The land in question lies near Central Avenue in the Kettering section just southwest of Bowie.

For now, the 462-acre plot is covered only with bare trees and winter-brown cornfields. Surrounding it are middle-class suburban family neighborhoods where civic associations thrive. Across the street is Wild World, an amusement park that offers thrill rides, water slides and "the mammoth Wild Wave pool."

Bishop John L. Meares and his congregation from the Evangel Temple at 610 Rhode Island Ave. NE are asking the county to amend its master plan so a new church complex can be built there, including an auditorium that could seat 4,000.

It could end up as one of the largest church developments in the Maryland suburbs, but Temple officials are quick to point out that their plans are far from complete. They say they have made no decision about the ultimate size of the complex.

However, residents of the neighborhood have told county officials that in their view, the congregation intends to build a "religious city" that would add to the noise and traffic already generated by warm-weather visitors to Wild World.

"It doesn't matter if you're listening to Charlie Daniels or 'Rock of Ages,' noise is noise and we have no protection," said Tina Badaczewski, 41, a teacher who is president of the Kettering Civic Federation.

County Executive Parris Glendening has already recommended to the council that the sewer plan for the area not be changed, which would preclude the church development as proposed. His recommendation was based in part on an environmental report that stated that a change would conflict with county land use policy.

The community opposition was voiced by Badaczewski and representatives of other neighborhoods at a public hearing before the Prince George's County Council last week, where Meares requested water and sewer service for the site.

Meares told the council that he plans to build a chapel, paramedic clinic, gymnasium, several housing units and the 4,000-seat auditorium.

Meares' son, Virgil Meares, an elder in the church, said last week that those plans are merely "in the formative stages of conceptualization." He would not elaborate about what other facilities the church intends to build.

"We haven't even selected architects," he said. Church officials have signed a contract to buy the land.

John L. Meares, a white-haired man with a booming voice and an eloquent manner, founded the Evangel Temple in July 1955.

His son described the church's doctrines as "evangelical, similar to what most people would associate with Billy Graham."

In recent years, the congregation has outgrown its 2,000-seat auditorium in Washington, he said.

On Sundays, Virgil Meares said, there are two worship services to accommodate the crowds.

When scouting for a new location, church officials kept in mind that 60 percent of the congregation lives in Prince George's County, Virgil Meares said. The Kettering site seemed ideal, he added.

But Badaczewski, whose association represents 2,300 households, said the proposal for the complex does not fit into the county's general plan for the area, that of low density development. The land is zoned for houses set on two-acre lots, she said.

The church complex is "a fine project," she said, "and it's a very noble thing they're planning, but this is the wrong place."

The church's busiest hours on Sunday morning would coincide with Wild World's peak time, she said, and the result would be severe traffic congestion in the neighborhoods.

"We keep remembering 1972," when the amusement park opened, Badaczewski said. "At first, Wild World was going to be a little drive through a zoo.

"Every year, it got bigger and bigger. Once something like this gets a foot in the door, it's very hard for the council to turn things down. They have to look at the total picture of the project."

After a study session this week, the council will formally consider the sewer and water question on Tuesday.