By Sharon Mager
UPPER MARLBORO, Md.—Kettering Baptist Church got an awesome Christmas present this year—a shiny new building— their “Legacy Center.”
It’s the culmination of six years of prayer and planning, said Gwendolyn Clerkley, building project administrator.
To celebrate, the church had a day of fasting and prayer, followed by a consecration service at the old building, 1 Kettering Drive. Then on Christmas Eve, they had a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. at the new building, located at 6909 Crain Highway in Upper Marlboro. The huge parking area was jam-packed, but easily controlled with parking staff, security, and a traffic sign on Route 301. The crowd gathered in the pouring rain holding umbrellas and rejoicing in front of the new building entrance, wrapped with a big red bow, as leaders shared about the building and thanked God for His blessings. They had their first worship services in the new building on Christmas Day.
“One of the things I led our congregation to focus on while the Legacy Center was being built was continuing to fulfill the Great Commission regardless of what building or location we were in,” said Senior Pastor Bucas Sterling III. “As I often stated, Christ’s most important concern for us was not a physical structure, but obedience in reaching the lost and making disciples in the time we have. We had no guarantees that we would ever see the building completed, but we had a current building to work and worship in, even if it required doing four services every Sunday morning.”
With a congregation of 1,400, the church was having multiple Sunday services.
“The need for a new edifice became apparent because of the explosive growth we were experiencing,” said Clerkley. “Pastor Sterling came in 2000, and we were seeing hundreds of people giving their lives to Christ or joining to be a part of the ministry.”
The building expansion ministry officially started their work in 2006. Clerkley said they were blessed to have members talented in all the needed areas to move forward. The church was also blessed by the incredible way members gave to make the building a reality.
Seeking 25 acres of land, Clerkley said the church was thrilled when they discovered 27 acres of property available at 6909 Crain Highway, owned for 100 years by the historic Claggett family. The Claggett family can be traced back to the mid-1600’s before coming to the colonies. The family, which owned much land, in now Prince George’s County, served in political and military life, as justices, judges and military officers. Thomas John Claggett was Maryland’s first episcopal bishop consecrated in America and was appointed the third chaplain of the United States Senate in 1800.
Clerkly said the family agreed to sell the property because they didn’t want to see it used for a large development. “They were very pleased God led us to purchase this land,” she said.
“God has just been awesome in all things. We had some bumps, but God showed Himself strong and taught us that everything that happens is happening for His glory. He demonstrated that over and over in the process.”
The 51,000-square-foot building will accommodate seating for 1,000 people. There’s also a fellowship hall that can be used for a basketball court. In addition, there are three large conference rooms, and an area for music and liturgical dance. A kitchen is roughed in and will soon be completed. There are ten classrooms in one wing, and the ability to add five additional classrooms in the fellowship area.
The new facility is ten miles away from the former building on Kettering Drive. There are plans to lease the old building to another church congregation.
“It is our prayer that the Legacy Center will be a facility where eternal legacies are realized,” said Sterling. “We also desire that for many generations beyond ourselves, people will benefit from the investments of our current day congregation even as we benefited from the investments of faithful saints before us who built the house we are leaving. Because of them, eternal destinies have been changed.”
Kent Baptist Church, Landover Hills Baptist, Berwyn Baptist, and Grace Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., started Kettering Baptist in 1969.
The first building was dedicated in 1974. Billy Comfort was the pastor. In 1993, the building was expanded, under the leadership of then pastor, David Keyser. Bucas Sterling III is the third full-time and first African-American pastor, serving since 2000.
Other pastors who have served at Kettering Baptist Church include Roger Berhausen, Charles Stover, Larry Kalb, and Harry Holback.