The Rev. Keith Corrick, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Lisbon, heard once that a church's location is important to its membership -- and that advice helped fuel his church's effort to build a new, highly visible building.
"I heard someone say: 'You can't be a dirt-road church in an interstate world,' " said Mr. Corrick, whose church holds a groundbreaking in Lisbon Sunday. "Howard County has become an interstate world, and we have to move up with it. Our church isn't visible. It's hidden."
That should change next year, when the new, 16,800-square-foot building opens off Madison Street in Lisbon, just down the street from the current obscure building on North Avenue. The new building will be more than double the size of the current church -- and will be visible from Route 94 and Interstate 70.
"It'll be right off the interstate," said Mr. Corrick.
To celebrate the start of work on what will be a traditional-style brick church, the congregation will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday afternoon. Bales of hay will serve as pews amid the construction equipment.
The 350-member congregation has wanted a new building for the past 15 years, having outgrown the structure that was built in 1959. To pay for the estimated $1 million church, members have raised $300,000. They plan to raise another $200,000 and rely on a bank loan to help finance the rest.
"This church is a long time coming," said member Donna Glover.
Raising money and finding land in expensive Howard were the main obstacles, Mr. Corrick said. Longtime church member Marion "Bob" Harless, a well-known dairy farmer in western Howard, helped with the land, donating 13 acres.
"I bought it for this reason -- and the church didn't know," said Mr. Harless, 77, who said he spent $50,000 for the land in 1985. He said he gave the land to the church so it can meet the needs of the community, especially those of young people.
Mr. Corrick said Mr. Harless' gift reminds him of the Old Testament story of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the river Jordan to obtain land God promised them.
"God told them to go in and possess the land," Mr. Corrick said. "I think Bob has enabled us to possess the land and move forward at this point in our history."
Liberty Baptist was founded in 1942 by Mr. Harless' great-great-grandfather from Tennessee, the Rev. Mack H. Wilder. The minister, other Tennesseans and people from southwest Virginia had settled in the Lisbon area and decided there should be a Baptist church.
After meeting in homes and renting a building from Presbyterians in Daisy, members built the current building in 1959. They chose the name Liberty Baptist because "they felt they were finally free to become a church," Mr. Corrick said.
Today, Liberty Baptist is the only Baptist church in Lisbon. When the original members got older or moved away, more people in the area began to fill the pews. The church also attracts people from Carroll and Frederick counties.
"In most situations, people are trying to find things, whether through religion or faith that they can be a part of," said Mrs. Glover, who joined the church in 1988. "I think Liberty definitely offers that."
Until the new building is completed in six to 10 months, two Sunday services at the existing church will have to accommodate the growth.