United Methodists rally for their neighborhood St. Mark's reaches out to make youths welcome

January 12, 1998|By Stacey P. Patton | Stacey P. Patton,SUN STAFF

Tapping tambourines, praying and singing, members of United Methodist churches in Baltimore held a rally yesterday to mark the beginning of an outreach program in a Northwest Baltimore neighborhood to get young people off the streets and into the church.

"Who is in the neighborhood?" asked each person who took the microphone.

"God is in the neighborhood," responded those at the rally outside St. Mark's at Liberty Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevard, where a small group of young men loitered outside a liquor store across from the church.

"God is the only answer," said Ed Delong, superintendent of the Baltimore-Harford District of the United Methodist Church.

The rally was sponsored by St. Mark's, which invited other congregations to participate.

During the rally, Psalm 95: 1 -- an all-male group of recovering drug addicts and substance abusers -- sang spirituals and testified about their battles and victories over narcotics and liquor.

The first verse of Psalm 95 in the Old Testament urges believers to "make a joyful noise" to the Lord, "the rock of our salvation."

"These men have been saved and are willing to share that good news with the world. That's how the psalm applies to them," said Ed Ackney, a local official of the United Methodist Church.

The theme of the rally was the Biblical story of the fall of Jericho. St. Mark's aims to knock down the walls and rid the neighborhood of drugs and crime, Ackney said.

"Our cities are captured," he said. "They are captured by drugs, violence, racism and hatred. We are going to free them. We are fighting a spiritual warfare and our weapons are our faith, presence and Christian witness."

Bishop Felton Edwin May, who was appointed pastor of St. Mark's in 1996, said that in past years the church has not done enough to help the community.

"In the past, we have not been a good neighbor," he said. "God calls us to love our neighbors. From here, we want to do all we can to see that people are clothed and fed and their basic human needs are met."

"I think this event is important," said Dorothy White, who has been a member of St. Mark's since 1971. "We are needed here to make a difference for the youth, especially. This is my community, and I want to take it back."

Pub Date: 1/12/98

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