Setting fear aside, churches battle lawlessness West Baltimore clergy plan crisis center

January 25, 1993|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

The rector of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church on Edmondson Avenue was one of the lucky ones. When he and his 5-month-old daughter were shot at from a passing car as he walked to a mailbox near his rectory in September, the baby was untouched and his wound was superficial.

But the experience added urgency to his appeal to his neighbors yesterday.

The Rev. Thomas Kryder-Reid preached the sermon at a service in West Baltimore that brought together clergy and laity of six congregations -- Protestant and Roman Catholic -- in a show of prayers, hymns and spiritual strength against lawlessness.

The theme of the ecumenical worship at Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church, concluding the annual Week of Christian Unity celebrated across the nation, was "The Sanctuary Meets the Streets; Witness for Hope in the Midst of Fear."

The Rev. Anita E. Hendrix, pastor of the host church, announced that neighboring clergy of four denominations had decided to establish a crisis center. "We can make our part of West Baltimore a beacon for all of Baltimore," she said.

The center will be in addition to a host of services already being provided to people in need of food, housing, medicine, education and counseling through various outreach programs of the churches along Edmondson Avenue. The churches also provide music courses, Head Start, sports teams, an emergency shelter for the homeless, Alcoholics Anonymous, a weekly healing service, and programs for youth and for the elderly.

"I am astounded at the variety and the vitality right here in our congregations," Mr. Kryder-Reid said.

Then, nodding toward Edmondson Avenue, he asked, "But how many people out there know about us?"

To his listeners in the pews, together on this evening for worship, song and fellowship but often separated by denominational differences, he added, "How many people in here know about us?"

Around him were the participating ministers, priests, lay leaders and musicians from Second English Lutheran, Christ Edmondson Methodist and St. Bernardine's and St. William of York Catholic as well as his Episcopal and the host Presbyterian churches.

He spoke of victims of even more serious crimes than the one that had touched him: the mother from Savage killed in a carjacking less than two weeks before the gunfire that narrowly missed his daughter; his critically injured roommate at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where police had insisted he be taken for observation.

"How intensely I wanted to deny what happened to me," Mr. Kryder-Reid recalled. "In broad daylight, for no apparent reason at all."

In the midst of such occurrences, he said, "we so urgently need to hear again and again the almost unbelievably simple message, that God cares, that God is right here in the same boat with us . . . that Jesus Christ is on the sidewalks of Edmondson Avenue."

After references to the fishermen with Jesus in the Sea of Galilee, he concluded his sermon with an appeal to all churchgoers to "team up and go fishing together in our own little cove on the west side of the city." He was applauded.

As if to reinforce his message, the swaying Gospel Choir of St. Bernardine's broke into syncopated song, "We're going to make it."

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