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Dedication services near after 5-year church expansion CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg


As the Rev. Steven R. Fleming walked through the new offices and multipurpose room of First United Presbyterian Church of Westminster, he apologized for the mess and expressed hope that it would be cleaned up by Sunday.

The church is finishing a major expansion and building program, but as of Wednesday the painters were still painting, other workers were laying floor tiles, and church personnel were awaiting new furniture that was expected to arrive yesterday.

Sunday is the first of several dedication services for the new sanctuary, pipe organ and memorial gifts.

"I know I'm impatient," Mr. Fleming said. "We'll spend the summer getting moved in. But except for the weather, we are on schedule. This service was planned six months ago."

After the 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services Sunday, the church will be open for tours from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., when the dedication service begins. Supported by clergy from other area churches and the Presbytery of Baltimore, Mr. Fleming will lead the Ceremony of the Keys and turn the sanctuary over to the 377-member congregation.

Afterward, more tours will be conducted and refreshments will be served.

The $1.42 million project, in the works for five years, gives the growing congregation a real home with room for expansion on its acre site.

"Nobody ever knew there was a church here, because it didn't look like a church," said Charlene Jones, publicity coordinator.

The sanctuary, at least, is in order for Sunday's services. The pews are in place, the Moller pipe organ is installed and hidden behind black screening, seating for the choir is in position, and the altar is ready.

The new church can accommodate 350 people.

Sitting atop a hill on Washington Road, it affords a magnificent view of Westminster and the spire of Baker Memorial Chapel on the Western Maryland College campus. It has a conventional steeple rising to the sky.

Around the walls of the 70-foot-high octagonal sanctuary are 13 stained-glass windows representing the Trinity and scenes from the life of Christ. The windows are the work of Willet Stained Glass Studios Inc. of Philadelphia.

"Each window has a story which is meaningful; it's not just a pretty decoration," Mrs. Jones said. "And these windows were ++ made just for us -- they will not be duplicated."

Off the sanctuary is a "baby cry" room in the back where parents can take fussy youngsters.

The sanctuary also has a sound system for the hearing-impaired, a sound room for videotaping services for broadcast on the community access channel and a $150,000 M. P. Moller organ donated by Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church near Harrisburg, Pa.

A triangular area off the sanctuary houses offices for the pastor and a future associate pastor, restrooms for disabled parishioners, a choir suite, a board and conference room, and an office for volunteers.

"We're trying to get our lay people involved as much as possible in the church," Mr. Fleming said. "In here, they will have access to a work area with phone, desk and typewriter."

Past the existing sanctuary, which is to be expanded into a large fellowship hall with classroom space underneath, is a two-level multipurpose area with a mini-gymnasium to be used for fellowship meetings.

"We more than doubled our space," Mr. Fleming said. "We also created more space for our Christian preschool and kindergarten program, and air-conditioned the rooms for them.

"The multipurpose room has a half-court for basketball and full volleyball court. We have a very active adult volleyball group, so they'll be able to play here now," he said.

Before Total Construction of Ellicott City starting work last August, the church conducted a fund-raising campaign and raised $480,000 in pledges for the project. An additional $130,000 in memorial gifts helped purchase the stained-glass windows, steeple and carpeting for the narthex.

The church got help from local businesses, including a donation of office furniture from Baltimore Life Insurance Co. and additional parking from Pritts Funeral Home and Washington Heights Medical Center Association.

Major items to be completed include the parking lot and landscaping, and furnishing and moving into the new facility. During construction, the church office has been a portable trailer.

In addition to Sunday's sanctuary dedication, a service will be offered at 9:30 a.m. May 30 for gifts and memorials.

Another service will be offered at 9:30 a.m. June 6 for the church's first pipe organ.

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