The sounds of construction reverberate through the Long Reach Church of God on a daily basis.
The church's pastor, Rev. Robert S. Davis Sr., doesn't mind. He knows a permanent guest is coming: A new $700,000 educational wing for the church at 6080 Foreland Garth.
"I can put up with it," said the pastor of the 20-year-old, 800-member congregation. "It's another milestone."
The 17,000 square-foot educational wing, scheduled for completion by Thanksgiving, will provide badly needed room for the church's year-old Christian Academy, along with office space for the church.
Two weeks ago, the church held a week-long celebration, featuring music and speakers, to mark the new educational wing and to commemorate, at last, the church's 20th anniversary last January.
For members of the church, the educational wing offers further evidence that they have a permanent home in Columbia, something that eluded the church in the decade after its first service took place in 1973.
The congregation, whose activities include a food pantry, services for the deaf, for prisoners and other ministries, was organized in September 1972 when four families met at the home of Mr. Davis, who had not yet become a minister.
The church's first service took place at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center on Jan. 13, 1973, with the Rev. John E. Stanley as pastor. Later that year, members met at Phelps Luck Elementary School and at the Phelps Luck Neighborhood Center.
Seeking stability, church officials the following year applied for space in the interfaith center planned for the Long Reach Village Shopping Center and met in the village's community center.
Mr. Davis, who became a minister in 1975, took over as pastor of Long Reach in 1980.
All this time, the church was searching for a permanent home and having trouble finding suitable property in Columbia.
The search ended in 1981, when the Columbia Religious Facilities Corp. incorporated the Long Reach Interfaith Center, Columbia's fourth interfaith center, and sought congregations to join.
Mr. Davis' congregation, which was the only one to express serious interest, later bought the property and became the sole occupant. The 19,000 square-foot facility was completed Jan. 13, 1985.
Long Reach's Christian Academy was established last year, enrolling 26 kindergarten students initially, with a tuition of about $2,600 per student.
This year the school was expanded to grades one through four.
It now has 88 students, six teachers and three instructional aides, who meet in the fellowship hall pending completion of the new wing.
Parents enroll children in the academy in part because they dislike what they see as the lopsided student-teacher ratio in public schools, said Stephen Terry, principal.
The academy's classes average 15 students.
Parents also are drawn to the strong religious element in the school's curriculum.
Though professors from Morgan State University and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County act as curriculum consultants, each class has some religious content.
Christianity helps give children values, said Mr. Davis, "which I don't believe they receive in public education.
"I really feel that's the reason we're having the problems we're having right now," he said. "We have a generation of children with no knowledge of God. . . . If you have no fear of God, you have no fear of people."