By O. H. Tomkinson. Edited and expanded by Bob Brown & Ted N. Thomas in Nov 1997.
On November 16, 1947, fifteen Christians met in a second-floor courtroom of what was then the "New County Building" on Colesville Road in Silver Spring for a Sunday morning church service. They sang and prayed, remembered the Lord in His Supper, heard a sermon from the Word, and took up a collection of $26.20. This was the first meeting of what became the Silver Spring church of Christ.
The meeting place hardly looked like a place to assemble for worship. Entrance to the building was through a door that announced the Montgomery County Liquor Dispensary. Nevertheless, the room served the needs of the young church well as a place to assemble on Sundays, and Wednesday evening Bible studies were held in the members' homes. Earl Hilbert and Clyde Sloan served as the church's first two full-time evangelists.
The first church building
Within five years, November 1953, the congregation had grown to the point that it was necessary to find more useful accommodations. Accordingly, a move was made to the gymnasium of Montgomery Blair High School at Dale Drive and Schuyler Road in Silver Spring. The new accommodations gave the congregation access to rooms that could be used for Bible classes. The attendance in those days was about 80, with weekly contributions of about $125.
The young church made plans for a building of its own. On June 20, 1954 they broke ground for construction at 100 East Franklin Avenue in Silver Spring. The church members started by building the basement level, which provided an assembly hall, office and utility space, and several classrooms. Most importantly, it was a place that the congregation could call its own. Ninety-six people met for the first worship service on December 15, 1954.
After a period of financial adjustment, the church inaugurated additional plans to complete the structure. The upper part, featuring an auditorium, lobby, office, classrooms, and baptistry, was finished in May 1959. On Sunday morning, May 31, 222 people participated in Sunday School, and 295 filled the building for the first worship service. A dedication service was held that same afternoon.
Elders and Deacons
The church's next important step was to appoint Biblically qualified leaders. The first elders, William ("Andy") Anderson, Walter G. Strosnider, and Orion H. ("Tommy") Tomkinson, were ordained on January 15, 1961. Three months later, on March 26, the church appointed its first deacons: Fred Boyett, Don Jackson, Bill Peacock, and Paul Snyder.
As more and more people moved into the suburbs of Washington, DC, the members of the Silver Spring church of Christ saw a mission in assisting in the establishment of additional churches. The Churches of Christ in Columbia (established 1985), Damascus (1979), Frederick (1965), Olney (1967), and Rockville (1959) are the result of outgrowth efforts of the Silver Spring church.
In 1983, the church added an important new work in the form of a deaf ministry, assuming the oversight of the ministry from the Rockville church of Christ. The ministry initially involved working primarily with deaf students at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, although other deaf people from the community were also included. Dennis Beavert was the church's first minister to deaf people, followed by Paul Toth, who served from 1984 to 1992 when he left to prepare himself for foreign missions, and eventually moved to Omsk, Siberia, Russia.
In December 1987, a Christian brother from El Salvador, Roberto Benitez, asked if he and the Christians meeting in his home could enjoy fellowship with the Silver Spring church of Christ, holding classes and services in the Spanish language. This development has consistently given the church further opportunity to show its interest in, and commitment to, all available opportunities to teach and preach the gospel in whatever form necessary in our community. Marlon Grande came to serve as the first full-time evangelist to Spanish-speaking people in June 1992.
The New Church Building
As the congregation continued to grow, not only in numbers but also in its diversification of ministries (a deaf component, a Hispanic component, each with its own rooms and activities) the need for more space and improved space became apparent. After several fruitless efforts to acquire property elsewhere in the area, the congregation committed to an expansion and renovation of the property on East Franklin Avenue. The priorities for expansion included accessibility to the physically disabled, a larger nursery, increased parking, more efficient heating and air conditioning, additional classroom space, and upgraded utilities. After detailed preliminary work with architects, engineers, and county officials, the congregation committed itself, in November 1992, to raising $500,000 to construct Phase I of an ambitious expansion and remodeling plan. Every church member realized that the money to be contributed would be above and beyond regular Sunday giving (which was already generous). By God's grace, the funds came in, and not one mission program had to be cut back. Furthermore, regular Sunday contributions continued to increase during the three-year capital fundraising campaign!
Robert L. Mills, one of the church's elders who had a career of construction and commercial property management behind him, agreed to come out of retirement to serve as general contractor for the building project. Working at less than minimum wage for a year, Bob's years of experience, his personal and professional reputation, and his commitment to a work that belonged to God, resulted in the edifice that stands today.
After nine months of worshiping with the University Park church of Christ in Hyattsville, the Silver Spring body re-occupied its building for a Wednesday evening service on March 5, 1997, had a "shake-down" Sunday morning service on March 9, and dedicated its new building to God's glory and praise on Sunday, March 16, 1997.
On October 15, 1997, Montgomery County's Department of Human Services Commission on People With Disabilities conveyed the Kermit Mohn Barrier Free Design award on the
church in recognition of the special attention that had been given to accommodate the physically disabled.
For detailed statements about our teaching and practices, see What is the church of Christ?