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New ministry offers different type of outreach

April 15, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A new ministry has cropped up in Hagerstown, tailor-made for people who may not feel comfortable in the traditional church setting.

A group of Seventh-day Adventists has adopted a cell group-based ministry, which to some may seem new while to others dates back to the early Christian church described in the Book of Acts in the Bible.

"We have established a mission outreach here in Hagerstown to provide a different type of evangelistic outreach," said Fidel Castellanos, one of 45 or so people who have rented space from City Quake on Salem Avenue and started Saturday worship services.

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Those who attend Faithstep Worship Center are encouraged to dress casually. The goal is to create a church model that could reach out to people in the downtown area.

Involved in the effort from the beginning, Jeannie Ramos describes Faithstep as a church plant from the mother church - the Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church at 11507 Robinwood Drive.

"We were commissioned the end of February," Ramos said.

In addition to the Sabbath services on Saturday, members get together two other days of the week for cell meetings.

"Our cell structure has a 12-step process that helps people to grow and mature in Christ while leaving their baggage behind," Ramos said. "God keeps challenging us, each time a little out of our comfort zone."

The group started with one cell through the laity of the Adventist church, Castellanos said.

"From the core group came the core leadership and now we have grown to five cells," he said.

Ramos said the effort under way is the establishment of a youth cell, one of the five cells.

The big draw is the personal approach to Christianity, Ramos said.

"Everybody gets ministered to, through the large group, the smaller group and one-on-one," she said.

Castellanos said a unique "buddy" system is established and each person knows that there always will be another person to rely on no matter what.

"We emphasize relationships, one to another, within the cell group and with the larger group in our lives," Castellanos said.

Ramos said many people are surprised that they can share their pain and troubles in a safe setting.

"There is no criticism here," she said.

Castellanos said all who are involved in Faithstep are encouraged to participate - no one is passive.

"To put it another way, there are no pew potatoes in our group," Ramos said.

Before the organizers took a single step, they prayed long and hard, Ramos said.

"It has been a powerful road," she said. "But we can see the fresh footprints of Christ."

Describing Faithstep as a mission outpost, both Ramos and Castellanos said people of all faiths and no faith are welcome.

For more information, call 301-824-7008.

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