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Church breaks ground – ‘they’re gonna build it!'


St. Leonard, MD - After a rousing 90-minute, late Sunday morning service, members of a fabled Calvert County church were ready to grab shovels and start digging.

The Sept. 20 ground breaking ceremony at Brooks United Methodist Church in St. Leonard marks a significant milestone in the church’s long history. A plan that has been in the works since 2013 will result in the construction of a larger church. The second phase of the plan calls for the “repurposing” of the current church on Mackall Road.

According to Dr. Renee Bright, a member of the church’s exploratory committee charged with analyzing the needs of the church and the community, the $2.3 million campus expansion plan has the solid support of the congregation and has been greatly aided by development and financial experts.

“We have been working with Community Bank of the Chesapeake and Church Development Services of Virginia Beach,” said Bright. The latter company provides churches consulting, design, financing and construction services for projects.

The money to begin the project is from Brooks’ capital campaign, which is called the Nehemiah Movement—named for the Old Testament figure who led the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Bright said during a 2013 “state of the church meeting,” congregants were surveyed about how Brooks should grow. “Most recognized we needed more space to grow,” said Bright.

What is today Brooks United Methodist Church was established during the 1800s. The current Brooks United Methodist Church building was constructed and completed in 1968 under the leadership of Pastor Rev. Joseph H. Collins. The current church was expanded in 2006. When the new church is completed and the current structure is repurposed it will be named in honor of Collins.

According to the church web site, Brooks was in debt five years ago. A strong effort to raise funds lifted the church out of debt in two years, a result that prompted a ceremonial mortgage burning. Now the church is ready to expand.

Vaughn Johnson Sr., another member of the exploratory committee, has lived in Calvert County all his life and grew up as member of Brooks United Methodist Church. “It’s been moving relatively well,” said Johnson of expansion plan. He attributed the current success to “God’s will and the fact that when you are working on something and you don’t have to rush, we have time to do things the right way.”
Committee member Gladys Jones said construction of the new church is expected to take approximately nine months and local vendors will be doing the site work.

The new church building will be 12,000 square feet. It will include a sanctuary that will seat 460 worshippers, a baptismal pool, music and choir space, a fellowship hall, a kitchen, nursery and two classrooms.

Bright explained the chosen design was a “middle option” and church leaders were undaunted by the $2.3 million project cost. “We were pretty happy,” said Bright.

There was a solemnity to the ceremonial digging of soil. Pastor Jason L. Robinson delivered seven recitations with attendees responding “we break this ground today.” The digging dignitaries included Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Calvert County Commissioners’ President Steve Weems and Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans.

Also participating was the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Iannicelli, superintendent of the United Methodist Church’s Washington East District. Earlier, Iannicella delivered the Sunday service’s proclamation. Her remarks were preceded by an amplified, soulful “song of preparation,” which included the refrain “gonna make it.”

While she admitted that was a tough act to follow, Iannicelli said she gathered enough inspiration from the Holy Spirit to deliver a well-received proclamation. The superintendent marveled at Brooks’ collective enthusiasm for their new church. “It’s amazing! They are on fire, full of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Iannicelli said.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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