Forty-one people met together for their first Sabbath worship on March 16, 1957. That first meeting was held in the home of John Sickler, in Burtonsville. Sabbath school was well-attended with 19 children in the Kindergarten Division, 12 in the Junior Division, and 41 in the Adult Division. That very first Sabbath school, with 31 children present, began the Atholton tradition of priority ministry to young people.
Twenty-two people were called to order on April 4, 1957, for a business meeting to organize the new church corporation. Thus began the first Seventh-day Adventist presence in Howard County, Maryland. Those 22 people could never have envisioned the many lives that would be touched by their sacrifice and commitment.
Charter Member Elmer D. Snook donated seven acres of land to the new congregation for the purpose of constructing a church. Five months after organizing, on August 13, 1957, phase one of the building program was begun. With the primary commitment of providing the community with Christian education, the members chose to complete the church-operated elementary school building first. Monday, September 8, 1958, was an exciting day, as the one-teacher Atholton Adventist School opened it's doors to thirteen eager students.
On October 4, 1958, church services were officially inaugurated in the new school building. A November Columbia Union Visitor article reported that the "members are sacrificing to see the new work go forward. The believers of Atholton are to be congratulated for their fine spirit, hard work, and devotion to the cause of God that we love."
In the summer of 1958 the first Vacation Bible School was organized. It was held in the new school building and was a great success. The first evangelistic series was conducted October 11 through November 22, 1958. Five new members joined the church during those meetings.
The end of the second school year found the enrollment at 36 students with two teachers. By June of 1960 the church membership had increased to 75. In July 1961, construction was started on storage rooms under the school and plans were made to add a large gymnasium. Forty-four students were enrolled by May 1962, with two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. The church membership had increased to 82. The next year the school gymnasium was completed and open for use. There were four teachers and 75 students in ten grades. Church membership was 113 and worship services were held in the new gym. July 1964 ended another expansion phase with the completion of a new kitchen.
Even though Atholton members were busy with physical expansion and a growing school and church, they continued to direct their ministry to the enlarging community around them. Church laymen conducted 16 weekly Bible studies with 44 students. In May 1969, a successful Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking was sponsored by the Atholton Youth Department.
In March 1971 the decision was made to build a church sanctuary. The members faithfully gave of their money and time to complete the building, donating more than $75,000 in cash. In some cases families took out personal loans and donated money saved for vacations. When the sanctuary was completed it was estimated that the church had also contributed more than $70,000 in labor. On March 22, 1975, almost 18 years from its first church service, the Atholton congregation met in their new sanctuary, which seated 560 persons. The addition included foyer, mothers' room, balcony, baptistry and church offices. The first evangelistic series held in the sanctuary took place the summer of 1975. Twenty people were baptized at the conclusion.
With the physical plant nearly completed, more resources were available for serving the community. Vacation Bible Schools, cooking schools, bread-making classes, home-nutrition training courses, and Five Day Plans were developed and presented. A Revelation Seminar in the fall of 1985 resulted in 20 more baptisms, bringing the membership to 273.
In the fall of 1986 the basement classrooms and bathrooms were finished under the sanctuary. This completion greatly expanded the church's capacity for ministry, providing room for Sabbath schools and other gatherings. On October 18, 1986 the church building was dedicated debt-free.
The church's current membership of approximately 550 is striving to pursue the vision begun by its founders more than 50 years ago. With renewed determination and sense of direction we proceed to reach Columbia with the message of salvation. Through community service, involvement in the denomination's satellite evangelistic efforts, home video evangelism, and vibrant worship services, Atholton seeks to fulfill its mission. The operation of our ten-grade elementary school continues to be an effective way to teach young minds about the incredible love of God.