Revival organizers see significance in choosing Strawbridge Shrine site; Ecumenical event set for Sunday in Carroll


The Rev. Arthur D. Thomas Jr. isn't sure how many chairs he'll need for an outdoor ecumenical revival Sunday at the Robert Strawbridge Shrine near New Windsor, but he hopes to see a groundswell.

The "concert of prayer for revival" will begin at 3 p.m. at the shrine at 2650 Strawbridge Lane, with the Rev. Bart Pierce, pastor of the Rock City Church of Baltimore, and other area pastors.

Pierce's visit to the birthplace of American Methodism is appropriate, said Thomas, because Strawbridge spent the last years of his life at a home near the Rock City Church. A Strawbridge descendant, who is a member of the Rock City Church, plans to attend Sunday's revival.

Thomas, pastor of Deer Park United Methodist Church of Reisterstown, directs a museum at historic Lovely Lane United Methodist Church in the 2200 block of St. Paul St. in Baltimore. He teaches courses in spirituality at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore and at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, and is a historian of revivals and Christian spirituality.

Robert Strawbridge, the Irish-born evangelist who brought Methodism to America, lived in New Windsor beginning in 1760. He spent the last five years of his life -- he died in 1781 -- on land that was given to him in 1776 by Rebecca Dorsey Ridgely of Hampton Mansion, a Methodist. The Strawbridge site is now the home of the Rock City Church near Towson on Cromwell Bridge Road

The revival, which will use a public address system, will include music, Thomas said. The service also is to be filmed for broadcast on local cable stations by a local producer who is doing a series of programs on religion.

Metropolitan-area pastors and church members have been invited to the revival, but Thomas said he has no idea how many people to expect. He's suggesting that people bring lawn chairs and blankets to augment those provided by the New Windsor volunteer fire company.

If the forecast calling for pleasant weather proves inaccurate, he said, a replica of Strawbridge's log meeting house from 1764 can hold about 50.

"I just don't know for sure," he said of the attendance. "I don't want to predict. It could be 50, it could be 150, or more. I know people are coming from the Rock City Church."

Sunday's event arose from the recent series of prayer-for-renewal services at his church, Thomas said.

"People feel God is calling for people to pray for revival, renewal and reformation in the nation. What we're doing is part of a larger movement," he said.

In the wake of tragedies such as the Littleton, Colo., school shooting, he said, "there is a sense that America needs to go back to its moral roots."

Meetings in the Baltimore and Washington area led him to put together a service across denominations, he said, and the Strawbridge shrine serves that need symbolically.

When Methodism began here -- "the First Great Awakening -- it was a major movement throughout the American colonies that gave them a sense of unity and identity as Americans [and] helped to lead to the American Revolution," he said.

"It's holy ground," he added. "People come from all over the country to see it."

Tours will be offered.

To reach the shrine from Westminster, travel west on Route 31, turn left on Wakefield Valley Road, take Wilt Road and turn right on Strawbridge Lane. The route to the shrine is marked. A parking area, the log meeting house and the John Evans House are visible, while the Strawbridge farmhouse is farther back on the site.

The founder's house has been closed because of deterioration, Thomas said, but the Strawbridge Shrine Association Inc. of Baltimore, which purchased the site in 1973, has hired an architect to try to find the original log structure within the farmhouse, which was covered by white siding in the 19th century.

If the original is found, he said, "we have to decide whether to bring it back to the way it was or leave it as is."

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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