By Erik Alsgaard
Pastor Michael Carrington of St. Luke’s UMC in Reisterstown leads a dedication service for an extension on the church, including the first attached bathrooms in the 136-year history of the congregation. Photo by Erik Alsgaard.
For years – decades, really – the members and guests attending St. Luke’s UMC in Reisterstown had to exit the sanctuary, step outside and walk next door to the church’s Fellowship Hall if they wanted to use the restroom.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, that all changed with the dedication of a new $245,000 expansion of the church, including two eagerly awaited bathrooms.
With local dignitaries in attendance, Pastor Michael Carrington cut the ribbon on the new extension of the church as part of their 136th anniversary celebration.
St. Luke’s traces its history to 1834 when a group of 43 enslaved people asked for, and received, permission to start their own class meetings. Those meetings were held in a log cabin near what is now the Reisterstown library.
In 1880, the Rev. Lawrence Valentine received permission to build a church on Bond Avenue, and money was raised through a subscription drive. The cornerstone was laid on July 18 of that year and the building is still in use today.
The Fellowship Hall, next door, was built in 1898 by a local Odd Fellows chapter, according to the church’s website; the church purchased it in 1941. It was to this building that people went to use the facilities. It also housed Sunday school classrooms, offices and a kitchen.
After initially deciding to tear down the Fellowship Hall, local historians and preservationists convinced the church to refurbish instead of demolish.
The reason? According to the church’s website, after the Civil War, African-American communities generally centered around three buildings: a church, a school, and a community center.
While the school has long-since been torn down, at St. Luke’s, the two other buildings remained and efforts began to keep it that way.
Carrington said that the refurbishment of the Fellowship Hall is already underway.
“Phase one is being working on right now,” he said. “They are shifting the foundation of the building and taking off all the green siding on the building.”
Phase two, he said, will begin in a couple of months, where workers will re-shape the inside of the building.
The money for the work on the Fellowship Hall has come from all outside sources, said Carrington. “All of it was done through grants,” he said. He thanked the county executive and state senators and delegates who helped secure the grants and who have helped to sustain the building.
“I’m excited,” said Carrington after the ribbon cutting. “The church plans to utilize this space to its full capacity. I’m overjoyed, and I know the members of St. Luke’s UMC are looking forward to utilizing this space. It’s just refreshing to know that during the winter, the snow, and even in the heat, we don’t have to leave the building and go to another building to use the restrooms.”
Carrington said that future plans also call for extending the new extension, “either out or up, depending on how God sees fit.”