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A Granite church's rock of ages


Granite Presbyterian Church celebrated its 150th anniversary yesterday with a homecoming service, and its pastor looking toward the future.

"I don't want to make the church a monument to the past," said the Rev. Margaret "Peg" Ferguson. "My hope is that people realize we stand on the shoulders of others, that the church was built by people who came together to build a church for their community.

"But now we must also reassess," Mrs. Ferguson added. "Wealthy people are moving in and we have to figure out how to blend them in to our old farming town."

Founded in 1845, the Quarries Presbyterian Church was named for the granite quarries that provided stone for such projects as the Washington Monument and the Library of Congress, and Baltimore's courthouse and old main post office. The small church on Old Court Road took on the name of the community of Granite in 1963.

The church building was made of granite solid enough to survive a 1925 fire, ignited by lightning, that by elders' accounts destroyed all but the lectern and communion table inside.

"Those were the two main pieces of the church," said Elder Angus Meekins, 66, a member since 1950, "and the good Lord wasn't about to let them burn."

Elder Leah Ford, 84, a member since childhood, recalls walking to church with her brother from her family's farm 2 1/2 miles away and noticing something odd. "We used to see the steeple when we came. This time we couldn't see it and we wondered what had happened. Well, the church had burned down."

Miss Leah, as her friends call her, became an elder in 1955 when the Presbyterian ministry began to ordain women and is regarded by Mrs. Ferguson as "the pillar of our church."

Church membership and Granite's population were highest in the days when the Waltersville and Fox Rock quarries were in operation. They were closed in the 1930s, when the demand for granite was giving way to other construction materials.

But the community's population is growing once again and the church, having recently added three new members, now has 142, though its sanctuary seats only 115 for services.

Mrs. Ferguson, to accommodate this trend, now gives two sermons on Sunday mornings and is considering the construction of a larger sanctuary on adjacent land that her membership bought recently.

Recognizing the problems of two-parent employment, she wants create a program to supervise children who would be dropped off at church in the morning to wait for the school bus, and again in the afternoon until they are picked up to go home.

"Our town and our church are experiencing a period of transition," she said. "We're becoming less rural and more suburban. With two parents working these days, people need a safe place to leave their children."

Yesterday's festivities -- the third event in a yearlong sesquicentennial celebration -- included two meals, two worship services, a concert by the Tones of Faith and the dedication of a time capsule.

Among other things, the capsule will include photographs of Granite Presbyterian's Sunday school children. Many of them, Elder Meekins said, will be in their 60s when it is opened in the year 2045.

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