Synagogue Offers Space To Bethel Ame

July 09, 2009|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,

Members of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, forced out of their landmark Baltimore building, will take temporary refuge at Temple Oheb Shalom, the spiritual leaders of the two congregations said Wednesday.

A week after lightning struck the steeple of the church on Druid Hill Avenue, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III and Rabbi Steven M. Fink announced that the Christian congregation would hold Sunday services at the Reform Jewish synagogue in Park Heights through Labor Day.

Fink called Reid after learning of the July 1 fire to offer Oheb Shalom's 900-seat sanctuary to the church. The two congregations have long worked together, holding joint services in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., maintaining a community garden and engaging in the Black and Jewish Forum of Baltimore.

"We thought, in light of the hate crime that took place recently over in Washington at the Holocaust museum, with the ethnic violence going on in China at this time, that this partnership between the Jewish faith community and the Christian faith community, this partnership between the Jewish community and the black community, re-establishes a bridge that has existed between our two communities for hundreds of years," Reid said.

"Our congregation and Bethel AME are family," Fink said.

While the church has a membership of 17,500, Reid said Oheb Shalom will be large enough to accommodate the number likely to attend Sunday worship. The synagogue, at 7310 Park Heights Ave., offered similar assistance to members of First Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church two years ago after their building was destroyed by a lightning strike and fire. That congregation now worships across the street from Oheb Shalom at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Christian and Jewish congregations can share worship space because the Jewish sabbath runs from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, while most Christians observe the sabbath on Sunday.

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