate pastor of Glen Burnie United Methodist. "We're crossing a lot of barriers. It shows that we have a very large God and that everyone is included in that family."

Work force

Coming out to labor together yesterday was a natural extension of that relationship.

About 10 men and one woman from the Glen Burnie Methodist church and 12 or so men from Friendship put the roof trusses in place, volunteer labor that, with a free crane, saved Friendship about $5,000.

Ron Smalley, a retired National Security Agency manager and member of the Methodist church, said he brought his body and his prayers but not much skill.

"They needed a tape measure, I had a tape measure; when they needed to carry stuff, I carried stuff; I brought a jug of water," said Smalley, 56, standing in what will be the 275-seat sanctuary. "I see a lot of vision in making a building to suit God's work."

With the first service in the new building planned in October, Friendship members are looking forward to morning services, baptisms, christenings and weddings in their own building.

Members of both churches say that though they won't share a building anymore, the two congregations will remain close.

"We won't let that die," German said. "We're going to keep that relationship."

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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