A group of about 50 Episcopalians -- looking as if they were dressed for church -- walked down the middle of North Stricker Street in West Baltimore's Sandtown neighborhood yesterday, gazing on the pastel-colored facades of beautifully renovated rowhouses.
"Some people call this Episcopal row," said the Rev. Van Gardner, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, which contributed money and labor to renovate several of the homes on the restored block.
Yesterday's tour was part of an effort to get the delegates of the 214th annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland out of meeting rooms and into the streets to see the results of urban ministry.
The convention, which concludes today, represents the 118 parishes and 50,000 members of the diocese. It is being held in Baltimore for the first time since the mid-1970s.
Its return was long overdue, said the Rev. F. Lyman "Barney" Farnham, co-chairman of the convention planning committee.
"I just thought that it was time that we were back in our See city," said Farnham, who recently retired after 29 years as rector of Memorial Episcopal Church in Bolton Hill.
In his address to the convention during morning Eucharist yesterday, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, bishop of Maryland, challenged the delegates to work for peace and justice.
"We are gathered together in a city that has great need for the church to be more decisive in addressing the concerns of the poor, the disadvantaged and the destitute," he said. "We are just now learning how to effectively cooperate with one another in addressing issues that are so complex and so very costly.
"A mark of Christ's kingdom is the preaching of the good news to the poor. The church has done a woefully inadequate job in this century of preaching good news to the poor, and clearly our national government has lost almost all sense of its need to take responsibility in assisting all citizens who, regardless of the reasons, find it impossible to assist themselves."
Ihloff told the delegates not to become isolated and narrowly focused on life within their parishes.
"It is so easy, even for people who are actively involved in the life of the wider church, to make the unfortunate assumption that the parish is the primary expression of Christian mission," he said. "The parish is the primary way in which you and I tie into
the life of that mission, but the parish cannot be synonymous with the mission. This is why the sharing of resources is so crucial within a diocese."
To that end, he said, "it will be absolutely crucial that more of our suburban parishes share their resources and see themselves integrally involved with our urban parishes in performing ministry and mission in the city."
Touring urban works
To show delegates how they might practice what was preached, the faithful boarded buses after the morning liturgy and fanned out to look at urban ministries, including the Cathedral House Re-entry Program, a substance abuse ministry in Mount Vernon; Paul's Place, a soup kitchen and food pantry in Pigtown; and Sandtown Habitat for Humanity.
Daniel McCarthy, executive director of Episcopal Housing Corp., said he was eager for his fellow Episcopalians to see the completed homes and a few in progress "to get people familiar with all the work that has gone on and to inspire them to do more. We want to show them what all the blood, sweat and tears has produced."
Bringing people together
LaVerne Cooper, the co-executive director of Sandtown Habitat
for Humanity, who grew up in the 1500 block of N. Stricker St., which she proudly showed to the delegates, said the renovation project brings people together.
"This is a predominantly black neighborhood," said Cooper, a Sandtown resident. "Come down on a Saturday and you don't know what race it is. And that's the way it's supposed to be."
The Rev. Althea A. Quarles of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, on Loch Raven Boulevard just north of the city line, attended nearby Douglass High School in the mid-1940s, along with her school friend Elva Edwards of the Church of the Holy Trinity in West Baltimore.
Yesterday, the longtime friends were amazed at the transformation of one stretch of Stricker Street.
"When we went to school here, this was a very stable block. Then it went through some changes," Quarles said. "Now it's coming back into its own.
The Rev. Walter Simmons of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Coventry, near Parkville, said he was inspired by the ministry.
"So many are frightened to come into the city, even to go to the symphony," he said. "But here we have people who come into the city joyfully to rebuild houses."
Pub Date: 4/25/98