By Shannon Baker
BALTIMORE (BP) — Some 600 Woman’s Missionary Union members toured five Baltimore sites related to WMU legend Annie Armstrong during the June 8 session of the WMU Annual Meeting and Missions Celebration.
Armstrong is a Baltimore native who served as WMU’s first corresponding secretary (akin to today’s executive director) and the namesake for the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions with the North American Mission Board.
Year after year, Armstrong came up with new ways to stir up missions efforts, to get missions information out to the churches and to raise prayer support and money for missions.
Tour participants viewed where Armstrong first lived at the corner of Pratt and Calvert Street, over a tobacco shop owned by her father (now where the Gallery at Harbor Place is located). They viewed the site from Federal Hill Park where WMU members prayed over the city and its Inner Harbor.
Tour participants rode by the site where the first national WMU headquarters was located on East Fayette Street. This was the Maryland Baptist Mission Rooms, which served as a missionary library and reading room. Later it served as the location of the Southern Baptist Convention’s missionary literature department until the work was placed with the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) in the early 1900s.
Tour participants also passed by Armstrong’s home church, Eutaw Place Baptist Church, which is now City Temple Baptist Church. Eutaw Place was started by Seventh Baptist Church (where the Shrine of St. Jude now stands), where Armstrong was baptized at the age of 20. Armstrong attended Eutaw Place from 1871, when it was formed, until her death in 1938. She taught the infants class there and led a mothers’ club for underprivileged women. Her last home was behind the current Cecil Apartments.
The group also visited the gravesite of Armstrong and other family members at Greenmount Cemetery. Intentionally stark at her request, Armstrong’s grave marker reads: “Annie Walker Armstrong, daughter of James D. and Mary E. Armstrong. Born July 11, 1850 – Died December 20, 1938. She hath done what she could. The Lord knoweth them that are His.”
A commemorative plaque later placed during her centennial year by the WMU of Maryland and national WMU “in appreciation of Annie W. Armstrong’s leadership in world missions” details Armstrong’s many positions in ministry as well as her famous rally cry, “Go Forward.”
Participants then visited one of three church sites where they celebrated the 125th anniversary of WMU with cookies made from recipes from Armstrong and fellow missionary Lottie Moon:
— Woodbrook Baptist Church (formerly Eutaw Place Baptist Church). The church’s Eutaw Place Room contains Miss Annie’s antique secretary and other items of historical interest.
— Patterson Park Baptist Church, which started as a Sunday School called Highlandtown Mission by Eutaw Place Baptist Church in 1906. This church recently was given to Gallery Church, a church plant that had been renting space nearby.
— Jesus Our Redeemer Church (formerly Lee Street Memorial Church), which was started before the Civil War as a Sunday School ministry. The congregation became one of the largest in the city, flourishing under the ministry of E.Y. Mullins, a former Southern Baptist Convention president and a president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Five GAs from Hoffmeyer Baptist Church in Florence, S.C., were among the tour participants. The girls, ages 9-12, held several fundraisers for their trip to Baltimore.
Melissa Crowley, 11, said her favorite part of the tour was seeing Liesl Bolin from Woodbrook Baptist Church dressed up as Miss Annie. During the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of GAs, Crowley also dressed up as Armstrong.
“It’s fun to put real life to history,” said Julie Heath, a preschool, children and student ministry specialist for Tennessee’s WMU. “In Mission Friends, when we talk about the offering, I’ll be able to say we’ve been to Miss Annie’s hometown. She’s not just a black-and-white photo; she’s a real live person.”
For a video featuring John Roberts, pastor emeritus of Woodbrook Baptist Church, sharing an oral history of Annie Armstrong, go to https://vimeo.com/96924454.
Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.