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Sunday morning service is first in former St. Timothy's building

The former home of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church is once again being used for religious service.

Sunday marked the first service in the old stone church built in 1844 by Calvary Catonsville, a new nondenominational congregation, that is an offshoot of a church that meets in Laurel.

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The church at 200 Ingleside Ave. hosted its last service for its Episcopal congregation on June 30, 2013.

"The space was open, with the congregation no longer meeting there," said Thomas Neary, pastor of Calvary Catonsville. "We wanted to see if it would work and they were willing — it's a great space."

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Shirley Grimes, 81, a lifelong member of St. Timothy's who moved with the small congregation to St. Mark Catholic Church on Melvin Avenue, where they now hold services as a Catholic Church, was pleased to hear the church is once again being used.

"It would be a crime to let that building sit empty," Grimes said a day after the 10 a.m. service on Sept. 28. "It's a beautiful building and I wish we could have stayed there, but I'm glad to see someone using it."

The Calvary group is small, with 10 families from Catonsville, Elkridge and Baltimore City, Neary said.

They are a "church plant" of Cavalry Chapel Ellicott City and a congregation of the Calvary Chapel, an evangelical association of Christian churches founded in 1965 by Chuck Smith in Southern California.

Smith was known for his leading role in the "Jesus Movement", according to Calvary Chapel information. The church began with 25 members in 1965 and has since grown to a "fellowship" of 1,400 churchs worldwide, the organization's website says.

Neary, 42, is a Baltimore City lawyer who has lived in Catonsville for 15 years with his wife, Jennifer. The couple has four children.

"We're really excited and we really hope that people will come to hear God's word," Jennifer Neary said. "The way that the word of God is taught in this church has been a great blessing for us and I hope that we can share that."

This will be his first time as the leader of a church, although he has years of experience teaching in a children's ministry for Cavalry Ellicott City, he said.

"We just felt the calling to start a new church in Catonsville that does the same thing that Cavalry Chapel in Ellicott City does, which is nondenomination, casual dress, contemporary worship and we teach verse-by-verse through the Bible," Neary said.

Pastor Dan Sexton, who presides over Cavalry Ellicott City, said it is common for members of Cavalry Chapel congregations to start a Bible study group in a town and then start a new church.

"What we do is, we just trust the word of God. As long as Tom continues to teach the word of God, faithfully, week in and week out...I think he will be successful," Sexton said.

Although he attended a Catholic high school growing up in Long Island, New York, he was never interested in religion, Neary said.

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"Before I got to college, I thought that it was ridiculous and that I was smarter than everyone else," said Neary who earned a bachelor's degree in history from what is now Loyola University Maryland and his law degree from Hofstra University in Long Island.

"I got to a point where my life seemed great — I had a good job, great family, nice house," he said. "Everything was going well but still there was something that was unsatisfied."

He was invited to attend Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium — another nondenominational church.

"Initially, I thought — this is weird," Neary said. "But I started listening to the actual gospel that Jesus taught and preached and everything changed."

Later, he heard the Cavalry Chapel on the radio and heard verse-by-verse Bible teaching, which includes stories of the Bible and puts those stories in context, he said.

"It changed my life," he said.

The church will hold Sunday service at 10 a.m. There will be a Bible study through the women's ministry, a boys Bible study group that offers activities like hiking and games and a monthly breakfast event.

"We reach out to anyone, we preach the gospel and teach the Bible," Neary said.

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