For 7 1/2 years, the Rev. Michael Hubers and the congregation of Fellowship Baptist Church have had to split their worship between a senior citizens center and a public school.
Soon, they will have a place to call their own.
Yesterday, the 125 members of Fellowship Baptist Church broke ground at the site of their future building in Ferndale. The church is to be built at 1015 Sundown Road in a wooded setting adjacent to Mr. Hubers' home.
"We've had to haul the pulpit back and forth between the school and the senior citizens center," Mr. Hubers said. "We've moved the hymn books back and forth. It's been challenging. But it's been rewarding. We have always maintained the philosophy of having a debt-free church, and God has provided us the opportunity to do this."
In October 1987, church members found 5.72 acres in Ferndale on which to build their new church. The original owner of the land added another 1 1/2 acres and sold the land to the church for $65,000. Church members decided to donate about 3/4 acres to Mr. Hubers and his family to build a home.
"The Lord provided for this opportunity," Mr. Hubers said. "It's his church, it's not mine."
The new church will be an 11,200-square-foot cathedral-style, wood-frame building containing the sanctuary, an educational wing and a fellowship wing.
The church will seat 300, to provide the congregation with room to grow.
"I'm so excited," said church treasurer Bernie Lowry. "I just can't wait to see this building go up."
Mr. Lowry, now a resident of Glen Burnie, was one of the first members of the Fellowship Baptist Church. Up until a year ago, he traveled from his home near Baltimore's Inner Harbor to attend services.
The church is expected to cost $388,000. When the new church opens its doors next Thanksgiving, Mr. Hubers said, it will be paid for.
"All of the funds have come from our members through the Sunday morning offerings," he said. "We have not had one fund-raiser. The church shouldn't have to be financially sustained by the people in the community."
"It amazes me when we come in contact with other pastors and we hear how they're so strapped down with financial burdens," Mr. Lowry added. "They can't help the people out in their churches who need the help. But because we're [building the church] debt-free, we'll be able to continue to help the people who need it the most. It's just a blessing."
A native of Ferndale, Mr. Hubers, 38, left the area to pursue his education in the mid-1970s.
By 1980, he was an assistant pastor at a church in Cleveland.
But in 1984, Mr. Hubers decided to return to his hometown. Within a year, he was heading the Fellowship Baptist Church.
"You couldn't have told me I would be starting my own church," Mr. Hubers said. "It's not something I thought I would be privileged to do."
The church began with 18 members meeting in the Brooklyn Park home of Gary and Lois Makarovich. When membership began to grow, church members began holding Sunday morning service at George Cromwell Elementary School, and weekday services at the Ferndale-Linthicum Senior Center on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.
Services will continue at both sites until the church opens next fall.