Parish has spirituality, dedication

Ministry: The rector of Emmanuel Episcopal sees a $250,000 renovation and other blessings as answers to prayer.

October 27, 2002|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In Luke 1:37, the Bible states "For with God, nothing shall be impossible."

At Emmanuel Episcopal Church on North Main Street in the heart of Bel Air, the Scripture is guiding the congregation as it spreads the Gospel.

Heeding God's word, said the Rev. Paul H. Moser, has resulted in a magnificent blessing for the church: A $250,000 restoration of four buildings at the church's 2-acre site.

"All of the buildings are in need, and we're halfway [to completion]," said Moser, who has served as rector of Emmanuel for 25 years.

Since June, the project has involved refurbishing Emmanuel's tower, which was built in 1896; a cottage built in 1888 that is used for youth activities; and installing air conditioning in the church.

Work on the church tower involves completely gutting it and making architectural additions, Moser said. The tower was extended in 1911, and the bell was added in the mid-1950s.

The Trego House, a Victorian cottage named for former church members, will have its walls restored, along with electrical and other repairs. And the parish house will have its siding painted to complement a labyrinth being built by a Boy Scout troop.

Founded in 1868, the Emmanuel church site is a mixture of early Gothic, Victorian and Georgian styles, accented by lush gardens.

"We try to make this end of Bel Air attractive," Moser said.

Maryan Brieger, who has been a member of the church for nearly 40 years, said she's excited about the renovations that will make Emmanuel even more beautiful.

"It's going to be fabulous," she said.

Before Moser became rector of the church, Brieger said, the congregation had only the main church building for worship.

"He's wonderful. No one could find anyone better," she said.

Moser said God called him to Emmanuel from Trinity Church in Shepherdstown, W.Va., where he served as rector and chaplain at Shepherd College. During his tenure at Emmanuel, the number of parishioners has risen from 400 in 1977, to the present 800.

"It's been difficult," Moser said. "Every four years, we experience a 30 percent turnover."

Although parishioners come and go at Emmanuel, there's no doubting their dedication.

On a typical Sunday morning, more than 200 worshipers participated in the church's three services in a variety of roles, including the early Holy Eucharist, handbell choir and Sunday school. There is also a music ministry.

The Parish Choir rehearses Thursday evenings under the direction of Arlen Clarke and sings every Sunday at the 10 a.m. service, according to the church's Web site, www.emman uel.ang-md.org.

The Children's Choir meets Sunday mornings for rehearsal in the parish hall and is geared to ages 4 to 11. The children perform on a monthly basis.

The Handbell Choir, under the direction of Mark Debelius, practices Sunday mornings for its contribution to Communion music Sundays at 10 a.m.

Emmanuel's youth ministry also promotes activities that are fun and wholesome, including going to movies, having picnics and taking outdoor trips.

Because teens in the area are so active with organized sports and activities, Moser said, the church makes every attempt not to conflict with other schedules.

The church aims to be a support system for the youngsters. The community outside the church's walls has benefited greatly from its outreach ministries. More than 10,000 people listen to the 10 a.m. Sunday broadcast of the Family Eucharist on FM radio station WAMD.

As part of Emmanuel's renovations, a device will be installed in the sanctuary to allow hearing-impaired worshippers to listen to the broadcast, Moser said.

Another outreach ministry of the church is the support of St. Patrick Anglican Parish on the island of Tobago in the West Indies.

Since 1990, the congregation has supported the parish and its two schools, serving 175 children in prekindergarten through sixth grade.

The church has donated various supplies, including books, which now require a library to house them, according to the church's Web site.

For people who want a quiet place for contemplation, Emmanuel keeps its doors open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A community work service program, which is an alternative to incarceration, allows troubled individuals to work with the rector to maintain the church's grounds.

"I try to spend time with [the participants] to [keep] them out of the negative," Moser said.

The church's Warm Place outreach consists of two beds in the Parish House, where homeless people can spend the night.

A food pantry also is available. At Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, food baskets are donated to needy senior citizens.

On any given week, community groups use the church for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, bridge club, Irish step dancing and other activities.

Throughout his years at the church, Moser said, he has been most moved by the "people's focus on prayer."

Ten years ago, Moser's wife suffered a cerebral aneurysm. He said the congregation prayed for her recovery.

Another parishioner who was sick sought prayer from the congregation.

Both of them recovered.

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