Methodist church passes fund-raising objective

February 06, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

The congregation of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, one of Baltimore's most admired historical and architectural landmarks, has raised $1.7 million in one year, exceeding the goal of the first phase of a campaign to assure its restoration and future maintenance.

This success was reported yesterday by Lovely Lane's fund-raising consultant at a conference on church and synagogue preservation in Catonsville.

As of last week, solicitations for the 1993-1996 phase of the campaign had exceeded the initial $1.6 million goal by about $137,000, said Douglas D. Himes of the Philip B. Secor & Associates firm in Allentown, Pa.

But it may be too early to hold a victory celebration, a member of the congregation cautioned. She said a substantial part of the sum is in the form of pledges and deferred gifts. The campaign at Lovely Lane is called "Restoring Our Past, Assuring Our Future." The second major fund-raising effort by the congregation in 15 years, it seeks $6.4 million in its second phase for $8 million-plus by the end of 1997.

Dr. Himes said the earlier restoration effort -- spurred by international, denomination-wide solicitations authorized by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1980 -- had raised a disappointing $2 million when it ended in 1986.

But that effort provided the beginning of much-needed emergency repairs, such as a new tile roof and the pointing and cleaning of stone exteriors of the sanctuary and bell tower.

Lovely Lane, at St. Paul and 22nd streets, is the "Mother Church of American Methodism."

The Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America, stemming from the Church of England, was organized as a separate denomination Dec. 24, 1784, in a meeting house of the Lovely Lane Society, no longer standing. The society had been formed in what is now the commercial center of downtown Baltimore, north of the Inner Harbor, in 1772. Francis Asbury, the first elected Methodist bishop, became its pastor in 1773.

The existing edifice on St. Paul Street, a Romanesque-style masterpiece of architect Stanford White, was completed in 1887 under the leadership of the Rev. John Franklin Goucher, for whom Goucher College is named. He was criticized at the time for "building a cathedral in a cornfield."

The Rev. Errol Smith, Lovely Lane's pastor, said the congregation's continuing fund-raising effort is intended not only restore and maintain "a national landmark and denominational treasure" but to "strengthen Lovely Lane's ministry to the city of Baltimore and beyond."

Of the $1.7 million first-phase total, about $900,000 is earmarked for such capital projects as restoration of the sanctuary dome, ceiling, floor and carpeting, $500,000 for the start of an endowment for future maintenance and $200,000 for endowing local cultural events at the church.

Yesterday's conference on saving and maintaining historic houses of worship, organized by Baltimore Heritage Inc. and the Baltimore County Historical Trust, was held at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Catonsville.

Experts who discussed and illustrated financial, aesthetic and structural aspects of church and synagogue preservation, in addition to Dr. Himes, were A. Robert Jaeger, co-director of Partners for Sacred Places in Philadelphia; David C. Casey of Jubilee Baltimore Inc.; and Baltimore architects Roger L. Katzenberg and Michael F. Trostel.

"Never ask a person for his money until you've asked for his opinion," Dr. Himes advised.

Mr. Jaeger said historic and architecturally distinguished houses worship should be valued not only for the quality of their sculpture, stained glass, mosaics and ironwork, but for their environmental and psychological impact.

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