Members of the historic White Rock Church in Sykesville came together March 1 to pay homage to their pastor, the Rev. Douglas Sands, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
Sands, who was at the forefront of Baltimore’s desegregation effort in the 1950s and 1960s, was feted by more than 200 friends, loved ones and church members from throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. Some came from as far away as Texas. The church was filled to overflowing.
In Black church tradition, the celebratory meal included soul food—fried chicken, baked ham, collard greens, potato salad, rolls, apple pie, cake and iced tea.
The decorations included a table displaying memorabilia of Sands’ activism. The display included the gold Reebok tennis shoes he wore when he walked 542 miles to pray at 103 local churches whose members participated in the Prayer Vigil for Nonviolence and Peace between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday in 2001.
“He’s been a cornerstone in the community,” church member Bill Hudson said.
“He tries to do what is right not only for himself, but for the people that he serves…He deserves to be recognized.”
Even as church leaders were planning the celebration, Sands was awaiting word on two measures he has actively supported in Annapolis that would allow some churches in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church to maintain their assets. A law passed in 1976 allows the UMC to own the assets of member churches, even those that started many, many years ago and were purchased without assistance from the UMC.
White Rock, once associated with the UMC, broke away three years ago and Sands and his members have been told that the church and its assets no longer belong to the congregation. Sands and his members are battling—along with some other local pastors and congregations—against seizure of their churches.