Staying in sync with growth

Crownsville church's expansion features additional chapel, open hall, bathrooms

February 18, 2007|By Dan Lamothe | Dan Lamothe,Special to the Sun

When the Rev. Robert S. Loiselle Sr. was called out of retirement in Florida in 2001 to lead St. Paul's Anglican Church, its future was uncertain.

The Crownsville church's finances sat squarely in the red, and its aging congregation numbered 67.

"We weren't getting many young couples, and we needed to try something new," said Loiselle, who served the church in the 1990s as a rector, organist and choir director.

Six years later, the membership is up to 183, and the church ended the year with $50,000 in the bank, according to financial records published in the bulletin.

Front and center in this metamorphosis is the construction of a two-story addition to the chapel, a landmark house of worship that was consecrated in 1865.

The $750,000 expansion will include a new chapel, an open hall for church functions and three new bathrooms. It is designed to complement the existing 1,000-square-foot chapel, which seats about 75 and remains popular for its old-fashioned steeple, bells, hardwood floors and brightly lit brick-and-white interior.

"People had some concern over whether what we were doing was going to change the old chapel," Loiselle said. "We're still going to be providing a historical building that's very functional."

The chapel was built during the Civil War and was originally a small missionary outpost for St. Stephen's Church, an Episcopal church in Crofton. It was built to meet a requirement that there be one Episcopal church every 10 miles, giving the members a closer place to worship.

According to the church's Web site, the chapel contained 16 pitch-pine varnished pews. Four of the rear pews were intended to be the slave gallery.

"Hitching rings could be found on nearby trees for tying the horses," it read.

Betty Royer, the church's senior warden on the vestry, or board, said the "pretty little chapel" is what first drew her to the church 10 years ago.

"It looked like a lovely place to get married. It was so sweet. I just wanted to be a part of it and know about it," she said.

Construction on the addition of two 2,250-square-foot floors is being completed by J.R. Gruver Construction Corp., a Severna Park company that has previously worked on several Anne Arundel County churches, said job superintendent Jim Pierre.

Pierre said the site, on Crownsville Road near General's Highway, has presented several difficulties. First, to build and attach the addition to the chapel, the church had to install sprinklers to the structure at considerable cost. Builders also worried about an 1800s-era cemetery on the grounds, Pierre said.

"When we started digging, we were very aware of hallowed ground being there," said Pierre, who was concerned that bodies may not have been where the markers said they were. "We kept are fingers crossed, and luckily we didn't find anything."

Loiselle said that if all goes well, the addition will be consecrated by June, with services. One service will still be held each Sunday in the old chapel at 8 a.m., with the others at 9:15 and 11 a.m.

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