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Laurel's new Uplift Church has millennials in mind

Laurel's new Uplift Church has millennials in mind
Uplift Church will begin meeting for worship on Sept. 14 at Deerfield Run Elementary. From left are church organizer Sharla Hudgens and her daughters Leigha and Faith Hudgens; Van Rawls, executive minister; church minister the Rev. Marquez Ball; Aja Jernigin and her son Daniel Perry; and Sabrena Heyward. (Photo by Nicole Munchel, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Rev. Marquez Ball moved to Laurel more than two years ago and quickly was able to gauge some patterns around him.

"I noticed a tremendous trend of millennials moving to Laurel but they are not connected to a church or any faith tradition," said Ball, who was born in New Orleans. "They are not playing a part in the community."

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So Ball is aiming to change that.

He is the founding pastor of Uplift Church a non-denominational Protestant endeavor that will hold its first service Sept. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at Deerfield Run Elementary School. There will be programs for children from kindergarten to fifth grade.

"The millennial generation has seen a tremendous economic shift [downward] with foreclosures and job loss. I think there is a tremendous need to reach that generation," said Ball, 33, who in his day job is a computer programmer in the defense industry.

The first worship service comes after a direct mail campaign to about 40,000 homes as far north as Route 32 in Howard County and as far south as Powder Mill Road in Beltsville. For the past eight months a group of about 30 people have been working to begin church services, said to Ball, who added Laurel was a good fit.

"It is right at Route 197. It is easy access, it has good parking. We looked at several locations," said Ball.

Ball and church organizers served breakfast to the staff at Deerfield Run as a way to introduce themselves to the community.

Aja Jernigan, 27, met Ball when he was her youth minister at Mount Carmel Baptist in Washington. For the past few months she has been hosting Wednesday night Bible studies at her home in Landover for those who plan to attend the church in Laurel.

"I was totally invested in the idea, in launching a church from the ground up," said Jernigan, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High in Northwest Washington and now attends DeVry University in Arlington, Va. "Laurel is a great location. It is halfway from Baltimore and D.C. It is easy-access."

She said Ball has the right acumen to attract young people via social media. "It is the best way to attract or get the attention of people in our generation," she said. "We are always on our phones."

Ball posts sermons on YouTube and also uses Instagram, Facebook and iTunes to bring his message to a wider audience. Ball said dress can be casual or comfortable at services in Laurel.

Ball acquired his license to preach at the age of 17 at Greater Zionfield Baptist Church in New Orleans in 2000, the youngest licensed minister on staff. After high school he joined the Air Force and moved to what is now Joint Base Andrews in Prince George's County.

Ball was the youth minister from 2000 to 2004 at New Hope Baptist Church in Forestville before coming to Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

As a full-time youth and adult minister at Mount Carmel, he helped gear an evening service toward young adults and college students, many from nearby Howard University.

Ball, who was ordained at Mount Carmel in 2009, has a degree from Maple Springs Baptist Bible College in Capitol Heights and has a graduate degree from Howard University School of Divinity.

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The executive minister of Uplift Church is Van Rawls.

"I believe that Uplift Church will impact lives by helping people to bridge the gap between their problems and their level of spiritual practice," Rawls said in a press release. "People are not necessarily less religious today than they were 20 years ago. They are just looking for different things from their church experience."

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