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The Aegis
Harford County

Havre de Grace church tour showcases historic houses of worship for 16th year

For the 16th year, six historic churches in downtown Havre de Grace welcomed visitors from around the area Sunday afternoon to marvel at ornate architecture, learn about local history and catch up with some old friends.

The annual self-guided tour is part of a Christmas open house sponsored by the Susquehanna Ministerium, which works to "keep Christ in Christmas."

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The faith-based tour is an unusual tourism activity for these parts. Pastor Ron Smith, of the First Bapist Church of Havre de Grace, on South Stokes Street, noted the open house was inspired by a similar event in Frederick.

Despite competition from a key Ravens football game, the tour drew a steady stream of visitors who circulated throughout Havre de Grace United Methodist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, St. Patrick Catholic Church, First Baptist Church, Grace Reformed Episcopal Church and St. James AME Church.

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"I love history, and we both are very devout Christians, so seeing different worship settings is really fascinating," Elaine Ziegler, of Bel Air, said outside First Baptist Church.

She was with a friend, Kathy Frawley, of Forest Hill, and said they attend Bel Air United Methodist Church.

Ziegler noted the Gothic-style Havre de Grace United Methodist Church, which dates to about 1902, was surprising.

"It looks nothing like a Methodist church," she said, explaining "most are very simple and practical."

The sight of a purported slave gallery, meanwhile, at St. John's Episcopal Church struck a chord with Ada Wunder, of Bel Air, who was touring with Paul Wunder.

Ada Wunder said although separate seats for slaves were eliminated, she recalled the persistence of segregated worship in the 1950s.

"I just remember when black people had to sit in the back of the church. That was always close to my heart," Wunder, who is white and grew up in Baltimore County, said.

"To think that an Episcopal church did away with those slave quarters and they brought everybody together, but then to still have the segregation, it doesn't make sense," she said.

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Paul Wunder, who said they are active in Fallston's Christ Fellowship Church, thought the tour would be a good chance "just to walk around, have something nice on a Sunday afternoon."

He was impressed by the Methodist church, as were many others.

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"I had no idea how ornate it is in there," he said, adding he liked learning that a shadow could sometimes be seen on St. John's brick facade where a cannonball had hit it during the War of 1812.

Tom and Ricky Webster, of Darlington, said they like to walk around Havre de Grace, but had never been on the church tour.

"We are very fortunate to have all these glorious sanctuaries within a block, essentially," Tom Webster said while circling the dark, echoing interior of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

He noted Ricky, his wife, had once sung with the Harford Choral Society inside the Methodist church. He also called the Catholic church "beautiful."

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"This and the Methodist church are very awe-inspiring," Tom Webster said.

Bill Ranken, a vestry member with Grace Reformed Episcopal Church, which dates to 1910, said his congregation sees the tour as a good way of getting some exposure.

"You never know who walks through the door," he said.


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