Highland church is a home for generations of members

Hopkins: Founded in 1884, the small Methodist church has grown to become a vital part of the community.

January 24, 2003|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When you worship at a 119-year-old church that has a reputation for being warm and welcoming, reaches out to communities in need and celebrates its membership with an annual homecoming, you tend to stick around.

Take Dorothy "Dottie" Moore. At 68, Moore is lifetime member of Hopkins United Methodist Church (UMC) in Highland. "I was born into the church," she says.

Moore's parents were members. So were her grandparents. Her two daughters grew up in the church and the younger, Judith Murray, is a lay leader.

"I would not be able to survive without the church," said Moore, director of the Community Action Council of Howard County. "There would be an emptiness."

Hopkins UMC is a member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, which oversees more than 700 churches.

Built in 1884, Hopkins UMC evolved from a small church surrounded by a handful of farmers into a burgeoning congregation of about 200 members in a flourishing residential community. But Hopkins UMC has retained its motto: "The little church by the side of the road that hangs on welcome hinges."

"It's a very warm family - everybody is everybody's friend," said Barbara Wise, 52, president of Hopkins United Methodist Women organization. "We are all there to love and praise the Lord."

Wise's husband, Curtis, grew up in the church. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather also attended. "There's a lot of history there," she said.

Hopkins UMC was founded by a group of African-American men who searched in 1882 for a suitable location.

According to church history, Gerald and Samuel Hopkins deeded property from their estate with the provision that the property would return to the brothers' heirs when it ceased to function as a place of worship.

But in 1901, the church - then called Hopkins Methodist Episcopal Church - burned down. A new facility was constructed and the congregation became part of the "three-point charge" - three churches led by one pastor - that included Locust Methodist and Brown's Chapel. In 1902, the larger Asbury Methodist Church was added.

A bigger facility was built in 1955 and members dug out a basement a few years later for a fellowship hall. In 1981, a new charge was formed until Hopkins UMC went solo in 1983.

During the 1970s, Hopkins UMC acquired the educational building next door. Howard County rented the facility - a former school for African-American children that closed in 1963 - to Hopkins UMC for $1 a year.

The county later deeded the property to Hopkins UMC with the stipulation that the facility be used to benefit the community. It has since housed outreach ministries, senior programs, children's activities, a health clinic and Bible school.

Since 1901, about 26 pastors have led Hopkins UMC, including the Rev. Sandra Demby, who began there three years ago. A 1997 graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, Demby previously served as associate pastor at Northwood-Appold UMC in Northeast Baltimore and at Epworth UMC in Gaithersburg.

"My call came late in life to preach the word of the Lord," said Demby, 56, a Northeast Baltimore resident who earned a business degree in 1990 at Morgan State University.

In 1999, Demby was appointed to Hopkins UMC by Bishop Felton E. May and the Cabinet of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. "The church's appeal is the love that's in the congregation," Demby said. "They are willing to open to the spirit of the Lord."

Hopkins' oldest tradition is its annual fall homecoming for former congregants who have left the community. Initiated in 1923 by four teen-age congregants, the event includes a week of religious services and Sunday dinner. "It's more of a revival," said Moore of Columbia. "They come back to worship and to re-acquaint themselves with family and old members and to meet new members."

Hopkins UMC is renowned for its singing. Its six choirs are invited to sing in ecumenical programs, church celebrations in other cities and at the annual Highland Community Day.

But church leaders are most proud of their outreach ministries such as participating in the Howard County World AIDS Day and recently establishing a prison ministry. Through the church's Angel Tree program, congregants distributed Christmas gifts to 16 families of inmates.

The church implemented communitywide substance abuse programs and offers a children's mentoring program with an annual summer retreat.

Hopkins UMC also ministers to its members who are shut-ins, sending get-well cards and holiday cards. "It's just a nice church to go to," Wise said.

Hopkins United Methodist Church

Denomination:Methodist

Leadership:the Rev. Sandra Demby

Size:200 congregants

Location:13250 Highland Road, Highland

Date founded:1884

Phone:410-531-6187

Worship services:11 a.m. Sunday

Children's programs:Sermon at 11:20 a.m. Sundays; Sunday school at 11:30 a.m.

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