Advertisement
Baltimore City

Hampden United Methodist Church in transition

Retired Rev. Arthur "Dan" Gleckler is more than the interim pastor of the 148-year-old Hampden United Methodist Church. He's a beacon of stability and hope for a small ongregation that is reeling from losing two ministers in two months.

First, the church's pastor for the past 10 years, the Rev. Robin Johnson, left for a job as a children's minister at the 2,600-member Suntree UMC in Melbourne, Fla. Johnson, who called the move "bittersweet" but added, "Ten years is a long time," was known for the changes that he brought to the financially limited church, 3449 Falls Road, including turning an upstairs room into Emmanuel's Rock, a popular club for youths and teens.

Advertisement

Then, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church named a young pastor to succeed Johnson, giving the congregation hope that he would help attract younger members.

But he died unexpectedly before he could take the pulpit.

Advertisement

Gleckler, 79, of Charles Village, was named interim pastor through August.

"Be patient with me," Gleckler told 20 people in the pews during his first Sunday as the church's spiritual leader July 6. It is his first time as an interim pastor.

"It's only two months and I've never done this before," he said several days earlier, during a get-acquainted meeting with a welcoming committee.

"We've never done this before, either," said congregant Carl Baker, who was joined at the meeting by lay leader Bill DeHaven, Christina Spikloser, Carolyn Thomas, Crystal Brown and Tom Kerr.

Gleckler, a soft-spoken, bearded, plainly dressed man with a slight Texas drawl, told them he retired in 2000.

"It's just that the Methodist Church keeps giving you opportunities to serve, so here I am," he said. "What can we do for two months to serve the Lord?"

Gleckler spent about an hour working out what his duties will be, including visiting homebound church members. He also asked for a prayer list. DeHaven is running Emmanuel's Rock, which is on summer hiatus. The church has no website, because Johnson, who paid for it, canceled the service when he left.

"We need to have Internet here," said Spikloser, who hopes to buy the domain name from Johnson and rebuild the site.

Advertisement

The church's affiliation with Sharp Street Memorial UMC downtown, the oldest black Methodist church in Baltimore, has ended, those at the meeting said. The Methodist conference last year formed a cooperative parish partnership between Hampden UMC and Sharp Street Memorial, headed by Sharp Street's pastor, the Rev. Carey James, and with Johnson as pastor of the Hampden UMC "campus," according to the arrangement.

Also ended is Hampden UMC's two-year-old partnership with Church of the Resurrection, a mega church in Kansas, which took Hampden UMC and several other small churches around the country under its wing, providing video sermons and other services to help them grow.

As Hampden UMC has changed, so has the Methodist community in Hampden. Johnson was pastor of both Hampden UMC and the even smaller Mount Vernon UMC in Hampden until 2008, when the latter was heavily damaged in a lightning strike. Mount Vernon UMC has since merged with nearby Good Shepherd UMC, as have several other UMC churches in recent years, including Otterbein Memorial and Roland Avenue-Evergreen churches.

Also, Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Hampden merged with Mount Washington UMC.

The computer company Chesapeake Systems has bought and restored Mount Vernon UMC as its headquarters.

The Methodist Conference did not give Johnson another church, leaving him as part-time pastor of only Hampden United Methodist Church.

Advertisement

It's been a whirlwind," said Spikloser, 34, a veterinary nurse and co-chair of the church's Staff-Parish Relations Committee, who drove back from her family's cabin in West Virginia to attend Gleckler's first church service at Hampden UMC.

Breaking News Alerts

Breaking News Alerts

As it happens

Be informed of breaking news as it happens and notified about other don't-miss content with our free news alerts.

"It was just sad," she said. "(Johnson) was such an important part of the community. Now, we have to make sure we keep the (church's) community image going and keep Emmanuel's Rock going."

Spikloser said it took about 20 phone calls to the conference to get an interim pastor. Now, "he's here and we're going to move on," she said.

Now that its association with Sharp Street is over, "We're delighted to have you to ourselves," Baker told Gleckler.

"This is a nice little interim (position)," Gleckler said at the meeting. But he added, "It's got sadness around it."

Kerr, longtime organizer of the Hampden Mayor's Christmas Parade, who is known as the unofficial mayor of Hampden, wasn't ready to let Gleckler slip away.

Advertisement

"How much do we have to bribe you to stay for a couple of years?" Kerr asked.

"I'm glad to be working," Gleckler said after the meeting, "and I'm glad to be here."


Advertisement