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Carroll County NAACP honors two traditionally black churches

The Rev. Douglas Sands, of White Rock Independent Episcopal Methodist Church, shows displays an award the NAACP presented to the church on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.
The Rev. Douglas Sands, of White Rock Independent Episcopal Methodist Church, shows displays an award the NAACP presented to the church on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. (Heather Mongilio / Carroll County Times)

Members of the NAACP's Carroll County chapter, county officials and local organizations gathered at Martin's Westminster to celebrate two traditionally black churches in Carroll.

Attendees were treated to a three-course dinner as they honored Strawbridge United Methodist Church and White Rock Independent Episcopal Methodist Church. After dinner, the NAACP presented a plaque to each church in recognition of their roles in the community, according to Jean Lewis, president of the local NAACP chapter.

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The plaque for Strawbridge United Methodist Church congratulates the church on its 100-year anniversary and calls the church "a true blessing to us our community, state, country and the world."

The plaque for White Rock Independent Episcopal Methodist Church honors the church's fight to stay open.

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"Your determination for that the history of our forefathers not be lost, no price was too large. For the church's independent you fought," the plaque's inscription reads.

Lewis said the organization looks to honor churches, people or organizations that give back to the community.

"We look at what somebody has contributed. The body of work they contributed to the community," Lewis said.

For White Rock, the recognition celebrates the church's survival, she said.

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White Rock, at 6300 White Rock Road in Sykesville, has a smaller congregation, and it almost had to close its doors. But the church rallied back and became an independent Episcopal Methodist church, the Rev. Douglas Sands said.

The church is 148 years old, and Sands hopes it will see at least another 148 years, he said.

"We are a small, rural church," said Sands, pastor at White Rock. "Many of our kind are on the brink of extinction."

Sands said he is "overjoyed" to be honored at the Freedom Fund Banquet and he is proud of the work the church does with the NAACP, including a project looking at historically black churches that also involves the Carroll Media Center.

Members of the church also expressed joy at being honored Friday.

"It's a great feeling. It's outstanding," member William Brent said.

Brent said the church's congregation makes the church special.

"The love we feel as a congregation. The love we feel for our pastor. The love we feel for each other," he said when asked about what makes the church special.

Rebekah Opher, a member of White Rock, also said the church's congregation is tight-knit, saying it is a community of its own.

She said being recognized Friday was important given the church's recent struggle and added that it was a blessing the church was able to keep its doors open.

"It makes it feel that the struggle was worth it," she said. "It's nice to be recognized for doing what's right," she said.

Strawbridge United Methodist Church, at 1601 Md. 31 in New Windsor, on Friday was also celebrating recognition of its 100th birthday.

Lewis said Strawbridge was selected because of its role as an NAACP partner as well as its work to help the community. She said the church has a good congregation and it does a lot in the community.

"Well, Strawbridge is such a phenomenal friend for us," Lewis said.

Blango Ross Jr., who calls himself an ambassador for the church, said it's an honor to be recognized by the NAACP.

"It's very exciting. We're honored. And it's really a great milestone," Ross said.

He said the church helps with soup kitchens around the county and often participates in NAACP events, such as the Freedom Fund Banquet and a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

"We're always willing to help anybody in the community, whether they're a member of Strawbridge or not," he said.

Similarly to the members of White Rock, Ross said the people in the congregation make the church unique. He said the congregation is very representative of the county, and many members are residents in Carroll. It's also different because they don't have a set language for prayer or a particular way of giving the sermon.

"I think Strawbridge has a unique way we present the Gospel," he said.

Strawbridge member Arlene Clark said it was a privilege and blessing to be honored at the banquet. She said that in addition to its work with soup kitchens, the church is prepared to help anyone who needs it.

"We're like a church family. We look out for one another," she said.

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