The historic Christ Episcopal Church, locally known as "Old Brick," will begin a fifth rebirth in its more than 260 years of existence this summer with the construction of a new church complex.
The oldest chapel in the county and the mother church of 12 other county parishes, Old Brick will be linked by an enclosed walkway to a three-building complex with a new 300-seat brick church.
The consecration of the grounds, at the south end of Dobbins Road in Columbia, was performed recently by the Right Rev. A. Theodore Eastman, bishop of the Maryland diocese.
The chapel and its small graveyard beneath towering tulip trees, oaks and evergreens, will go untouched by the construction work.
"We really value that link with the past . . . but things have changed a lot in 200 years," explained Mary Keath, chairwoman of the building committee.
"The church has been my home," said parish elder Helen Ecker, 85, a descendant of "Brick Church John" Dorsey who donated the original 9 acres and creek to the church in 1738.
"It's a beautiful little chapel," agreed the Rev. James Shields, parish rector. It was strained trying to hold overflow crowds at Sunday services, he said.
The new church is designed to reflect the simplicity of Old Brick, in both style and detailing, Keath said, with comparable railings, ceiling beams, a balcony with choir loft, bell tower and an exterior brick finish with white wood trim.
The 5,000-square-foot church, new parking lot, walkways and parish office and school building will cost about $1.25 million.
The new building offers modern accommodations. There will be an entryway for displays and to facilitate food and clothing collections, a larger baptismal font, and a central altar, reflecting the current emphasis on the congregation, Keath said.
A congregation met on the grounds of Old Brick even before 1711. The first chapel was built sometime before 1728, but, following the confusion of the Revolutionary War, fell into disrepair and become a tobacco house. The remaining congregation was served by traveling preachers and met in nearby homes.
In 1809, Old Brick was built atop the huge log underpinnings of the original log church. The chapel had a major renovation in 1909, when the three stained-glass windows were added. In 1958, electricity was installed, and the dark woodwork was painted white.
Old Brick will continue to be used for worship services and meetings, Keath emphasized.
"We love Old Brick and it has a lot of memories for us," Keath said, "But I expect that the new church will come to hold many for us also in a few years."