The earliest records of Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic work in Maryland’s Calvert County show that from 1908 to 1923, several literature evangelists went door-to-door selling religious materials. These include H. Scott and D. Johns (1908), Ira Sheirick and W. Vazant (1910), George W. Lawrence (1914), Hazel V. Leach (1917-18), Lillian Coffman and Elsie Tatman (1918), Benj. Mackall (1919) and C. A. Ellwanger (1923).
These colporteurs, as they were called, consistently reported that their efforts were successful and that people were receptive to their message. Besides selling literature, they prayed with people, conducted Bible studies, preached and ministered to their spiritual needs.
Two of the literature evangelists in particular stood out: George Lawrence and Hazel Leach. Lawrence was intentional and dedicated. He sent in regular reports of seeing God at work in people’s hearts. His decision to work in Calvert County was in response to a conviction that God calling him to work there.
At one point the pastor of a local congregation that was $41 behind on paying him his salary, asked Lawrence to preach to his flock. As he preached to a full church, he witnessed people’s great thirst for Biblical knowledge and understanding first hand and his 40-minute sermon turned into an hour-and-ten-minute presentation. People were so excited that Lawrence not only raised the pastor’s $41 after the sermon, but he also sold $19 of books, which would amount to about $450 today.
Miss Hazel Leach is reported to have placed so many “Bible Readings” in homes in 1919 that a company of seventeen were keeping the Sabbath by 1920 and a number of others wanted to join them. The report continues, stating: “These are colored people. They are very anxious for a place to hold meetings and have already offered to donate ground, lumber, labor, and money for the erection of a church, and would be glad to deed such property to the conference.”
It wasn’t until 1956, however, that we see our denomination’s work really begin in Prince Frederick. That summer, Elbert Cobb came to work in Calvert County as both a colporteur and a pastor. There he met John and Jessie Cassell, who had been living in Port Republic, MD, near Prince Frederick, since 1933. They were active Seventh-day Adventists who had been developing relationships and witnessing to people in and around Prince Frederick for years. That same summer, the Chesapeake Conference organized the Seventh-day Adventist company of believers that had been meeting in Waldorf, into a church. The Cassells, who were active members of that company, became charter members of the new Waldorf church.
During that same time, the Cassells remained active in the Prince Frederick area. In 1960 they started a branch Sabbath School in Chesapeake Beach with one member. Two years later, Mrs. Cassell, who was very involved going door-to-door for ingathering, raised $605, the highest amount for any one person in the Chesapeake Conference in 1962. That year the Cassell’s branch Sabbath School’s attendance increased to 17 members and the Chesapeake Conference recognized them as a company. This new congregation met in a Baptist Church and then later moved to Christ’s Episcopal Church nearby.
In the Adventist organizational system, local churches belong to associations of Adventist churches that are organized by geographic area—such as states—and are called “conferences.” Calvert County is part of the Chesapeake Conference, which includes over 80 churches and companies that are mostly located in Maryland and Delaware. It was created in 1899.
Conferences are, in turn, grouped together by major regions—groups of states, or sometimes entire countries—that are called “unions.” The Chesapeake Conference is part of the Columbia Union Conference, which oversees eight conferences with a combined total of almost 800 in seven states from Ohio to New Jersey and from Pensylvania to Virginia. It was organized in 1907.
In 1944, as a solution to tensions over racial inequality in the Adventist church and its institutions, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to create separate regional conferences for African Americans in its North American Division. As a result of that decision, one Adventist church in a given area can belong to the “mainstream” or “original” conference while just down the road from it, another Adventist church can belong to the “regional” conference of that same union. In such cases, the churches interface with different administrations, their pastors belong to different ministerial associations and rub shoulders with different colleagues, and they usually don’t have much interaction.
The company of believers that the Cassells had been instrumental in establishing in Prince Frederick was not the only Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Prince Frederick. In the late 1950s, Roland Plater, another Seventh-day Adventist living in Prince Frederick, found himself driving to Washington D.C. and later Annapolis, MD, to attend church every week.
