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'Southern' Methodist Church preservation efforts are commendable

Just to see the church in which we grew up brought back to life is extremely gratifying!

Yes, the historic "Southern" Methodist Church in Aberdeen has been returned to be a very vibrant part of the community. For years, after many decades of well serving numerous religious groups, the church and parsonage looked forgotten. Hooray for Patrick McGrady for returning them to be an inspirational part of West Bel Avenue.

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For those who cannot remember the history of this church, and for others who would just like to remember, we think a brief sketch of this interesting structure is warranted.

Unfortunately, the Civil War left some divisive marks on the Aberdeen area. Although no battles were fought here because there were Methodists who were sympathetic to the South and others who were Northern, this Southern Methodist Episcopal Church flourished just a few steps from a Methodist Episcopal Church with very close Northern ties for nearly 80 years.

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A Mr. Cole's home on Paradise Road was where the first "Southern" Methodists met. Following this early effort was the erection of Soule's Chapel on Bel Air Avenue and Law Street in 1866. Later, the name became Grace M.E. Church, South.

Fondly remembered are the names of Superintendent Orion Michael, who served for 50 years. George Slee, who owned a general merchandise store and home next door was the secretary-treasurer for many years. Mr. Slee never missed Sunday school for 50 years.

In 1899, Harry Gilbert constructed the church on the original site where the "Southern" congregation worshiped until 1942, when they merged with Aberdeen M.E. Church on the corner of West Bel Air Avenue and Parke Street (the present side of today's Grace United Methodist Church).

The vacated "Southern" Methodist Church was sold to St. Paul's Lutheran Church, and that congregation used it until 1965, after their new church on Mt. Royal Avenue was completed. Following that, the Evangel Assembly of God congregation made the church their home. The late Rev. Lichi is fondly remembered as the last pastor.

Rev. Allan Gillis is fondly remembered as the last to serve the "Southern" congregation in this lovely church with memories of fabulous Sunday school parties and inspiring musical programs. Old Harford County family names were identifiable parts of the stained glass windows.

Today, United Methodists meet at Grace United Methodist Church in the brick church constructed in 1964 on the very site of the "old" Northern Methodist frame church built in 1893.

We feel that this preservation effort should inspire other similar efforts in Aberdeen.


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