Churches celebrate New Year's Eve


PARISHIONERS gathered at First Baptist Church in Elkridge for its annual Praise and Worship Service on New Year's Eve.

The pastor, the Rev. Monroe Simms, gave the sermon.

The congregation sang gospel hymns the "old-fashioned way," Simms said -- without accompaniment.

Parishioners shared testimony of God in their lives.

Just before midnight, those who could got down on their knees and prayed until the new year.

After the service, the group went downstairs to the church's Fellowship Hall to share black-eyed peas, a food that is said to bring good luck and blessings.

First Baptist Church is near the original site of Unity Baptist Church, which also holds a New Year's Eve service.

When Hurricane Agnes hit the area in 1972, floodwaters covered everything but the steeple of Unity Baptist.

After a flood in 1975, the congregation decided to move to higher ground and found the current site on Montgomery Road.

A small, close-knit black community lived in the area, located near a willow grove, where workers made baskets from the willows planted in the valley of Deep Run.

Artist's roots

This is the community in which artist Leah Taylor grew up.

Taylor, who works in a studio at Howard County Center for the Arts, draws much of her inspiration from her church and family experiences. She attended Unity Baptist as a child.

When Taylor was working toward a bachelor of fine arts degree at Maryland Institute, College of Art, she created an installation as her thesis show.

The construction included a church pew and collages that looked like stained-glass windows. A tape played Mahalia Jackson's music.

This year, Taylor was hired by Steven Lee, executive director of Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum, who asked her to organize the museum's first art exhibit, which was also her first. The exhibit featured artists from Ellicott City, Oella and Catonsville.

The show opened Dec. 29 and includes work by eight other local artists -- Andrei Trach, Mary and Jim Opasik, Thomasine Spore, Felicia Lovelett, Cheryl Bloch, Anne Battaglia, Diana Marta -- and Taylor.

Included in the exhibition are landscapes, wall sculptures, mixed-media collages, photographs and handmade dolls.

Taylor made the dolls. They are angel dolls, arranged as a choir, symbolizing her friends.

To make the angels, Taylor covered detergent bottles with hand-sewn white gowns and lace stoles. She fashioned their hands and faces from clay.

Their features are suggested rather than modeled.

Kwanzaa and memories

As part of the show opening, several members of the board of the Friends of Benjamin Banneker Historic Park & Museum led a "Kwanzaa Commemoration."

Gwen Marable, a descendant of Benjamin Banneker and member of the friends group, opened the program with a ceremony called "Pouring the Libation."

Marable asked participants to remember their ancestors. She encouraged each person to speak the name of an ancestor out loud as she poured water on a green plant, as a symbol of pouring water onto the earth.

Marable says the African ritual has been used to start each of the museum's events.

The ritual connects people with the earth, honors the spirits of their ancestors and "invites them to be present," Marable said.

Sam Hopkins attended as a member of the board. He is a direct descendant of the Ellicott brothers, with whom Banneker surveyed the District of Columbia in 1791.

Cynthia deJesus and Bill Lambert presented a brief explanation of Kwanzaa.

Lambert is board chairman of the friends group and deJesus was a guest.

Lambert pronounced each of the seven principles -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith -- of Kwanzaa in Swahili. Then deJesus explained them in English.

Both emphasized that Kwanzaa is a cultural festival designed to help African-Americans "attach themselves to where they came from" -- to Africa, Lambert said.

Lambert likened America to a salad bowl -- not a melting pot -- in which each variety of vegetable lends its distinctive taste to the salad.

Board member Lenwood Johnson spoke from the audience about "Watch Night."

In 1862, he said, black leaders heard that President Abraham Lincoln planned to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day.

They gathered in churches to pray and watch for the event.

Congregations have gathered since on New Year's Eve for Watch Night services, Johnson said.

Now those services are held during the week that Kwanzaa is celebrated.

The exhibit will run until Feb. 1 and might be extended. Museum hours are 9: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays. Appointments can be made for groups to visit the museum on other days.

Information: 410-887-1081.

Residents win honors

Patrick B. McClammer has enrolled as a member of the class of 2002 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Daniel and Neil Adler were recognized at a reception at the chancellor's residence for making the dean's list and completing General University Honors last year at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Daniel Adler is a junior majoring in magazine journalism. Neil Adler, also a junior, is majoring in broadcast journalism.

Sowmya Murthy was awarded the Patrick John O'Connell Memorial Scholarship for most promising mass communication student at Towson University.

Murthy, a senior, is specializing in public relations.

Three more local residents have canoed in Ontario, Canada, as part of Salisbury State University's orientation program.

The adventurers are Roderick McQuaid, son of Joseph and Sharyn McQuaid; Gary Nesbitt, son of Gary and Debbie Nesbitt; and Sara Paterni, daughter of Mark and Linda Paterni.

Pub Date: 1/04/99

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