by Bob Allen
After holding off for the longest time, the rain came just as the hot dogs were beginning to sizzle on the grills, and the cotton candy machine was spinning out feathery globs of the sugary confection.
But, as advertised, Associate Pastor Cheryl A. Wuensch and the church members who had organized the evening event merely moved the whole shebang _ folding tables, movie projector, screen and cotton candy machine _ into the church auditorium.
Although the spacious auditorium couldn't quite match the allure of crickets chirping and lightning bugs flitting in the tall trees outside, the 40 to 50 guests seemed to take the change of scene in cheerful stride.
They unfolded their beach blankets, opened the folding chairs on the tile floor, chatted and munched hot dogs, watermelon slices and chips while children chased each other around the hall and consumed the cotton candy.
A few older folks read books or ambled around the room taking digital pictures of the youngsters as they waited for the lights to dim and the film "Cheaper by the Dozen," the recent remake starring Steve Martin and Hillary Duff, to begin.
"We bandied about what movie to show," said Jeff Hillard, a church member who lives up the street and was there with his two daughters. "We wanted something that was really family-friendly but still attractive to the preteens."
"Everything is free tonight; we're not even taking donations," Wuensch said as she stood by the spinning cotton candy machine balancing a plate of hot dogs and pickles.
Timonium United Methodist has been hosting summer movie nights off and on for several years. The films are part of a long schedule of events the church hosts year-round that are open to the public. Other events include music concerts and an autumn pumpkin festival.
This fall, the church is also holding a new, free event called Alpha, which "will explore the foundations of faith from all dimensions," Wuensch said.
Alpha will kick off Sept. 10 with a free dinner and screening of a video called "Mr. Bean Goes to Church," followed by discussion groups on the meaning of faith.
Wuensch said she was encouraged by the fact that about half the people at Friday's movie night were not church members.
"We just wanted to welcome anyone who may come tonight," Wuensch added. "I'd say half the people here are just from the community" and don't belong to the church, which is nice. A lot of people from the Spring Lake and Pot Spring neighborhoods come out for these things."
Church members are still trying to decide if and when to host a second movie night this summer. If they do, the date will be posted on the church marquee.
Details also will be available on Timonium United Methodist Church's Web site: www.timoniumumc.org or call 410-252-5500.