IN 1976, a small church began with 10 families and held its services at a Linthicum motel. With a mission of "loving God and loving people," the church's membership grew and its presence in the community increased. Needing a larger space, the church moved to a vacant building in Brooklyn. It grew larger still, and now the Church on the Rock, at 900 Church St. in Brooklyn Park, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The church's founder, the Rev. John Krach, said the church stays true to its mission through service to the community.
"On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we distribute food, and once a month we have a lunch meeting with crafts and a guest speaker for the widows and single women in the community. There is also a ... program that offers support in parenting and encouragement to mothers," he said.
Weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings allow the church to help people do more than kick their drug habits. "We have about 100 people coming each week. Many times people with addictions withdraw and need to get back into society. They need to learn people skills and how to interact with society," he said.
"An example would be negotiation skills. Someone received a tax refund of $3,500 and went out and bought a car that they couldn't afford. In two months, the car was repossessed. For $3,500, they could have bought a car without having to make monthly payments. We help them to avoid mistakes like that," Krach said.
In the annual "Feed the 5,000" program held in September, church members travel throughout the county to deliver bags of groceries to the needy.
The church's youth group recently sponsored an urban mission of youth groups from New York and Canada. Their mission was to assist elderly and disabled residents of the community with home repairs and to help clean up neighborhoods. "They painted fences, cleaned out back yards, mowed lawns, repaired doors and did other small repairs. [County Councilwoman] Pam Beidle's office let us know where the help was needed, and the residents were so thankful," Krach said.
The church also reaches out to communities in need. In addition to its ministries to county correctional facilities, it supports a mission that works with children in South Africa who have AIDS, along with missions in China and Myanmar.
Krach recently returned from mission visits to China, Hong Kong and the Philippines. In China, Krach visited an "underground church." Because the government discourages religion, he said, Christians often are forced to meet in secret to worship.
"We met with Dr. Samuel Lamb. He spent 22 years in a Chinese prison for his work. ... In fact, his church was raided 30 days before we arrived and they took everything. We have freedom of religion here; they don't have it there. You can be arrested for having a Bible," he said.
It was in the Philippines that Krach said he saw real poverty for the first time. "People were living in the dumps. It's not like seeing homeless people here. They built makeshift houses in the dump and were living there. Nothing surprises me anymore anywhere. And the pollution was terrible. Be thankful for the EPA. In Manila, the police directing traffic were wearing masks," he said.
Krach speaks with pride about the "Miracle on Church Street" that is happening with the revitalization of the neighborhood.
"Our facility was a former bingo hall. It was vacant and an eyesore," he said. "Now we have a church and a school there. Several weeks after we bought this property, the owners of the Eagle's Nest, a tavern next door, approached us about purchasing that property also. There has been $450,000 worth of renovations completed here. People that used to come here to gamble and drink now come here with their children to a place where they can learn."
He said that at the church's former location, at 100 E. Patapsco Ave., the congregation "took a building that had been vacant for 10 years and renovated it. Now it houses a flower shop and a doctor's office. The property has increased in value and helped the economics of the community. One of our visions now is to have a full-court gymnasium complex, a place where young people can come. That is our dream."
In honor of the church's anniversary, the Rev. Steve Bryant from Watertown, N.Y., and evangelist Joel Hitchcock will speak at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow through Wednesday. Information: 410-355-5922.
St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church, 4708 Prudence St. in Curtis Bay, is holding its annual spring blood drive from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in the church hall. Donors must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 100 pounds. No appointment is necessary. Information: 410-752-8152.