July 8, 2016

Dr. W. Loyd Allen has written an accurate and readable account of our predecessors in Maryland and Delaware. “You Are a GREAT PEOPLE” is a story of the state convention—the churches and people doing God’s work together.

by W. Loyd Allen

The history of Baptists in Maryland and Delaware needs to be recorded, read, and taught to the new generations of Baptists. The journey through the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries was made by Christians committed to serving the cause of Christ. The history of the organized Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, beginning in 1836 and continuing until today, reflects not only the impact of Baptists in Maryland/Delaware but significant influence in the Southern Baptist Convention. Maryland/ Delaware Baptists can be characterized as pioneers with mission fervor.

“Dr. W. Loyd Allen has written an accurate and readable account of our predecessors in Maryland and Delaware. “You Are a GREAT PEOPLE” is a story of the state convention—the churches and people doing God’s work together.

“The recorded history of the Convention reflects the overwhelming impact of laypersons. The laity were not obsessed with theological or social issues that were divisive. They wanted to see the advancement of the kingdom. Leading, and sometimes following the Baptist laity, were many strong ministers. Together, their goal was to ‘strengthen feeble churches and start new ones.’”

Those words were written by Charles R. Barnes, Executive Director for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/ Delaware (BCM/D) from 1993 – 2000, in the Forward of “You Are A GREAT PEOPLE.” You can obtain a copy of this informative and inspiring book from the History Committee by contacting Margot Painter at Limited quantities are available.

Following is the Epilogue of this great book. It is filled with faithful characters to spur your thinking and encourage your heart:

“Hope shines through the entire Maryland/Delaware Baptist heritage. This hope is well suited for nurturing and furthering that heritage in a new century.

Baptists led by Charles Barnes to plan for an uncertain future had a rich resource in those who came before them. Whether led by a pastor like Elijah Baker, who was known more “for his piety than his parts,” or by one with the eloquence of the incomparable Richard Fuller, Maryland/Delaware Baptists facing a new millennium could expect good results from their ministers. If clergy leadership should fail, however, Maryland/Delaware Baptists will be able to look to a rich array of models for lay ministry, male and female, in Sater, Crane, Graves, Armstrong, Levering, David, and their like.

When beginning new churches under modern conditions occasionally seems too difficult a task to contemplate, BCM/D Baptists could always pause and imagine the sound of a horse’s hooves clopping on an icy road late on an eighteenth-century night as church planter Father Davis rode home after another long journey to preach without pay to a gathered few. Or they could remind themselves of William Crane moving kith and kin to Baltimore where he committed ten years and much of his finances to the task of beginning one healthy Baptist church in the part of his city where one was most needed. Ask what price did Noah Davis count too high as he labored to start black Baptist work in Baltimore while his children lay in the bonds of slavery in Virginia. Would any of these think church planting too difficult a task for Baptists in Maryland/Delaware looking to the next century?

If American society appears too lacking in the principles of a decent Christian culture, perhaps a Bible study movement would be in order at the dawn of the twenty-first century. That eighteenth-century novelty, Sunday School, worked for Father Healey’s group at Second Baptist. In this modern culture planners can seek ways to share the good news, in whatever contemporary form fits the audience, while remembering A. C. Dixon’s tent filled with evangelistic fervor and the reverent splendor of Marjorie Allen’s home church sanctuary, where invitations were not heard, but both served to bring lost persons home.

If discouraged by the cantankerous nature of contemporary Baptists, future Baptists could glance beyond a bad day at Black Rock toward George Adams. This new pastor in town decided to gather as many promissionary, antidisputatious Baptists around him as he could and formed the Maryland Baptist Union Association [MBUA] in 1836. If things became too fragmented, take up the model of Maryland Baptists’ Ann Graves or Annie Armstrong, who rescued the Southern Baptist Convention’s mission program, but never were accepted fully into the fraternity until they were off the job. Or take a hint from the Leverings, who also saved SBC institutions without relinquishing their relationships with Baptists of other races and northern climes. Autonomy was more than yesterday’s news to those Baptists.

When the high-rise buildings and inner-city blight threaten to overwhelm the gospel light and the ethnic pluralism appears impenetrable, the future forecasters could borrow the gaze of Marie Buhlmaier, who stood with little more than a few tracts and a willing heart before the huddled masses yearning to be free. Then they could look beyond her through the years to the myriad ministries that followed her openness to give what little she had to those who had less.

To those who cynically hang back thinking loyalty to institutions is wasted, let them be introduced to the fruits of Franklin Wilson’s forty years, or Joseph T. Watt’s two decades, or Roy Gresham’s quarter century, or Charles Barnes’s almost score-and-a-half. Top bureaucrats all, with one eye on the financial bottom line and the other on the Kingdom, these leaders made sure those at the end of the twentieth century had churches, camps, and other channels for the good news of Christ. Let them listen to the stories of fellowship of believers at the MBUA Summer Assemblies and let them ask if such warmth of human relationship is not worth a little loyalty and care for the institutions which provide them.

If any shrink back because the world seems too big and their numbers too small, let them recall the whole history of the few among the many in Maryland and Delaware for over two hundred and fifty years. Let them be reminded not to count those few, but to weigh their worth. If the timid or the doubtful could rise high enough to see the Baptist churches in the Northeast, or bend low enough to sit with the beloved friends of Julia Donnahaw and Ellen Udovich (and Jesus) in the slums of the great cities, they would know the giants in the land can and will be conquered.

If they could but know from whence they came, Baptists in Maryland/Delaware would look to the future with joyful, hopeful determination. There is no “THE END” to the story of Baptists in Maryland and Delaware.”