Brown Memorial marking 125 years of reforming


George Brown, member of a family of prosperous Baltimore merchants, died in 1859. Ten years later, his widow, Isabella Brown, gave what then was the princely sum of $150,000 to build a church in his memory.

The first worship service at the church was conducted in 1870. Much has changed -- religiously and socially -- since then, but Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, in the community now known as Bolton Hill, still is committed to its old motto: "The church reformed, always reforming."

At an open house and tea party beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, the congregation of the imposing, gray stone landmark at Park and Lafayette avenues will celebrate 125 years of progressive religious leadership and distinguished artistic accomplishment.

The congregation has long been a force in ecumenism and social justice in the city, and this emphasis continues under the present pastor, the Rev. Roger J. Gench. He is a leader of BUILD -- Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development.

But visitors to the church Sunday will be reminded of artistic achievements of the past. Its famous Tiffany windows were installed in 1905, when the north and south transepts were added, and the Skinner organ was built in 1931.

Five years later, Virgil Fox, one of the country's most famous and flamboyant organists, noted for his dazzling technique, began a decade at Brown Memorial. He left in 1946 to become the popular organist of New York's Riverside Church, where many thousands heard him play.

In 1960, Brown Memorial Woodbrook was established as a suburban offshoot of the Park Avenue church, and for years the congregation called itself "one church at two locations." They are now separate.

The tea party at the original in-town church will be the first of a series of events marking Brown Memorial's 125 years, concluding with an anniversary worship service on Advent Sunday, Dec. 3. Information: 523-1542.

Lenten drama:

The Rev. Al Staggs will present "A View From The Underside," his dramatic performance of the last days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, 2200 St. Paul St.

Pastor Bonhoeffer, a 39-year-old Lutheran theologian, was hanged by the Nazis on April 9, 1945, for his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler and end the persecution of the Jews.

Mr. Staggs' presentation is sponsored by Baltimore's McKendree School of Religion. Tickets are $6 at the door. Information: 823-3588.

Healing through prayer:

Jill Gooding, a Christian Scientist from London who is on a lecture tour of Europe and the United States, will speak on "The Healing Power of the Lord's Prayer" at 3 p.m. Sunday in the auditorium of Friends School, 5114 N. Charles St.

Mrs. Gooding is a past president of the Mother Church in Boston. Sunday's free lecture is sponsored by Baltimore's First Church of Christ, Scientist. Child care will be provided. Information: 467-4858.

Bible translator:

Larry Lyman, a missionary who lived for nearly 30 years among the 24,000 Zapotec people of the Choapan district of Mexico, translated the Bible into their language and taught them to read it. He will talk about his experiences at a dinner at 6:45 p.m. today at the Holiday Inn-Timonium Plaza at 2004 Greenspring Drive.

He is appearing at 23 similar dinners in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware to help raise funds for the missionary work of the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Information: 472-2216 or 821-5939.

Religious teaching:

The strengthening of African American churches through Christian education is the subject of an all-day conference tomorrow at historic Orchard Street Church, the headquarters of the Baltimore Urban League at 512 Orchard St.

Urban Outreach of Chicago is a sponsor of the program. Speakers will be from out-of-town and from Baltimore. Information and registration: 945-9171.


Katherine Lyons will give a lecture, "Jewish Tales Woven Magically Through the Art of Storytelling," at 7:30 p.m. Monday in a private home, sponsored by the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Information: 727-4828, Ext. 200.

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