Church History

Countryside Fellowship Church was first known as Laurel Chapel and began on Easter Sunday in 1987. Not having a home of its own, it held services in public school buildings. In 1989, the church began meeting at Bollman Bridge Elementary School and Patuxent Valley Middle School in Savage and changed its name, since it was no longer located in Laurel.

In the summer of 1994, discussions with local churches about sharing space began. When Countryside's founding pastor, Dan Schmidt, approached Grace Christian Church, its pastor and congregation gave the buildings to Countryside debt free.

According to Grace's former pastor, Rev. Melvin Larson, who was interviewed at the time, "We had come to the end of our road as a congregation. The congregation continued to grow older. As it grew older, some of them died, and we weren't renewing our members. We had less than 30 members." One member in particular, Doris White, said, "I just couldn't let it close. We just felt like we had to keep it going." Mrs. White joined the congregation of Countryside and was an active member until her passing at age 92.

The sanctuary building and annex had been neglected for a number of years, with termite damage and water leaks, but members of both congregations worked to repair and restore both buildings. Countryside held its first service in the sanctuary October 30, 1994.

Building History

Countryside Fellowship Church has only been in existence since Easter Sunday 1987, but the building that houses it has been around for over 135 years.

The sanctuary's cornerstone was laid in 1871. It was the first church built in Savage. The founding congregation was the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church South, known as Grace Church. Construction material cost $1,600, and men from the congregation donated their time to build the sanctuary. White oak was cut from the surrounding forests, and the floor joists of the building were (and still are) trees laid with the bark still on them.

In 1944, several branches of the Methodist Church merged and Savage Methodist Church -- the "Brick Church" down the block on Baltimore Street -- became the primary Methodist Church in Savage and Grace Church closed up for five years.

The building reopened in 1949 when an independent congregation made it their home. In 1957, that congregation joined the Disciples of Christ. The church was then known as Grace Christian Church.

Near the 100-year mark, in 1970, construction on the annex building started. It was originally conceived to become the new church building, and the old church was scheduled to be torn down. Initially designed as a three-story inverted pyramid, only the first story of the annex was completed, at a cost of $90,000. Since the planned second and third stories were never completed, the original church was retained. The one-story annex was used for Sunday School classrooms, church offices, and fellowship activities, as it is today with the new additional second story.

In 1994, the declining congregation of Grace Christian Church had only about 30 active members. They realized they could no longer care for the buildings and turned them over to Countryside Fellowship Church.

In 1999, an architect who wanted to do something for the church, Joe Handwerger, together with his associate, Ed Canino, drew plans for a second story for the annex. Over the next five years, their drawings were modified and updated by another architect, Joe Brandli of Joe Architect, Inc.

Plans were made and finances accumulated. Finally, in mid-2005, the Turner Troxell Company began construction on a renovated and enlarged annex. The final cost for previous improvements and new construction was a grand total of $785,000. Countryside had saved $335,000, and, as with the first church, the balance was borrowed from a local bank. The annex was finished and dedicated in October 2005.