Documentary emphasizes history of Carroll's African-American churches

Jacob deNobel
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

The history of Carroll's historically black churches will be highlighted in Community Media Center's new documentary, "The Rock of Our Ancestors," which will premiere at the Carroll Arts Center on Monday evening, June 19.

The film, initiated by the Rev. Douglas Sands of White Rock Independent Methodist Episcopal Church in Sykesville, details the challenges faced by these small Carroll churches, as they battle an aging congregation and financial pressures, as well as the value they provide in the form of community, faith and history.

During the creation of the documentary, filmmakers visited seven different churches, attended worship services, and spoke with pastors and congregation members, recording hours upon hours of content to be edited down into the 48-minute documentary.

Sands said many of the churches were hesitant to participate in the project at first, fearing an inauthenticity to the interest of the filmmakers. Soon though, Sands said, they were able to convince them of the goals of the documentary to share their stories and help preserve their history.

"The confidence people have in the stability of their churches has increased," Sands said. "We see this as a means to stabilize them and say the churches will be here a while."

One of the main goals of the documentary was to combat feelings of insignificance among the church members, Sands said. These feelings are common among small churches that are combating shrinking congregation sizes.

"Just because congregants are moving to megachurches, that doesn't mean we don't play a role," he said. "Sometimes people don't believe Jesus was being real when he said, 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst.'"

Each of the participating churches has been in existence for at least 100 years, Sands said, with many dating back to the immediate post-Civil War period, founded by freed slaves.

Sands said the Community Media Center did an amazing job in helping put together the documentary. He said they brought an objectivity to the piece, devoid of any agenda or preconceived notions of what they would find.

Aaron Chiusano, operations manager with the CMC, said they worked on the project for more than a year from initial concept to final project. Sands first approached the CMC wanting to create the film himself, but they decided to volunteer their time to help him execute his vision.

"One reason we wanted to do this is it's important to us to document the history of these churches in case they are, God forbid, closed," Chiusano said. "If it's not preserved, it disappears like it never happened, and that's a crime. If we can pretend it never happened, then we've lost these stories, and there's an injustice in that."

Sands said he hopes that people come see the film and simply take away the reality that these churches face. He said the most important aspect of creating the film was letting the participants know that their stories are valued and important.

"I don't want to be a propaganda device to change anyone's mind about the church or the black church," Sands said. "I just want people to be willing to see it. I think it's going to do much more good for the people in it than the people who see it."


If you go

What: "The Rock of Our Ancestors"

When: 7 p.m. Monday, June 19

Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster

Cost: Free

For more information: Registration is required. To register, visit

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