After 96 years, an associate pastor


The Rev. Marie L. Davies has become the first associate pastor assigned to St. Paul's United Methodist Church in New Windsor in 96 years.

She's a city woman. But she's learning.

At Arlington United Methodist Church in Baltimore, where Ms. Davies has been a member for years, the pastors never had a liturgist who couldn't make it to Sunday services because his cows got loose. In New Windsor, they did.

Ms. Davies joined the St. Paul's staff as a part-time associate pastor July 1. She will work two to three days a week there and will remain for at least a year. In the United Methodist church, pastoral appointments are for a minimum of one year and may be extended.

Coming to Carroll County wasn't a complete culture shock, said Ms. Davies, who grew up in the Hamilton section of Baltimore City and now lives in Catonsville. She came to know Carroll County before her appointment by preaching as a certified lay speaker in several local churches.

St. Paul's hadn't had an associate pastor for 96 years because the church's administrative council didn't think it needed one, said the Rev. Charles H. Acker, the pastor. "Now, we're starting to grow because of all the building in the area," he said.

Mr. Acker has seen a steady increase in attendance during his 3 1/2 -year tenure at the church. Average Sunday attendance in 1994 was 110, he said.

Ms. Davies was installed as associate pastor at St. Paul's on July 2. That day, she gave her first sermon, administered her first communion and baptized a baby for the first time.

Standing in the pulpit with everyone watching you, "There's a part that's terrifying, because these people listen to you and you're presuming to speak for God," Ms. Davies said. "There's also a part that's exhilarating."

Ms. Davies, 34, will preach, visit members, learn church administration and work with young adults, which the New Windsor church defines as 18- to 35-year-olds. She said she hopes to form a group that will meet at the church Sundays, "not necessarily a traditional Bible study group, but more of a support group."

She also will spend the next year finishing a bachelor's degree in behavioral science at the University of Maryland's University College, where she maintains a 4.0 grade point average.

As she grew up, Ms. Davies, said, she gave no thought to joining the clergy. She was born into the Roman Catholic faith, but she and her mother became Protestants after her parents divorced. Ms. Davies earned an associate in arts degree from Dundalk Community College in 1978 and went to work for J. C. Penney.

A calling to the ministry is difficult to explain, she said. In her words, it's an "instinct to serve people, to serve God, to work in the church."

She fought the instinct for several years, then enrolled at McKendree School of Religion in Baltimore, where she earned a bachelor's degree in religious studies in 1992. The degree she is now finishing will be her second bachelor's degree.

Ms. Davies' her husband, Jay, is general manager of a home improvement contracting corporation.

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