Tending the souls of the city


October 30, 2005

Leading a religious congregation in these challenging times requires more than just writing a sermon once a week and consoling grieving widows.

The religious communities that are thriving these days are large, complicated institutions that may provide their members with everything from child care and fitness centers to career counseling and investment advice.

Oh yes, and the sermons had better keep the congregation awake.

Baltimore's most successful religious leaders have clearly mastered all of that and more. Here are three with the right stuff.


The Rev. Frank M. Reid III heads one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the Baltimore region. His Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church at 1300 Druid Hill Ave. has an estimated 15,000 members.

Reid preaches a muscular form of Christianity that challenges the church's members to take charge of their lives economically and personally to become better than average, a goal he says God sets for all of us.

Beyond the two or three services he preaches every Sunday, Reid is active in community affairs working to develop black leaders and reduce violence, drug addiction and HIV infection.

Reid is a graduate of Yale University, Harvard Divinity School and United Theological Seminary.


Dean Constantine Moralis is one of the youngest leaders of a major Baltimore congregation. At age 38, he is the spiritual leader for 1,400 families that belong to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation.

But in fact, Moralis is a longtime veteran at the church. He was baptized at Annunciation and has attended services there for most of his life.

A graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline, Mass., Moralis is particularly proud of the church's use of Internet technology to stay in touch with its membership.

The church is run with a small staff and a lot of volunteer help from members of the congregation who run programs to provide warm clothing and other assistance for the poor.


Rabbi Mark Loeb heads Beth El Congregation on Park Heights Avenue, one of Baltimore's largest and most socially engaged conservative congregations with more than 1,400 families as members.

Loeb, who is 61, has been at Beth El for 30 years and is national chairman of Mazon, a Jewish charity that raises millions of dollars each year to fight hunger. He also was recently chairman of the board of the Baltimore Hebrew University and has served on the governor's commission on sexual discrimination.

Loeb directs a staff of more than 100, including about 80 religion teachers, and is known for his sophisticated sermons and sometimes provocative social and political positions, including promotion of Arab-Israeli reconciliation.

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