In the early 1960s, Plater became involved in establishing a Seventh-day Adventist company with the Allegheny Conference in Prince Frederick—the regional conference that covered the same territory as the Chesapeake Conference. After holding an open-air meeting in the yard of Mrs. King, another Seventh-day Adventist who had recently moved to the area, a dedicated group of believers began meeting every Sabbath as a branch Sabbath School of the Annapolis Adventist Church under the leadership of its pastor, Alfred Jones.
In 1961, one member of that group, Mary Jones, who lived in Lusby, MD, “offered land and practically co-sponsored a tent meeting on a spacious lot on Highway 2 in the Prince Frederick area.” The meetings turned out to be successful. From that time on, the “little church by the side of the road in Prince Frederick” held its own with a regular attendance of around 30.
In 1963 that company continued to grow under the leadership of David Brunk, a student pastor who was a senior theology major at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University. The following year, Leonard A. Hernandez, a lay preacher from Alexandria, VA, conducted a 6-week series of meetings in Prince Frederick for the Allegheny Conference company.
Meanwhile, Pastor Clarence Philpott conducted a series of meetings in Prince Frederick for the Chesapeake Conference every night from May 2-23. In September, he followed up with another series of meetings that held 3 nights a week, and then a third series meetings—a reaping series—in December, with the assistance of conference evangelist Harvey Sauder. At those meetings Pastor Philpott baptized 6 people.
By 1967 the Allegheny Conference company in Prince Frederick had become the Emmanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church and was placed under Pastor Jesse L. Reaves’ leadership. They had an active Pathfinder group called “The Stallions.”
That same year Elder William May, then president of the Chesapeake Conference, conducted a series of meetings in Prince Frederick which increased the company’s baptized membership to 17. Then on January 1st, 1968, Bruce Hinckley was appointed to serve as the pastor of the Waldorf, Patuxent and Prince Frederick churches. Two months later, on March 2nd, the Chesapeake Conference accepted the Prince Frederick company into its sisterhood of Churches with 23 members on its books. The church’s growth was credited to “a strong program of evangelism coupled with dedicated lay work.”
The newly organized church didn’t take long to locate property and make plans to build its own house of worship on it. On September 1, 1968, the church broke ground at 3085 Broomes Island Rd. and worked hard over the next 12 months in both construction and witnessing. Their new building, designed to seat 150, was inaugurated on Sabbath, September 13, 1969. By the time of its inauguration, the Prince Frederick Church’s membership had reached 39, almost doubling in one year.
Another exciting event took place that year for the Waldorf, Patuxent and Prince Frederick churches. Pastor Hinckley set up a church school to serve the Southern Maryland district. The following year, in 1970, he took a call to another district and was replaced by Gary Deem who had just served as both a pastor and a teacher for two years in the West Virginia Conference after graduating from Columbia Union College. That fall, the 2-room Hughesville Adventist School opened with almost 40 students.
One year later, in 1971, Pastor Deem accepted a call to another church district and Harry Passion, who had been serving as an assistant pastor in the Wilmington, DE, disctrict, became the new pastor of the Patuxent and Prince Frederick church district. Over the next 4 years, the church experienced phenomenal growth from 41 to 92 members under his leadership.
From 1975 to the present, eleven more pastors assumed the leadership of the Prince Frederick church. They were Richard Duke (1975-78), James Meade (1978-81), Larry Cole (1981-83), Douglas Casebolt (1983-85), Vincent Dandrea (1985-89), David Miller (1989-96), Doug Rennewanz (1996-2000), Ray Nelson (2000-06), Tyrone King (2006-14), Marcel Pichot (2015-16), and Tom Boggess (2016-present).
In 1989, the church’s parsonage was modified into a modern kitchen and Sabbath School rooms, and a large addition substantially increased the size of its fellowship hall. More recently, in 2010, the church added a picnic shelter to accommodate outdoor social activities. The church’s facilities also include a mobile home that is use for youth and other programs.
The church’s official membership reached its peak at 152 under Pastor King’s leadership. In 2014 he launched a project to plant a church in Sunderland, MD for the Allegheny East Conference. Several members teamed up with him for that project, causing the present membership of the Prince Frederick church to drop 139, where it now stands.
Unfortunately, like many other churches today, the church’s attendance is much lower than its membership, averaging between 40 and 50 people per Sabbath. Still, the congregation remains friendly and active, welcoming all who attend their services.