Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the door and see all the video cameras, DVD players, CDs, big-screen televisions and computer software that soon will replace the pews and altar of the First Baptist Church of Waldorf.
The church, a fixture since 1968 at the heavily traveled intersection of Route 301 and Berry Road, held its final service Sunday on the land purchased last fall by the Best Buy electronics chain. In a matter of weeks, said those involved with building the new store, the steeple will come down to be replaced eventually by the yellow block letters of the company's name, perched atop a new, box-shaped warehouse.
But this is not a story about a mega-store pushing out the little people. The Baptist church tried unsuccessfully for nearly a decade to sell its cramped two acres, Pastor Wayne R. Kempson said. The congregation was growing, but it had no place to expand.
When Best Buy offered $1.8 million for what has become prime commercial terrority in the heart of Waldorf -- across the street from electronics competitor Circuit City -- the church accepted.
Now the congregation will shift to its Christian Life Center, which sits on 10 acres to the west at Berry and Bunkerhill roads, next to Berry Elementary School. Kempson said the church is building about 23,000 square feet of education and office space, and members hope one day to construct a new worship center.
Meanwhile, Best Buy officials have sought seven county permits for their planned Waldorf store. The Planning and Growth Management Department has signed off on the 45,000-square-foot building, and the architectural site plans have been approved, said Peter Paff, chief of county permits administration.
Best Buy applied for a building permit on Dec. 11, and a county permit specialist said it should be issued next week, pending approval from planning, engineering and the fire marshal.
Paff said the project's permitting review was put on a fast track by the Board of Commissioners, who have deemed it an important part of the county's economic development.
One of the store's architects dubbed the project as the "infamous" Waldorf location, saying it had been a challenge to meet design and permit requirements set forth by the county. The bid for the project has not been awarded yet, said Dan Colella of Progressive Architect and Engineers in Grand Rapids, Mich., but he expects ground to be broken in the next couple of weeks.
Colella said the church and a deserted Howard Johnson's motel next door, which local fire companies currently are using as a training ground, will be razed to make way for the single-story store, the 14th in the state and the first in Southern Maryland.
The move down the road will not be the first for First Baptist Church. Founded in 1946, the congregation originally met in Roby's Saloon in Waldorf. The location obviously was not ideal, and the church moved in 1946 to a spot on Route 5. It broke ground for its most recent home in 1967.
Kempson has been pastor there since the early 1980s. Like others, many of his personal milestones are attached to the building. Both of his sons were baptized and married there, and his father's funeral was held there.
But at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday service, Kempson preached to a full house about how a church is made by its people, not by its meeting house.
"It's sort of hard to say goodbye," he said. "But in the end, it's all about Jesus. We have a lot of faith that God's taking us to this new location."
This Sunday, that's exactly where the congregation will gather.