MorningStar Family Church, Thurmont
by Theresa Dardanell
“Feeling welcome” does not begin to describe my visit to MorningStar Family Church. I was greeted with hugs as soon as I walked in the door. As more members arrived, they also welcomed me warmly. During the service, the members unhurriedly spent time greeting one another with handshakes and hugs.
Pastor Donna Sandridge and several members met with me before the service. When asked what they wanted people to know about their church, everyone was eager to share their thoughts.
Diana Wetklow said, “I love my church. It’s a place where you can come and be with everybody and know Jesus is there.”
Harry Wetklow considers everyone in the church as members of a family.
Debbie Reckley said, “If you are sick or going through a hard time, let us pray with you and let us help you. When somebody comes here, we welcome them, we disciple them, put our arms around them, and help them anyway we can.”
Dave Reckley added that the church demonstrates that God’s word is relevant in today’s world.
Mark Olson said, “We are a big family. We love people and are here to serve.”
Jamea Gouker talked about the thank-you cards and phone calls they have received from grateful people who have come to the church and felt so much better when they left.
Rick Sanders, a member for 20 years, said that he loves the church because they are a family.
Pastor Donna said, “We are a loving, giving church. We endeavor to preach the word and reach the community to let them know that Jesus loves them and that we love them, and that this is a place that they can come and feel at home and feel welcome and feel loved.”
The Sunday service begins with songs of praise, led by a talented group of musicians, and continues with announcements by Pastor Donna. Everyone is then invited to request prayers for those in need or give thanks for blessings received. Songs of thanksgiving are followed by a scripture reading and a sermon. During the sermon, the children move to another room to participate in children’s church with a Bible story, activities, and a snack. Everyone enthusiastically joins in the final song.
Bible study, open to everyone, on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., is led by members of the congregation, with active participation by all. The Ladies Ministry meets on a Saturday once a month for a meeting, together with a brunch. Along with their charitable work, Diana Wetklow said that they “lift one another up and have a really good time.” Their annual dinner in the spring includes skits, music, and a fashion show. Once a month, everyone is invited to a fellowship dinner after the Sunday service.
Although the congregation is small, their generosity is abundant. Local organizations that they support include: Catoctin High School Safe and Sane, Thurmont Food Bank, Catoctin Schools supply drive and summer lunch program, Care Net Crisis Pregnancy Center of Frederick, Faith House, and the Thurmont United Methodist Church Clothes Closet. They also help individuals and families in need with food, gas, shelter, and home and vehicle repairs. During the Christmas holiday, members deliver cookies, candy, gifts, and meals. The Annual Giveaway Day on the first Saturday in June is like a yard sale, but everything is absolutely free.
International aid includes donations to several of the Samaritan’s Purse outreach programs: disaster relief, wells for clean water, gifts of livestock to communities in need, and help for injured Veterans through Operation Heal Our Patriots. Shoe boxes full of small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies are sent to Operation Christmas Child, which distributes them to children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters, famine, and disease. Several of the members create feminine hygiene products for Days for Girls International, a global project that prepares and distributes sustainable menstrual health products to girls in over 100 countries where these items are not readily available. The church has provided support for mission trips to Russia, Venezuela, Philippines, Nigeria, Haiti, Belize, Portugal, Mexico, and Brazil, and financial aid to a considerable number of charitable organizations around the world. Military personnel receive special care packages when they are deployed overseas and during the holidays.
The church has an interesting history. The Reverend Wade Sandridge and Donna Sandridge began by preaching during a meeting in 1979 at the Blue Mountain Inn. As the congregation expanded, they met in many different locations, including a home, a tent, a schoolhouse, and a basement. The church was officially established in 1981. After the current property on Albert Staub Road was purchased, construction of the church began in 1996. The first service in the new building was held in 1999. After Pastor Wade passed away in 2005, Donna became pastor.
MorningStar Family Church is located at 14698 Albert Staub Road in Thurmont. Sunday morning worship at 10:45 a.m. follows morning prayer at 10:00. Everyone is welcome to attend services, Bible study, and all activities and events.
Members of MorningStar Family Church.