Elders Baptist Church, at 1216 Liberty Road in Eldersburg, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. To commemorate the milestone, the church is planning a special service from 10:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 2. The service at the church will be immediately followed by a catered lunch at the Sykesville fire hall.
"We've invited a number of people from our church history to be with us at the service," said Rev. Jim Edmonson, pastor of Elders Baptist Church since 1998. "One former pastor, Kenny Heath, will come speak. He was my predecessor. The new director of missions, Rick Hancock, will also speak. He coordinates our local missionary work. And our former music minister, Mitch Camp, will be singing."
Edmonson said the theme for the day and the title of his sermon will be "Looking Back, Looking Forward," and it will be based upon Acts 16:13-15.
"We are not just remembering the history of our church but also doing a little dreaming about what God wants us to be in the future," Edmonson said.
Heath will talk about the history of the church and, Edmonson said, Rick Hancock will give a challenge to the church.
"I have asked [Hancock] to challenge us to get the work [of God] done and follow up with what God wants us to do," Edmonson said.
According to Edmonson, the congregation will head over to the Sykesville fire hall for a members and invited guests-only catered luncheon after the service. Those attending had to RSVP but the free meal is open to the entire congregation.
Dave Heck is on the church's anniversary committee. According to Heck, a small group of church members have been working on anniversary plans for the past year.
"We ordered special shirts for the event with the logo and [the words] '50th anniversary' on the shirt," Heck said.
The humble beginnings of Elder's Baptist Church trace back to Nov. 11, 1959, when Pimlico Baptist Church purchased a 4-acre tract of land at the northeast corner of Liberty and Marriottsville roads for $16,000. The plan was to build a new chapel, but on Jan. 19, 1962, the church sold that property for $40,000 and purchased 4 acres with a house at the current Elders Baptist Church location.
On Sept. 17, 1962, men began digging footers with picks and shovels — the start of the construction of a concrete block building. In January of 1963, Elders Baptist Chapel held a dedication service, leaving behind the status of chapel to be recognized as a full-fledged Baptist church.
"When a new church is started it is called a chapel," Edmonson said. "They are dependent upon the parent church or organization who is sponsoring their start. The parent church is planting or starting the new church."
Elders Baptist Church was sponsored by Pimlico Baptist Church.
On Aug, 1, 1965, a constituting service was held with Rev. Harold A. Hardwick of Pimlico Baptist Church presiding. This brought the new church in as a member of the Central Association, the Baptist Convention of Maryland and the Southern Baptist Convention.
The church grew and, as it did, space grew tight. By 1988, plans were being drawn for a new sanctuary and an educational building with everything under one roof.
Heck said he has been a member since 1982. He said he remembers when ground was broken to build the addition on Aug. 14, 1994.
"That was a big deal," Heck said. "The congregation was excited because we came from such a small beginning. Anytime you go through growth there is added expense, but a lot of prayer time went into this and it all worked out well."
"This was a very small church but it just grew," Heck said with pride. "We prayed on it and voted on expanding and the church membership doubled."
With services at 8:15 and 11 a.m., Heck said you don't always get to see all the members. His family goes to the early service, but others might attend the late service. So the church holds an annual summer picnic at which everyone can get together.
"The church's annual summer picnic is held at Holbrook Hollow Farm [in Reisterstown]," Heck said. "All the members bring a dish to share and we cook on the grill. They have swimming and fishing and a lot of games. Everyone hangs out and talks while the younger kids fish, swim, and play. There is a lot of fellowship. This is a good chance to get together to stay in touch and [share] fellowship with each other."
Heck said the church is involved in many activities.
"We have a group called the Keenagers — age 55 and above — who participate in a number of bus trips, outings and events throughout the year for fun and fellowship," Heck said.
The church also has a youth group that takes trips. The group recently returned from a trip to Ohio.
Heck said the church also has a group of members who participate in missionary trips to Costa Rica and other areas outside the United States.
"The church has had ups and downs," Heck said. "It was broken into a few times, but we got through all of that together ... [People] come to worship God with no false pretenses there. If you don't have expensive clothes to wear, that is fine. Come as you are because God doesn't look at clothing. It's a friendly and loving church."