Sometime around 1984 my wife and I joined the Ferndale Baptist Church at 15199 Garrett Highway. We were meeting in the old church building at the bottom of the dip about 4 miles north of Oakland, Md., across the road from the Mt Nebo office.
Several of that small group of members who attended then are still members today.
For many years we met in that building every week for worship on Sunday mornings. We also held special meetings there from time to time. At first, we heated the building every Sunday morning with a wood stove because that was all we could afford. Over time we upgraded to electric and gas heaters.
The building was built in 1907 and was one of three Baptist church buildings built in the local area at about the same time.
Every year we would assess what work the old building needed and each year we would provide it. Much of the work was done by the members. We painted it with several coats of paint over the years. There were a lot of repairs done to the eaves. The inside also went through several upgrades. A metal roof was added.
What most people do not know is that our small congregation also provided a Christian education to over 20 students, many beginning in kindergarten and graduating after 12th grade. The little trailer next store along with the old church building were used for housing this vital ministry of the church.
We have always been a very small church with very limited resources. Yet, due to God’s blessings, we were always able to keep the ministries of the church moving in the right direction.
Eventually, due to the erosion of the usefulness of the trailer, we realized we needed to make changes. At first we considered building onto the existing church structure. But the current zoning laws allowed us no place to put in a drain field for a septic system without severely limiting room for parking. The current trailer’s septic system was grandfathered in so it did not need to meet current code standards. The current septic system runs under the driveway. Drain fields can no longer be placed under parking areas. At one point we tried to get access to Maryland State property to extend the drain field but we were never able to gain permission. So we finally decided to abandon the Route 219 property as our meeting place and build where we could provide a structure better suited for our church members.
Once we quit using the 219 property for church purposes, we ran into some obstacles. The original deeds provided the land to the Ferndale congregation, but only on the condition that it would be used for church purposes. If it was no longer used for those purposes, the land was to go back to the families of those that provided it. Over time, the wills of the heirs of the original owners granted the land to the State of Maryland if the congregation of Ferndale Baptist Church no longer used it for church purposes. Since we are no longer using this building for church purposes, our understanding is that now the State of Maryland owns the property that the old church building and trailer sit on. We are in the process of waiting for the state to take ownership of it. When that happens we are not certain what the outcome will be for the property. But technically, at the current time, we believe that the property is not our land and it is out of our control.
There are many who have approached us with sentimental concern for the old building. It seems to represent pleasant memories to many. Many are people who had attachments to this church over 40 years ago, so it must have had quite the effect. Most are people who have not been in attendance for all the years I have been there. Some are even willing to contribute funds to the upkeep of this old building for sentiment’s sake. Many have voluntarily kept the grave yard mowed out of respect for those buried there. We are thankful for their diligence.
We regret that we are no longer in a position to be helpful in providing a plan to keep the building in good repair since, according to our understanding, it is no longer ours. If the state were to deed it back to Ferndale Baptist Church, we would likely consider entrusting it to those who wish to take care of the old building and its grounds.
We plan, however, to keep the grave yard mowed when left undone by others, until such time that the state claims ownership.