The fastest growing church in Baltimore – that was the distinction held for Northwood-Appold Methodist Church in 1955, the membership of which has grown from 200 to more than 2,000 in eleven years its members had been gathering. A four-alarm fire heavily damaged the church at the corner of Loch Raven Boulevard and East Cold Spring Lane in Northeast Baltimore Friday morning.
“Programs keep pace with church” originally published Sept. 16, 1955
“A neighborhood church in ever sense of the word,” is how the minister, the Rev. Robert H. Parker, characterizes his church, whose aim, he says “is a progressive one, to meet the new trends in Christian education, especially as they apply to youth, and to meet the needs of the community in which we serve.”
The present congregation had its beginning in 1944, when the Monument Street Methodist Church moved out to the present site.
Four Church Merger
There was no Cold Spring lane there then but only some woods where the young people held hot-dog roasts. The only modern residence in the neighborhood was the Pentidge Apartments. War was on, delaying the building of a small basement, to serve as a foundation for the church. This was opened in 1944 for regular church services. By this time, a downtown congregation had merged with the church, the Mount Lebanon Methodist Church. Shortly afterward two more congretaions, Columbia avenue and the Appold Methodist churches, joined the new congregation and it became known as the Northwood-Appold Methodist Church. From those four churches, it is estimated that no more than 100 original members still attend the present church. Mr. Parker estimates that 90 percent of his congretaion now come from the immediate Northwood neighborhood.
Before the church was built it was realized that the plans were inadequate. This meant the foudnation (where the congregation worshiped for five years) was enlarged and the sanctuary, along with a portion of the present educational building, was dedicated in 1949.
When this happened the congregation numbered 736 members. The church seated 400. The consecration service was no more than ended when it was realized that the church and the educational building were too small. This resulted in an expansion and in 1952 the present building, consisting of the church with two added transepts and an enlarged educational building, was completed – for the second time. (Needless to say, the congregation is now planning on building another educational building across the street from the church.)
Because four and five children in one family is not regarded as an unusual size these days, children’s facilities at the church are always taxed to capacity.
In 1944 Sunday school attendance was about 75 per week. Last Sunday, 732 answered the roll call at the church schools, which are staffed by 120 teachers. To meet the attendance requirements there are now two Sunday morning church services and two sessions of Sunday school, both at 9:30 and 11 a.m.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. Two services are becoming inadequate for the booming congregation. This time, there will be no enlarging the church. Instead, it is thought that making wider use of the present facilities by adding a third service would be the wiser move.
When Mr. Parker came to the church in 1944 he was the entire church personnel. In the last two years the church staff has expanded to direct the rapidly growing programs. Mrs. Katherine A. Smith came first as director of Christian Education. Last February, an associate minister, the Rev. Waller B. Wiser, arrived. Now there is also a full-time director of youth, Mrs. Nancy U. Wallace. Mrs. Buena Zechman is a part-time church visitor. The staff also includes two secretaries.
The staff sees to it that there is some activity programmed for every age group in the congregation and the community. One of the largest groups is the Methodist men’s organization, a church service club.
One of the most unusual of the activities is the coffee clinic. The coffee clinics are arrived so that expectant mothers can attend two during their pregnancy. The expectant fathers are invited to the second meeting. At these coffee clinics, one of the problems discussed is how to accept the new arrival as part of the family circle.
“It certainly helps when they get to the primary classes if the children have been brought up as if they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths,” notes Mrs. Smith in talking of the value of such discussions.
There are also education classes held for the parents which deals with such subjects as child psychology and religious education in the home.
Week Day Activities
And Church School is something that doesn’t keep on Sunday’s only. The adults can attend the “School of Learning” for five Monday nights several times during the year, when the subjects are discussed as the Bible, problems of teen-agers for parents and an appreciation of great church music. Now it is planned to have midweek classes for elementary school pupils. The full-scale of the church program is too big to enumerate here. And it has gained recognition.
Because of his pastoral work, Mr. Parker, who graduated from American University and received his bachelor of divinity degree from Drew University, Madison, N.J., was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of divinity from Western Maryland College at Westminster.
Mr. Wiser, who also took his divinity degree at Drew University, is now studying for a master’s degree there. His field of interest is in marriage counseling.