The city's oldest church

THE VOICE OF THIS CALLING. ST. PAUL'S PARISH. BALTIMORE, MD. By Jacques Kelly. Vestry of St. Paul's Parish. 73 pages. Illustrated. $35.

OLD St. Paul's Church has been a fixture of downtown Baltimore for nearly 300 years. In fact, this Episcopal parish at Charles and Saratoga is the oldest church in Baltimore. It sits on the original tract, Lot 19, purchased by the vestry when the town was laid out in 1729. It was the northernmost lot and the highest point of the new settlement.


But the church (not the building) pre-dates that, for the parish is one of many established by the Church of England in Maryland in 1692. The first church was located on Colgate Creek near what is now Fort Holabird Industrial Park. The vestry made the wise decision to relocate when Baltimore was laid out.

The years since that time, documented in parish records, are equally well recorded by Jacques Kelly, Evening Sun columnist, in this short but lively book.


Others have written histories of St. Paul's -- Ethan Allen in the late 19th century; Arthur B. Kinsolving, the 11th rector, in 1939, and Francis Beirne in 1967, on the occasion of the church's 275th anniversary.

Mr. Kelly's book, commissioned to mark the 300th anniversary of St. Paul's, departs somewhat from the usual in that it highlights the present edifice (St. Paul's sixth) with handsome color photographs of the interior. Some of these are of the stained glass rescued from a fire in 1854, which destroyed the fifth St. Paul's designed by noted Baltimore architect Robert Carey Long. The foundations and some of the brickwork of the present building are also relics of that building.

The book concludes with a chapter by the current rector, the 15th in succession, William Noble McKeachie. He notes the many ways in which the church carries out its Christian mission ** to the people of Baltimore, one of which is to have the carillon sound the notes of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on Orioles opening day.

A limited, numbered edition of "The Voice of This Calling" is available at the parish office (685-3404) or Purnell Galleries, both at 309 Cathedral St.

Geoffrey W. Fielding is a Baltimore writer.