Family, friends and church members celebrate the 100th anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Aug. 12 with carnival rides and water games. (Demetrious Kinney/The Washington Informer)

The First Baptist Church of Glenarden held an elaborate homecoming cookout over the weekend, in celebration of the storied church’s upcoming centennial.

The church welcomed hundreds of members and guests to the free event Saturday, Aug. 12, which was replete with barbecue, colorful gaming arenas, ride-along trains, live music and special treats.

Saturday’s event began a monthslong countdown to an even bigger day, First Baptist officials said.

“Today’s celebration kicks off our 100 days to our 100th anniversary,” said John K. Jenkins Sr., the church’s pastor. “We’ve been involved and have been serving the community since 1917. Our ministry has transformed lives by keeping marriages together, helping children, those less fortunate and have supported various community organizations and schools.”

The institution is also launching its “Next 100” program, geared toward millennials and other youth in order to prepare them spiritually and physically for the next 100 years.

“We are a Bible-teaching church who believe it is important to develop dynamic disciples and part of that is developing the community,” Jenkins said. “In the midst of family life and other day to day activities, we still want to be sure that we adequately devote a portion of time to the youth.”

Sonji Joyner, First Baptist’s communications liaison, said the church will hold a theatrical presentation chronicling its history on Nov. 19, the official 100-year anniversary.

“The community has gone through so much throughout these 100 years from racial issues … to what we are seeing right now with our young people,” she said.

The church dates back to 1917, when a small group of fellow residents gathered inside of a modest-sized house, reading text from a meager Bible. A century later, the First Baptist Church of Glenarden sits on a 160-acre plot of land, featuring two massive worships centers, radio and video stations, over 10 separate ministry divisions and thousands of congregants, which once included former President George W. Bush.

“I love this church,” said Stacey Martin, a longtime Prince George’s resident. “I am not an official member, but I have been coming here for years and the word and the people are good.”

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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