Double Vision

Pastors - and twin brothers - Craig and Cary Moorman set out to create `a new church for a new day.' Working together in New Market, they've done just that.

March 28, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

NEW MARKET - The Lutheran congregation in this picturesque Western Maryland village defies expectation.

It calls itself Harvest Wind - missing are the words "Lutheran" and "church."

It meets not in a sanctuary of stained glass and dark wood pews, but in a cafetorium, a hybrid multipurpose room in the local elementary school.

Its style is upbeat and contemporary.

And its pastors, the Revs. Craig and Cary Moorman, happen to be brothers - identical twins, in fact - indistinguishable but for the mustache one of them grew so parishioners could tell them apart.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Today section gave an incorrect location for St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in Jacksonville, Baltimore County. The Sun regrets the error.

"People mistake us even with the mustache," says Pastor Craig, the clean-shaven brother who is also six minutes older than his twin. "But the mustache does help. That's why he grew it when we started Harvest Wind. Because we thought we'd drive people nuts otherwise."

Together, the 44-year-old twins pastor the 3-year-old Frederick County Lutheran mission that was born of a dream they first shared as 19-year-old college students.

This is no staid Lutheran congregation, with sober preaching, parish coffees and covered-dish suppers.

During a recent service, Cary Moorman, uncharacteristically dressed in gray clerical garb instead of his customary polo shirt and khakis - it's Lent, he explains - stands in front of about 150 people in the cafetorium of New Market Elementary School.

Cordless mike in hand, he prays with the fervor of a revival preacher.

"We're going to stand and we're going to praise God in the Eucharist!" he says, waving one arm in praise.

"Amen!" respond several worshippers as the church band kicks into a folk-rock religious anthem.

This is Sunday worship at Harvest Wind, the Moormans' non-traditional Lutheran congregation that calls itself "a new church for a new day."

Its non-denominational name is as important for what it does say as for what it doesn't.

"It's not that we're embarrassed," says Pastor Craig. "We want to connect with people. We're Christian before we're Lutheran."

Fewer than 10 percent of Harvest Wind's membership could be called "cradle Lutherans," those born, baptized and bred in the church like the Moorman brothers. The brothers are reaching out to Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and those who have never attended church.

That, too, is part of "the vision."

"I went to church all my life, but Harvest Wind is where I met Jesus," says Cindy Morris. Once Craig Moorman's neighbor in Gaithersburg, Morris became one of the church's first members and is on the church's ministerial staff. "A lot of people who are unchurched find Jesus here," she says.

The essence of the vision is what the brothers call the "cell," their take on a small grouping of several families who meet at a member's home once a week for food, fellowship, Bible study and prayer.

That's not particularly unique. Many churches have smaller prayer groups. What's different about Harvest Wind is that every member belongs to a cell that meets weekly outside of church. It's the operating principle of the congregation.

"We're not a church with cells or small groups," says Pastor Craig. "We're a cell-based church. ... It's a basic Christian community, a microcosm of the church."

"This is what it means to be church," says his brother Cary. "This is it. There's much more continuity from Sunday, to during the week, to Sunday."

Harvest Wind reflects ongoing changes throughout the 5.2 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a denomination with strong Scandanavian roots that is becoming increasingly diverse. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, told The Sun during a recent interview that its percentage of Northern Europeans is decreasing a bit, with Asians and Hispanics being the fastest-growing part of the church. "It's no longer possible at a Churchwide Assembly, for example, to talk just about Scandinavian humor because we have so many other traditions represented as well," Anderson said.

The vision the Moorman twins share for a cell-based church is the reason they became Lutheran ministers, and why they each left Maryland congregations to start a mission church.

The experience has deepened their relationship as brothers, even as it has presented challenges.

"To grow up together is one thing. To work together is another," says Pastor Craig. "It's intense at times. We've had to talk it out. We both share preaching, we both share teaching. But who's the point man? Who's in charge? We're sitting with that one right now."

The brothers say that while growing up in Richmond, Ind., a typical small Midwestern town just across the Ohio line, they never felt they were destined for the ministry.

During their early college days at Indiana University, Cary studied pre-med and Craig business. "We weren't your typical students bound for seminary," Pastor Craig says. "We were normal guys. We went to dances and all. But we were also seeking the Lord."

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