The Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton celebrated its 25th anniversary yesterday with the dedication of five new Sunday school classrooms.
The classrooms and other renovations added 4,000 square feet to the church, which also is used as a neighborhood center for the Boy Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Crofton Association for Retired People.
The Rev. Leonard Dahl, the first pastor, and many of the church's 118 original members recalled the congregation's pioneering days as the first church in the Crofton triangle between Maryland routes 3, 424 and 450.
Pat and Jim Giffen, who helped celebrate the groundbreaking for the sanctuary in 1975, moved to Rehoboth Beach three years ago but were drawn back yesterday by fond memories.
All three of their children were married there, their daughters in a double wedding ceremony.
"It's so much fun to see how the church has progressed," said Pat Giffen, standing in the spacious new corridor connecting the sanctuary to the classroom wing. "It's absolutely beautiful."
Mr. Dahl recalled the initial skepticism of some about the need for a new church. The first residents agreed immediately the community needed a country club, a new elementary school and a civic association, he said.
"Then, you'd say, we need a new church and people said, 'Why do we need that?' " he recalled.
But those were "tragic, turbulent times" -- a period including the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Dahl noted -- and the congregation quickly came together in the fall of 1967 "to offer spontaneous praise to God."
The Rev. Fred Wood, who served the congregation between 1970 and 1981, and the Rev. David Harris, pastor between 1981 and 1982, also joined the celebration.
Taking the pulpit again, Mr. Wood lauded the church for its work since he left to minister to a congregation in Tucson, Ariz.
He singled out the classroom facility, which more closely resembles a public school than a church, for praise.
He said he was pleased they duplicated the clear glass windows that were built into the sanctuary during his tenure.
"You're not cloistering yourselves as some might do," he said.
"This is the world of AIDS and of real problems. There are some that would hide in the church, close the doors to these things. But not here."
Mr. Wood said there's added benefit to the clear glass windows. "I remember you used to joke, not if, but when my sermons are less than scintillating, you could always look out at the pretty leaves and the little squirrels playing outside," he said, tongue-in-cheek.
About 300 people crowded the standing-room-only service, reinforcing the church's need to expand. Until now, the group has held Sunday school classes in a nearby building that had been one of Crofton's original model homes.