Alma D. Lemon, 76, pastor of United Glorious Church of Christ

November 30, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

Alma D. Lemon, the daughter of a country preacher who became pastor of the church her father founded in Baltimore, died of heart failure Wednesday at Union Memorial Hospital. She was 76.

Born in rural South Carolina, the former Alma Dingle grew up watching her father, Archbishop Joseph E. Dingle, deliver sermons every Sunday morning. Transfixed by his message, she volunteered to teach Sunday school before she was 10 years old.

"She used to follow her father to church every day," said Mrs. Lemon's son, David J. Lemon of Baltimore. "She was always one step behind him, so one day my grandfather just made her the church secretary."

In the late 1920s, the Dingle family moved to Baltimore. Mr. Dingle, who had been preaching since he was 13, founded the tiny United Glorious Church of Christ on Henrietta Street in South Baltimore.

Young Alma became the Sunday school superintendent.

In 1940, at age 18, she married John A. Lemon. The couple raised five children while Mrs. Lemon studied the ministry with her father.

During a ceremony at their church, the archbishop ordained his daughter, and she became assistant pastor.

Over the years, the tiny church grew and moved to its site at 1215 W. Lexington St.

The Lemons' family life always revolved around the church. The children's earliest memories are from Henrietta Street, at the little chapel next to a livery stable.

"As a boy, I remember sneaking next door and looking at all the horses," said David Lemon, laughing at the memory because he should have been listening to his mother's sermons.

Family disagreements have stemmed from the church.

When the United Glorious congregation was in the process of building the church on Lexington Street, members disagreed about leadership and finances. The church split in 1972, and Mrs. Lemon's brother formed Bethlehem Church of God on Garrison Boulevard.

When her father died in 1983, Mrs. Lemon -- who had the title of bishop -- became pastor of United Glorious. She continued to preach until April, when she became too ill and moved to a nursing home.

With her death, David Lemon will become the third generation of his family to lead the church, which has a congregation of about 25 members. Services will be held there at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to her husband and son, Mrs. Lemon is survived by a second son, Joseph A. Lemon of Baltimore; three daughters, Gloria Lemon, Celestine Lemon and Sue Nock, all of Baltimore; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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