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Idlewylde United Methodist invites the community to help mark its 100th year

From the moment Sandy Berl walked into Idlewylde United Methodist Church, she was at peace. "I felt at home, I felt loved," said Berl, a 37-year member of the church.

When Charles Gap had hip-replacement surgery a few years ago, church members brought him dinner every night for three weeks. "It's a very spiritual place. People are very helpful," said Gap, a 25-year member with his wife, Carol.

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"It's a church that accepts who you are. It's a warm, congenial community," said Diana Jones, an eight-year member who, when she visited other churches on out-of-town business trips, found that "no one welcomed me, no one came up to me.

"You get a different vibe at Idlewylde Church," said Jones, an Idlewylde resident who is now retired and a widow.

This year, Idlewylde United Methodist Church, at 1000 Regester Avenue, in Idlewylde, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. To mark the occasion, church members have been hosting a series of programs that are open to the community, from concerts to picnics.

Last Sunday afternoon, the church hosted Music on the Lawn, a bring-your-own-instrument program for members, friends and community neighbors that drew about 30 participants. The event started with a barbecue and ended two hours later with ice cream and brownies.

"A member brought his bass fiddle, a neighbor his harmonica," said Julie Wernz a 41-year church member who, for the past 10 years, has served as its lay leader. "We had ukuleles and an accordion. We handed out song sheets. Then, we just jammed." .

The series of programs culminates with the official 100th anniversary celebration, a service and luncheon on Sunday, Sept. 20, the closest Sunday to the date on which the church was founded, said Pastor C.J. (Carol) Pazdersky.

Pazdersky became pastor of Idlewylde and its cooperative parish, St. John's United Methodist Church, at 216 W. Seminary Avenue, in 2014. She was previously pastor at Bel Air United Methodist Church.

"They can't afford me alone," said Pazdersky, a Lutherville resident, of Idlewylde's current 57 members. "So we have the partnership [with St. John's]. I split my time between the two."

Idlewylde United Methodist Church doesn't look much different than it did a century ago. The building sits back from the street on the same property its original members bought.

The wood building also is original, although improvements have been made to it over the years. In 2005, a vestibule was added to the front, allowing for the installation of a ramp from the rear parking lot to a wheelchair-accessible lift.

"It was important to the congregation, which was getting older," Wernz said. "Before then, [wheelchair-bound] members had to be carried up the [front] steps."

The church's interior has a two-story high sanctuary with eight stained glass windows, four on either side, that are original to the building. Rows of dark wooden pews face the chancel. Crocheted shawls add a touch a color, draped against the back of some pews and made by church members for worshippers' use.

"This is standard architecture for Methodist churches of the time," Pazdersky said.

Idlewylde Church's history is typical for the era, too. Methodist circuit riders would travel to worshippers' homes. If the worshippers had the resources, they would put up a church building, to be consecrated as a Methodist church and have a pastor assigned, Wernz said.

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The church has an adult Sunday school, a volunteer choir and monthly social programs for the widowed and divorced. Over the years, though, as societal views on religious membership and observance changed, Idlewylde's membership dwindled from a one-time high of 160 to its current 57. The church cannot operate without their active participation and almost everyone does something.

Jones is a trustee whose responsibility is the physical property. She also is in charge of the flower garden, which is dedicated to deceased members.

Gap and his wife, Carol, who are Glendale residents, serve on committees and Carol sings in the choir.

Berl and her husband, Carroll, who are Baltimore City residents, are the link between the church and the Lois T. Murray Elementary/Middle School-Kennedy Krieger Institute, in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools. The special education day school provides instruction and related services to children with intellectual limitations and health issues.

Berl's daughter was a student at the school when, she said, "the church called one night. They wanted to do something for the school. That was 20 years ago."

Since then, Idlewylde Church has sponsored several events throughout the year, from Halloween parties for students and staff to a Spring Fling. It provides underpants and sweatpants to an average 50 students annually.

"For such a small church, it's amazing how proactive it is," said Jones, who, with Volunteers In Mission, a nationwide program of the United Methodist Church, has rehabilitated houses in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, after flooding in Tennessee, and has gone on other missions for a variety of activities in Kentucky.

The church is active in community outreach. It participates in the Towson-area food bank, Assistance Center of Towson Churches, and hosts Alcoholics Anonymous group meetings. A prayer shawl ministry makes items for members and non-members. A nursery school, open to all, is located in a separate building.

Small as its membership is, "everyone is committed to the church," Pazdersky said. "They are determined to make a difference in their world."

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