By Sharon Mager, BaptistLIFE correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—Some Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network/BCMD churches find that merging established churches and new plants is an answer to prayer. None believe it’s easy but they’re willing to consider the possibility as a way to persevere, building on the legacy of believers, some even from other denominations, to start new Southern Baptist churches or outreaches.
Below is a snapshot of some network churches striving for renewal through a variety of means:
Jesus Our Redeemer Church in Federal Hill is a great example of blending the old and new. A handful of Lee Street Memorial Church members prayed that God would rescue their church. It was historic, started in the 1800s as a Sunday school ministry that flourished. Eight hundred members filled the church in the post Civil War years.
As Lee Street members petitioned God for help, God was calling Brad O’Brien and his wife Jena-Marie to Baltimore. O’Brien heard Lee Street’s dilemma and provided pulpit supply. Both churches began to be aware of how God was moving and after much discussion, Lee Street Memorial Church’s congregation voted unanimously to merge with Redeemer City Church to be called Jesus Our Redeemer Church, though the church is officially “Lee Street Memorial Church doing business as Jesus Our Redeemer Church.”
Streetlite Christian Fellowship redeemed property from a Methodist church on Pontiac Avenue in Brooklyn. At a June dedication service, Brian Zimmerman, senior pastor of Streetlite, said the Methodist church was founded in 1868. Now, over a century and a half later, Streetlite’s new “Transformation Center,” continues the legacy of those long-ago believers.
The new center will be a place of refuge, offering food and clothing, health services, family restoration services, arts and media, addictions counseling, vocational training, a school, and a church.
Gallery Church was the recipient of the gifting of two churches, Colgate Baptist Church and Patterson Park Church. In Eastern Baltimore County, Colgate Baptist Church members literally passed specially made batons to Gallery Church leaders at a transition service in the spring of 2013.
The church, founded in 1932, began as a Sunday School sponsored by Patterson Park Baptist Church. The once thriving church had dwindled to a few members striving to keep the church afloat.
Downtown Baltimore’s Patterson Park Baptist Church members graciously gifted their property to Gallery Church in the fall of 2013, marking the occasion with a celebration worship service on October 27, 2013. This date coincided the 100th anniversary of the church’s incorporation. Many of those who grew up in the church returned to celebrate the past and anticipate seeing God’s plans for the future.
Woolford Memorial Church was founded in the mid 1940s. At a special banquet, members of Woolford shared bittersweet memories as they officially handed the building and authority to North Arundel Church (NAC) in Northern Anne Arundel County. NAC equipped the church for modern worship and Woolford became “Grace Place,” a video multi-site venue of NAC.
North Arundel Church later transitioned that facility, making it a stand-alone church and gifting the facility for a new plant, providing planter Troy McDaniel with counsel and prayer support. McDaniel has seen slow steady growth and has developed strong new ties with the community.
The story was the same at Hampden Baptist Church. The neighborhood changed, the church was aging but the faithful congregation wanted to continue the legacy of the gospel in their neighborhood. Through the help of Gary Glanville, pastor of Northwest Baptist Church and the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, the church was introduced to church planter Dan Hyun and Village Church. Hyun and his core group did not have a facility and God opened the door to Hampden Baptist Church. Hyun said they couldn’t have picked a better facility.
Church Planter Michael Crawford, pastor of Freedom Church, was thrilled when Bob Mackey, Baltimore Baptist Association director of missions, called to ask Crawford if Freedom was interested in the property of Hazelwood Baptist Church in the Rosedale area of Baltimore. Hazelwood Baptist had dissolved and the property reverted back to the association.
Bethany Lane Baptist Church stepped in to build on the legacy left by Cornerstone Community Church in Columbia after the church had declined. Cornerstone leaders were weary and praying for God to redeem the hard work through over a decade of ministry. With the help of Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, Bethany took control of the church, allowing it technically to continue as Cornerstone Community Church doing business as Bethany Church, Columbia. The facility became a new church multisite with a strong campus pastor and young bivocational staff.