Baltimore must rebuild, pastor says

January 18, 1995|By Frank P.L. Somerville | Frank P.L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

The new head of an interfaith social-action organization told an audience including the mayor, police commissioner and City Council members last night that Baltimore "is in the midst of a war" and it cannot rebuild itself "without securing a cease-fire."

At a rousing ecumenical service installing him as president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Rev. Arnold W. Howard declared that politicians, educators, police, business leaders and economists cannot save the inner city unless the churches are at the center of the effort.

As a veteran of eight years in the Air Force, Mr. Howard compared once flourishing but now boarded-up neighborhoods of Baltimore to the wreckage he and fellow bombardiers left behind them in populated areas of Vietnam.

"Walk the streets of our cities today," he said. "In a sense, the war has come home. The evidence is right before us. Our families, our children are in the midst of a war, and it's not the children's fault."

From the pulpit of West Baltimore's lofty, imposing Enon Baptist Church, of which he is pastor, Mr. Howard told an appreciative and responsive congregation, "No matter how bright it is in here, there is a night out there. . .

"When the bullets are whizzing by on a street corner, that corner isn't secured. The level of violence and hostility in this city has to decrease. What better place to begin than this alliance!"

"Say it! Say it!" members of the congregation called out.

City officials listening from the pews included Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. The mayor recently named Mr. Howard to the board that will oversee the expenditure of $100 million in federal empowerment grants.

The new alliance president likened that empowerment money to "blood plasma," saying, "We are thankful for the plasma. It may help us stop the bleeding. But unless we do something about the hole, we're still going to die."

The mostly black ministerial group, which 40 years ago was a force in the civil rights movement in Baltimore, has attracted whites and blacks, Protestants and Roman Catholics, men and women, clergy in the city and clergy from surrounding counties to its leadership positions, and this was demonstrated at last night's installation service.

Taking office with Mr. Howard were the Rev. Robert Kearns, a Roman Catholic pastor, as first vice president; the Rev. Choyce Hall and the Rev. Donald Anthony, both Lutherans, as second vice president and recording secretary; the Rev. Ann F. Lightner, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor, as financial secretary; the Rev. James Lightfoot, a Baptist, as treasurer; and the Rev. Norman Handy, a United Methodist, as chaplain.

These and other Christian denominations were represented among the participants in the rousing service of prayer, scripture reading and song.

The choirs of Enon Baptist and St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic churches performed, and Auxiliary Bishop John H. Ricard of the Catholic archdiocese gave the invocation.

The Rev. Marion C. Bascom Sr. of Douglas Memorial Community Church, one of several former presidents of the alliance who took part, delivered the charge to the new officers.

He urged them to "plant trees that bear fruit to be enjoyed by those who live after" they are gone. "Keep planting," he said. "Don't look for a lot of reaping."

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