Finding a place to sit in the 200-seat sanctuary at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City can be nearly impossible some Sunday mornings. Those who arrive late for the 9:30 a.m. service often can't find an empty pew.
But the Rev. Glenn Edward Ludwig, the church's senior pastor, is confident that a planned 460-seat sanctuary will solve the church's overcrowding problem next year.
The new, $2.2 million, octagonal sanctuary will be adjacent to the current brick building on Chatham and Frederick roads. A
groundbreaking ceremony for the new building is planned for the first week in March.
"It excites me," the pastor said of the new sanctuary. "It took a long time."
Designed by Falls Church, Va., architect Lawrence D. Cook, the new brick worship building will include a new organ, a 100-foot steeple and nine rows of pews so everyone can see the altar and pulpit.
Mr. Ludwig and Edward J. Zeigler, the church's building committee chairman, looked at four different churches that Mr. Cook had designed before picking the octagonal shape. That configuration will let members see each other during the service, "not the backs of people's heads," Mr. Ludwig said.
To pay for the new building, the church will sell church bonds, a certificate of indebtedness issued by a church to raise funds for building expansion, acquisition or other projects. The bond sale will begin Feb. 5.
The pastor said he would like $1 million in bonds to be sold to
members of the congregation, their families and friends.
When the new building is finished, it will mark the end of the 450-member church's 16-year expansion, the pastor said.
The first phase of the expansion, which included construction of offices, a choir room, parlor and handicapped-accessible restrooms, was completed in 1988. An $800,000 bank loan financed that project.
To cope with membership growth, church officers created three Sunday services: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. But because most members attend the 9:30 a.m. service, a further expansion was necessary.
The church officers had considered expanding the existing sanctuary nearly 10 years ago, but decided against it because members would not have had another place to meet in the meantime, Mr. Zeigler said.
"We wouldn't have ended up with anything nice," he said.
Instead, the church decided to wait until it could build a new sanctuary.
The racially and economically diverse church has a long history.
It was established in 1874 by German immigrants living in Ellicott Mills who wanted a Lutheran church in the county. After 26 years of traveling by horse and wagon to worship at a Lutheran church in Catonsville, the 25 original members established a church on Church Road.
Members worshiped there until 1956, when they got the 5.6 acres of donated land on Chatham and Frederick roads.
Members can see a cardboard model of the new sanctuary on a table near the church entrance. The model shows a figurine of a minister performing a wedding ceremony.
Mr. Ludwig said he's confident the new building will play a big role in the church's future and will help attract members.
Lights on the building also will make it stand out in the community.
"It will look like a beacon on the hill," he said.