Baltimore's oldest church selects 16th rector Chicago-area priest to lead Old St. Paul's

November 11, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

After a yearlong search, parishioners of Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore have selected as their 16th rector a Chicago-area priest who they hope will expand their mission as an urban church.

The Rev. David C. Cobb, rector of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, will begin his ministry in Baltimore next month. He takes over as the leader of the "Mother Church" in Baltimore from the Rev. William N. McKeachie, who resigned to become dean of the Episcopal cathedral in Charleston, S.C.

In choosing Cobb, the search committee said it found a rector with a firm commitment to urban ministry, which was its foremost criterion.

"We were here before downtown was here," the Rev. R. Douglas Pitt, who has been acting rector since last November, said of the church that was founded in 1692 as the first church in Baltimore. "We have a very strong feeling that it is a downtown church, and I think the search committee made that quite plain in dealing with [the applicants]."

Laurie Russell, a Guilford resident who was co-chairman of the search committee, said church members were looking for "someone to lead us into the 21st century and take us in new directions."

"There really was a sense we wanted to become less insular and reach out to other churches and religious denominations around us and provide a place for programs to take place within the facilities of the church," she said.

"We have begun some outreach to the community," including a shelter for homeless men during winter, she said.

Cobb's previous assignment was as curate at the Church of Our Saviour in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.

"I found the energy and the edge of life in the city to be very exciting," Cobb said. "I'm very much looking forward to being in an urban church."

Cobb, 40, was born in Mobile, Ala. He taught high school in Atlanta for two years before entering Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., where he received a master of divinity degree in 1983. He was ordained a priest in 1983.

The new rector has a musical background, having supported himself through seminary training by playing organ in a church. His wife, Ruth, is assistant organist at the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago. They have three children.

During his tenure at St. Christopher's, the parish founded a boys choir and a girls choir "that has brought a number of families into the parish and has greatly enhanced our liturgy," he said.

Cobb said he is looking forward to hearing the renowned choir at St. Paul's, because he considers music an important part of liturgy.

"It draws on human creativity and offers an experience of prayer that is very akin to an experience of God in my estimation," he said. "It brings out some of the very best gifts of humanity and leads us to something beyond ourselves."

As one condition of his hiring, Cobb has agreed to live in the city. He said he expects to find Baltimore to his liking.

"Being from the Gulf Coast," he said, "I'm looking forward to being on the water again."

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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