Matthew D.P. Herzberg, founding member of the Breath of God Lutheran Church and ax throwing enthusiast, dies

Matthew D.P. Herzberg, a founding member and key leader of the Breath of God Lutheran Church who was also an ax-throwing enthusiast, died of cancer Jan. 20 at his Highlandtown home. He was 38.

Matthew D.P. Herzberg had an affinity for young people and helped start his church’s summer camp and youth ministry.

“His faith was overriding, and he lived it and was dedicated to his family, friends and neighbors,” the Rev. Mark E. Parker, pastor of Breath of God Lutheran Church in Highlandtown said. “He had a skill in loving people others had a hard time loving. He was really attentive to making space for them and walking side-by-side with them.”


The Rev. John Deason, a close friend of Mr. Herzberg and his wife, Julie M. Herzberg, leads the Church of the Holy Apostles and St. Stephen in Arbutus.

“Matt was very dedicated to the faith he was raised with, which was always present in his life,” Rev. Deason said. “When we moved to Baltimore nine years ago, Matt welcomed me and created space for me and my wife.”


Matthew Donald Paul Herzberg, son of the Rev. Terry Herzberg, a Lutheran minister, and Susie Herzberg, a day care provider, was born in Albany, Georgia, and raised in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where he graduated from Fair Lawn High School.

Mr. Herzberg was a 2006 graduate of New York University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching and learning. In 2021, he obtained a master’s degree in emerging media from Loyola University Maryland.

After graduating from college, he spent several years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast coordinating volunteers and assisting in the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005, as a member of the Lutheran Disaster Response and Habitat for Humanity teams.

In 2009, Mr. Herzberg moved to Baltimore when he took a position with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake and later worked for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Dinosaur BBQ.

In 2018, he took a side job with Urban Axes.

“He got into ax throwing and was so good at it he went to the international championships that were held twice in Toronto,” said his wife of six years, the former Julie M. Stecker, a community and youth ministries coordinator with the Lutheran Delaware-Maryland Synod.

As a thrower and coach, Mr. Herzberg assisted Urban Axes Corp. — a national company that runs ax throwing venues — open their Baltimore location in 2018 on North Haven Street.

A year later, he became the league community manager and social media coordinator for Urban Axes Corp. for all locations across the country, a position he held until December, when he went on disability because of failing health, his wife said.


In 2009, Mr. Herzberg became a founding member of Breath of God Lutheran Church. The new church took over the former St. Paul Lutheran Church that had been established in 1900 on South Clinton Street in Highlandtown.

“Matt did much to shape the mission and character of the congregation and helped us rebuild connections in Southeast Baltimore,” Rev. Parker said. “He was clear-eyed and serious about our mission, and he knew the task before us. "

When times or issues were challenging, Mr. Herzberg broke the tension with his well-defined sense of humor.

“Matt had a dry New Jersey sense of humor that helped us laugh at ourselves, to learn and to grow. And when we made mistakes, he helped us keep God’s calling and to keep doing our work in the community, and he was dedicated to that work and helped us do better,” Rev. Parker said.

Mr. Herzberg’s gregarious, outgoing nature was another asset for the fledging congregation.

“He could be the loudest voice in the room and was really good at welcoming others who shared our thoughts,” Rev. Parker said. “He always showed up for other people, and he paid attention to what they were going through.


“I often went to Matt when I was preparing something, and I’d say to myself, ‘I need to run this by Matt.’ He was a man who could bring people together, believed deeply in community relationships and the Urban Axes.”

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“And he was a man who was open to being shown when he was wrong,” Rev. Deason said. ”He was a person who loved being shown how he fit into the world.”

Mr. Herzberg had an affinity for young people and helped start the church’s summer camp and youth ministry.

“He was always a champion of the youth in our church and surrounding community,” Rev. Parker said.

Mr. Herzberg taught himself the fine art of smoking meat.

“He would do brisket, ribs and pulled port,” his wife said. “On Saturdays, he’d invite people over to hang out in our backyard and eat his meats. He liked being surrounded by people.”


Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at The Church of the Holy Apostles & St. Stephen at 901 Courtney Road in Arbutus.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Herzberg is survived by his 1-year-old twin sons, Thomas C. Herzberg-Stecker and Harrison B. Herzberg-Stecker; his parents, the Rev. Terry R. Herzberg and Susie Herzberg of Wappingers Falls, New York; and a sister, Jenn Partlow, also of Wappingers Falls.