With 440 members led by four pastors, Carroll's seven black churches don't necessarily constitute a spiritual army.

But the congregations have been working to face the challenge of accomplishing as much as they can with the people power they have.

And the churches have their share of energetic members.

The Rev. Joan Carter serves as a suitable example of how the churches must get the most out of their resources.

The 32-year-old Carter is pastor of three churches: Union Street United Methodist Church in Westminster, Strawbridge United Methodist on Route 31 near New Windsor and Fairview United Methodist on Liberty Road in New Windsor.

Carter's busy Sundays begin at 9 a.m., when she meets Fairview's 30-member congregation before preaching. At 10:15, lay ministers start the service at Strawbridge, while Carter arrives 30 minutes later and addresses the 75 members until about 11:30.

Then, it's on to the 75-member congregation at Union Street. Members begin the service and Carter greets them at the conclusion of her message.

"I finish about one o'clock with preaching," she said. "(However), we're known for afternoon services."

From April until November, there is a joint afternoon program at one of the three churches.

Another example is the Rev. James Hinton, volunteer pastor of Union Memorial Baptist Church on South Center Street in Westminster.

Hinton, who has led the 80 members for three years, said the church was looking for ways to learn more about the needs of the community and to generate ideas about how tomeet them. So the church conducted a Saturday dinner and invited thecommunity.

More than 100 people turned out, said the 64-year-old Hinton, a retired Defense Department supervisor and Reisterstown resident.

"They could voice concerns and express what they are feeling," Hinton said. "Our church is growing, changing, moving ahead, and we're hoping to expand our programs."

Currently, the church conducts a worship service, Sunday school, weekly Bible study and facilitiesfor Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

All three of Carter's churchesare involved with the community youth. The pastor sees the role of youth programs as keeping young people educated about problems such asdrug and alcohol abuse.

"We try to catch them at any level," she said.

Carter helped supervise 18 youths -- ages 7 to 13 -- at Manidokan Methodist Camp near Harper's Ferry.

The church also runs programs to assist senior citizens.

"We try to meet their basic needsof food, care and phone contact," Carter said.

In some cases, referrals are made to various county social service agencies.

Carter is a member of the Union Street church's HOPE board (Housing Ownership Purchase Effort), which assists low-income residents with their efforts to buy homes.

Another pastor tackling multiple duties is theRev. LaReesa Smith, who leads two churches, the 60-member St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sykesville and the 85-member Mount Gregory United Methodist Church in Cooksville, Howard County.

"It's important to gather together for fellowship," she said.

The two groups combine services on special occasions, observe joint Communion once a month and merge Bible studies.

Smith, 40, is following in the footsteps of her father, James, a minister who is pastor of White Rock and Johnsville United Methodist churches near Sykesville. Each church has about 60 members.

"Church is more than a place to worship," the66-year-old pastor said. "Church is the service outside the doors. We try to get into the community to help feed the hungry and clothe the needy."

Methodist churches in Carroll date to the late 1770s, said LaReesa Smith, when Mary Switzer and Jacob Toogood were black members of Robert Strawbridge's first American Methodist class, which first met near New Windsor.

Toogood became one of Strawbridge's preachers. Separate churches for blacks were organized after 1868 in this area.

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