In the spring of 2002, a group of friends began praying and meeting monthly to consider the possibility of beginning a missional church in the Catonsville area. That summer a core group of 40 people – friends and friends of friends – began to meet regularly to flesh out our core values from God’s Word and learn how to worship and serve together. The beginnings of a community of faith began to take shape—our “nursery” consisted of a blanket with a few toys in the back corner of the room, music rehearsals took place in a living room, and together we dreamed of a place where we could bring our families, friends and neighbors to show them God’s grace and love. Our first public worship service was held in November of that year (11/3/02). For some, this marked the beginning of their spiritual journey; others considered it a time of renewal after almost having given up on “church,” and some said they felt like they’d finally found a “home” to call their own.
From the very beginning, our desire was to reach out to our neighbors, to be a part of our community and to welcome internationals into our body. We began to host annual community cookouts, events for internationals (especially Chinese visiting scholars and immigrants), mission trips abroad, and local service projects. These sorts of activities have become part and parcel of our DNA. Throughout the years, we have been involved in the following:
- Teaching Conversational English
- Serving various needs of the Westchester Community Center
- Distributing food baskets through a local food bank
- Serving as volunteers at the Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival
- Serving various ministries in the greater Baltimore area (Helping Up Mission, The Samaritan Women, Araminta Freedom Initiative, and World Relief, to name just a few)
In 2005, we hired our first full-time staff member, Chris Zang, as our Director of International Ministries. This hiring spoke volumes about our commitment to be a missional and international church. Currently, roughly 15% of River’s Edge is international. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Chris translates our sermons and other materials and sends them all over the world in an effort to share the good news of Jesus with others.
Over the years we’ve seen a lot of good things happen at River’s Edge, and we continue to grow. We’ve become more organized (adding elders, staff and wonderful volunteers). We’ve launched numerous new ministry initiatives (deployed new teams, added new mission efforts, and deepened our own local community outreach). Life is never dull or static at River’s Edge. Our vision is to be used by God in thousands of different missional efforts because we believe missions are at the heart of God.
Why the name, “River’s Edge”?
Choosing a name for a new church is almost as hard as naming your first child! We wanted a name that reflected our commitment to God’s Word, as well as our love for our community.
The concept of the “river’s edge” reminds us that God calls us to step out in faith and to live out the reality of Christ everywhere we go. In Joshua 3 the Israelites faced the seemingly impossible task of crossing the Jordan River. God’s plan was for them to enter into the land he had promised, but the river stood in their way. It wasn’t until God;s people stepped out in faith and stepped into the Jordan that God parted the river. The name River’s Edge reminds us of God’s call, God’s faithfulness, God’s power, and our need to walk by faith alone. The name,“River’s Edge,”reminds us that it is going to be a wild ride, but that God will always come through.
We also knew early on that we wanted our name to include “Community Church.” We always want to be a church that serves and enhances her surrounding community. We want to be a church that ministers where she lives and is a vital part of community life. We want to be a church that reaches out to our community and is always looking for ways to touch our neighborhoods with the grace, beauty, truth and love of Jesus. Plus, we learned years ago that while we are a presbyterian church, that word can be very difficult for internationals to say (let alone spell). For that reason, we chose the name “community.” We chose to be known by who we want to serve rather than what we believe. We think this better reflects our commitment to serve.
And River’s Edge also defines us geographically. Between Catonsville (and our neighborhood of Oella) and Howard County is the Patapsco River. Sprawling all around us is the Patapsco Valley State Park. Everywhere you go, you are reminded of the river. It is our joy to serve on the eastern side of this beautiful river and to share God’s love with the people he brings across our path . . . here in Baltimore County near the “river’s edge.”