Ministry success stories
Baltimore is facing some hard realities. “We at the cutting edge of the conference in that sense,” said the Rev. Rod Miller, director of connectional ministries for the Baltimore-Washington Conference. "The trends the conference is experiencing, we’re experiencing first."
As such, Baltimore also leads the conference in some of its growth and faithful movement toward becoming Acts 2 churches.
At the May gathering of Baltimore churches, some of the congregations shared their stories.
Grace UMC on North Charles Street is a welcoming church that takes its call to hospitality seriously. In addition to being a reconciling church with “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” the congregation attempts to have “open arms,” by helping people grow in their faith, said the Rev. Emora Brannan.
As part of the church’s education program, they hold a six-week churchwide exploration of a specific topic. During a recent study on the sacraments, the children baked the Communion bread and they were invited to surround the altar as Brannan explained each step of the celebration of the Eucharist. The children were then served Communion.
“Education is a big thing in our lives,” Brannan said.
The Rev. Richard Allan Wright, of Gwynn Oak UMC, said he never believed any church person would say, “Thank God for a merger.” However, at his church, where some of the members have undergone five mergers in the past 15 years, “God makes a way,” Wright said. “We even have a new word for it – “merger ministry.”
The key to combining people from Howard Park, St. Mark’s, Orchard Street, Jubilee and Garrison Boulevard churches, was enabling families to introduce themselves to one another and pray for each other, he said.
“It’s not always roses,” Wright admits. “But we wanted to be a ministry for God in the Gwynn Oak section of West Baltimore.”
At the close of each session, the congregation chants together: “Who are we? We are children of God. We are the Gwynn Oak UMC.”
At Good Shepherd UMC, which is also created from several churches merging to work cooperatively together to serve the Hamden community, the church serves a growing homeless population, many of whom live under a nearby bridge.
In the past month, an ecumenical ministry they participate in has gone from serving 150 meals a month to more than 900, said the Rev. Amy Lewis.
We’re doing a lot with just a few people, Lewis said. “We’re showing people a lot of tender, loving care.”
At John Wesley UMC, which its pastor, the Rev. Alfreda Wiggins, proudly describes as “the church in the ‘hood where God’s love is understood,” community outreach is the center of all the congregation does.
“Our mission,” she said, “is to reach and to seek and to serve the least, the lost, the last, the lonely, the left out. To do that, we have to start where we live. North Avenue is our Jerusalem. We need to serve them before we go to Samaria.”
Four years ago the church started a Saturday Academy for children in the community, last year they hired a youth minister, and they also offer a GED program, food program and a wide array of community outreach.
“There’s a lot of exciting ministry occurring in the city,” said Baltimore Metropolitan District Superintendent the Rev. Tony Hunt. “Their stories are our stories. They offer us a framework for moving forward.”