During services last weekend at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, parishioners celebrated the first Sunday after Christmas, as well as their first Christmas season, in a new home at Oakland Business Park off Route 108 in Columbia.
For several years, the church operated out of temporary facilities at Burleigh Manor Middle School in Ellicott City, where everything had to be set up before each service or activity and then taken down afterward.
It was a difficult situation that required a great deal of scheduling and extra effort on the part of the church membership and leadership.
"Now we have a permanent place where we can set up things ahead of time, put up decorations and arrange the facility in a way that best suits our needs, and then leave it there," said the pastor, the Rev. George Lippitt.
"It's wonderful to have a place of our own," said longtime church member Carolyn Hunt. "It's like wandering in the wilderness and finally getting to the Promised Land."
Terry Johnson, convener and president of the congregation, said, "We love it. We have our own place 24 hours a day, seven days a week instead of for just four hours on Sunday."
Despite having been in its new home only a month, Our Shepherd has made a great deal of progress. The facility is in a one-story office complex that was, until this past summer, used by the Chinese Bible Church of Howard County. Our Shepherd acquired the space when the other church moved.
The space has been transformed from a traditional office setup to a configuration that offers a number of rooms for Sunday school classes and Bible study, and a large room for services.
"We are still learning how to best use the space," Lippitt said. "It's a great problem to have."