News and Views

Centennial UMC brings Pentecost to life

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By Pastor Debra Linton

At Centennial UMC in Frederick almost every day can feel like Pentecost as people from a variety of cultures gather at the church and a new Spirit comes to life.

God has been working in our midst over the past eight years at Centennial Memorial UMC. Located in downtown Frederick, the church opened in 1900. Surrounded  by 12 other historic mainline denominational churches, Centennial stands out in that it is where “mission meets mercy." Within walking distance, there are two other United Methodist churches, one is on the same block.  This situation motivated the leadership to reconsider the role that Centennial plays within the community.

The leadership developed what was referred to as the “2020 Vision Plan,” which laid out goals and ministry intentions for a new way of thinking about the church.  The congregation had been shrinking. However, the Vision Plan allowed it to begin to blossom.  The plan was created to bring children and families back to the church while still serving the local community.  The Centennial Early Learning Center was created. Like everyone, we struggled through COVID; however, we prevailed. Today, we serve as an international preschool, serving 11 different cultures and languages from around the world.  

Through a slow and arduous process, the preschool, operating full-day and employing seven teachers from various parts of the world, has become a new light within the community. The Learning Center provides daycare for low-income families and those who are new to the United States, including those with refugee status.  

The benefits of this ministry have been beyond what we could have imagined. Today, there are children whose families are from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines.  As the children enter the building in the morning, parents whose languages are from all over the world wish their children a good day and leave them with love and affection in French, Russian, Ukrainian, Akan, Yoruba, Arabic, and Amharic and English. 

The Learning Center, "Where Mission Meets Mercy,” has become a source of funding for Centennial UMC.  In addition, the small but mighty congregation has had the blessing of welcoming, through professions of faith, a Russian family and a Ukrainian family while also giving witness to the baptism of two younger Russian children.

Within the 16,000 square feet of Centennial, there is room to share worship space with Seventh Day Adventists on Saturday. The worship is conducted in Spanish and has tripled in size since joining our ecumenical spirit of offering space to like-minded in the community.

On Sundays, the United Methodist congregation meets in the early morning at Centennial, followed by Oasis International Christian Fellowship. This group worships in Russian and supports the refugee population from Russia and Ukraine. Finally, an Anglican group meets monthly for Holy Communion and worship.  

Keeping with the past tradition of serving the marginalized, Centennial has a large clothing pantry that provides seasonal apparel to children and families within the Day School, the Adventist and Russian groups, especially those new to the United States, as well as the transient population within the downtown Frederick Community.  

Winter 2024 provided a wonderful example of United Methodist connectionalism. Five United Methodist churches contributed to the clothing pantry and more than  450 coats were donated and distributed.  

Centennial has hosted this connectional activity for three consecutive years receiving donations from Trinity UMC in Frederick, Trinity UMC in Emmitsburg, New Market UMC, Mount Carmel UMC, Brook Hill UMC, and Weller UMC in Thurmont.  

Once an empty building, except on Sundays, Centennial UMC is now open seven days a week, celebrating four worship services and hosting four communities of those who are seeking a closer walk with God.  Children have returned and can be heard throughout the building Monday through Friday. With God, all things truly are possible.