Shear joy for church's money feat


Seymour "Sam" Gertz was scheduled for a "buzz cut" after morning worship yesterday at the Christian Revival Center in Finksburg -- because another member of the congregation awakened one day with a fund-raising idea.

Deborah Harry, a Morgan Run area resident, had been thinking about ways to raise the $50,000 down payment needed to finance purchase of the church through a commercial bank. The congregation moved into the building on Lawndale Road in 1993 under an agreement that the owner would finance the purchase for three years.

The Christian Revival Center is part of United Pentecostal Church International. The denomination is strong in the South, Midwest and California, but not in the Northeastern states, said the Rev. Charles R. Curry, pastor of the local church. He said the services are emotional at times, with members weeping or shouting.

Mrs. Harry awakened one morning last fall thinking "50-50." From that starting point, she and Mr. Curry came up with the idea of a club of 50 people who would donate $50 apiece each month.

The club started in November with a goal of raising $50,000 by the July 1996 deadline to convert to bank financing.

The group needed an incentive, Mr. Curry decided.

Mr. Gertz, an Eldersburg area resident who joined the church a year ago, converting from his Jewish faith, agreed to have a haircut when the group raised $10,000. The ushers and guitarist said they would wear their suits backward when $15,000 was collected. And at $20,000, Mr. Curry said, "I'll preach from the roof."

Mr. Curry said he's not afraid of heights, unless "there would be snow or ice on the roof."

The congregation reached the $10,000 goal in seven months, prompting the Sunday barbering. Mr. Gertz said the last time he got a haircut that close to his skull, it was courtesy of the Army and was called a GI cut.

At age 67, he has less hair than he did when he was being inducted into the Army Air Corps in 1946. But he's been letting it grow.

"I have more in back of my ears than on top," he said.

He wanted Mrs. Harry to do the honors, but she said she couldn't. "I'm too nervous. I might just take a big hunk out," she said. She planned to find a volunteer from the congregation.

The pastor, a native of Louisiana, brought his family to Maryland to start the Christian Revival Center 13 years ago. The family includes his wife, Freida, two daughters, ages 21 and 13, and a son, 16.

For 11 years, "We drifted all over Reisterstown and Owings Mills," Mr. Curry said. The group met in private homes, warehouses, schools and churches made available by Presbyterian and Roman Catholic congregations.

The Christian Revival Center bought the church in Finksburg for $350,000, "a lot of money for a congregation our size," Mr. Curry said. He doesn't keep formal membership rolls, but said average Sunday attendance is about 130.

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