Pastor gets acquainted with town and church


July 09, 1999|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SAVAGE UNITED Methodist Church has a new pastor. Galen Menne has been appointed to the position by Bishop Felton May.

Menne has been a Methodist pastor for 35 years, having served in Prince George's County for the last 18.

Former Pastor Cliff Webner has been assigned to found a new congregation in Kings Contrivance.

Since April, when the decision was made to appoint him, Menne has been getting acquainted with his congregation.

He's seen our town at its liveliest, having spent the entire day at last month's Savage Fest and Strawberry Festival -- which just about everyone in Savage attends. He's met the Phelps and Vollmerhausen families, whose history is synonymous with that of Savage.

As an amateur historian, the pastor is in charge of the church historical society's Web page. Savage appeals to the pastor's sense of history.

We're not far from the cradle of Methodism in the United States: Lovely Lane Church in Baltimore became the first Methodist church in America in 1784.

Methodist ministers, Menne says, were early circuit riders -- pastors who went from town to town holding services, camping outdoors between congregations.

They rode in all sorts of weather, Menne says, and frequently died young from the harsh conditions. A popular saying of the early 1800s, referring to inclement weather, was that only crows and Methodist ministers went out on such nights.

Circuit riding, he points out, was ideally suited to an expanding nation.

Baptists and Methodists did not require ministers to have extensive schooling. While other denominations stayed close to their educational institutions, Baptists and Methodists followed the westward migration.

Menne notes that Lovely Lane Church has diaries from early circuit riders who rode west.

To this day, many small towns far from cities have either a Baptist or a Methodist church and no others.

Savage has one Methodist and one Baptist church, as well as churches of other denominations.

Menne's interest in history is not confined to the distant past. In 1966, he attended the Boston University School of Theology -- where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. earned his doctorate of divinity in 1955.

Menne chose the same field of study as King had -- systemic theology, the study of God and his relationship to man.

Menne's professors had known King as a student, and they followed his career with intense interest.

"He was looked on as one of the students making a very distinctive mark in the political history of this country," Menne recalls. "Some felt that this came out of what he had learned there."

When King was assassinated in 1968, Menne said, the campus was devastated.

Civil rights was not the only issue to rock the campus in those years, Menne said. There was also the Vietnam War.

Menne said the school of theology had sheltered draft-card burners from the police, using the English common law concept of "sanctuary," which forbids pursuit of a fugitive who takes refuge in a house of God.

Menne was scheduled to give his first public service during that confrontation. He went ahead with his sermon.

More than 30 years later, the experiences are still with him. He brings his concern for social justice into his life as a minister.

Menne is vice chairman of the Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women in the Methodist Church.

Although women are permitted to become ministers in the Methodist Church, acceptance into parish life is not always easy. The committee is addressing this problem.

Menne and his family live in Bowie, in Prince George's County, where his wife, Carolyn, is a teacher at Mount Rainier Elementary School. But he is beginning to feel at home in our area.

His daughter, Michele, worked for the Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce, after graduating from Towson State University in 1988. She scheduled several chamber events, which her father attended, at Savage Mill.

We welcome the pastor and his family to our community.

Summer Shakespeare

If the weather is sweltering, can Shakespeare be far behind? Of course not.

Every year about this time, someone offers a Shakespearean play. In the past, performers have come from the University of Maryland. This year, Olney Theater will perform "As You Like It," one of the Bard's funnier plays and one that -- mercifully, in my opinion -- hasn't recently been made into a movie.

Mark your calendar for July 22 and 23.

The performances, which begin at 7: 30 p.m., are free. Bring children and lawn chairs, blankets and picnics (be kind and pick up after yourselves) for a performance under the stars on the grounds of Montpelier Mansion.

Most of the action in the play takes place in the Forest of Arden, a setting similar in appearance to the woods at Montpelier.

Performances are sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Pepsico Inc. Montpelier is at Laurel Bowie Road (Route 197) and Muirkirk Drive.

In case of rain, the performances will be moved to Deerfield Run Elementary School, 13000 Laurel Bowie Road.

Information: 301-454-1450.

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