The Rev. Mark Teasdale preached his first sermon at the age of 15 while a member of Mount Oak United Methodist Church in Mitchellville, and has preached a sermon at Mount Oak Church every year since.
"This sermon opened the door for me," Teasdale says. "I knew when I was very young that a pastor was what I wanted to be."
Teasdale has not aged much since. At 26, he is one of the youngest ministers in the conference and is the new pastor at Rockland United Methodist Church in Ellicott City.
A graduate of Prince George's County schools and American University, Teasdale began working as a student pastor at First United Methodist Church in Laurel simultaneously with his entrance into seminary. He was 21. Later, he served the church as interim senior pastor and associate pastor.
"Stanley Bice, the senior pastor, let me preach in the pulpit during my first month there," Teasdale says. "He challenged and mentored me, gave me opportunities. A lot of what I am is due to the people God has placed in my life."
On Sunday, Teasdale will preach in a church that celebrates its centennial this year. In 1900, the Rev. C.E. Redeker organized eight people into Trinity United Evangelical Church of Jonestown. While church members met in homes and the local schoolhouse, they demolished a tottering, vacant log church on an old Methodist church lot and broke ground for a small church early in 1901. Completed in six months, the white-shingle building would be home to the congregation for more than 50 years of expansion and maturation.
The growth in church membership prompted a second building committee to purchase the property in 1960 and build a low brick church, parsonage and natural amphitheater that border the Wilton Acres neighborhood near Route 99 in Ellicott City.
The little white church at 2631 Rogers Ave. was sold that year and is now home to Open Bible Tabernacle Pentecostal Church.
Meanwhile, the church's name changed to Rockland Evangelical United Brethren Church and, with the merger of the Methodist churches, to Rockland United Methodist Church.
The church's longtime members have plenty of experiences to share.
"I married my wife, Dorothy, in the little church 58 years ago," member Earle Boswell says. "Dorothy would help with church dinners, and there were plenty of them, while I served on the Trustees Committee for 20 years.
"We have a lot of those older people still around, very much involved," Boswell says.
Each Sunday morning, Boswell and four other men serve breakfast to church members. They also hold an open breakfast for community members at the church each second and fourth Friday of the month, with educational speakers at the meetings. The receipts for these meals sponsor two children in World Vision and other mission activities.
Cooperation among the generations is a hallmark of the church. Many who have raised their children to adulthood in the church still see them Sunday mornings.
"The older members have so much experience to offer," Teasdale says. "And they have a willing spirit to welcome the younger families in."
While older members form the backbone of the church, new members continue to fill the pews. Four-year member Buddy Oliver brought his young family and his degree in music to Rockland, becoming music director.
"As I became convicted in Christ, I couldn't continue playing my guitar in bars as I had before," Oliver says. "I started learning contemporary Christian music and playing music in church.
"Rockland stands by the Bible as God's word," he says. "God says that the Bible is his measuring stick and people are truly seeking."
To meet the needs of seekers, Oliver and a small contemporary band developed a praise-and-worship service, which differs from the traditional-style service in its music, weekly Holy Communion and spirit-led, or open, prayer times.
"We want to bring everyone into the presence and worship of God," Oliver says.
Intergenerational cooperation provides for a traditional service at 9:30 a.m. and Praise and Worship Service at 11 a.m., on a trial basis.
"My wife, Ana, and I have been so very welcomed here," Teasdale says. "Many things have been godsends."
Rockland United Methodist Church will celebrate its 100th anniversary this fall with a Community Open House for the public, including a cookout, music and games, on Oct. 13; and a Church Family Worship Service, followed by a reunion and dinner, on Oct. 14.