In the early part of the year of our Lord 1962, a small group of churchmen and churchwomen sat down to discuss what it was they felt they needed in terms of a church and an effective church ministry. A few of those within this initial group had migrated to Baltimore from other parts of the country. Before migrating to Baltimore they had been part of the Congregational Church and were rather amazed that Baltimore did not have Congregational churches at this particular time. The group continued to meet informally and pursue their established agenda. The group finally decided that Baltimore needed a Congregational Church with strong community ideals. They felt that this kind of Christian Church would be able to do the following:
In May of the same year 1962, the three former Congregationalists from Baltimore made a trip to Washington, D.C. to talk with the Rev. Shelby Rooks, who was then Associate Moderator of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Congregational-Christian Churches. The three who made this journey were Vallen and Anne Emery and Miss Charlie Harvey. They discussed with Rev. Rooks their feelings about the need for a Congregational Church in Baltimore. The group discussed what would be involved in beginning a new church in the Congregational tradition in Baltimore. It was a fruitful meeting and Rev. Rooks assured the group that he would follow through in terms of apprising the Conference of the needs expressed by the group.
Rev. Shelby Rooks relayed the concerns of the Baltimore group to Mr. Clayton Wallace, who was at that time Field Secretary for the Church Extension Committee of the Conference for the Baltimore-Washington area. Mr. Wallace contacted the group in Baltimore and after having met with them was convinced by their dedication and sense of commitment to their vision. The Spirit moving around within the group proved to be contagious and Mr. Wallace became totally involved in assisting the group to translate their vision into reality as is evidenced from following excerpts taken from a statement written by Mr. Wallace to the denomination:
"It has been my privilege to work with the Northwest Group ever since the committee became aware of their interest in forming a new church in May. 1962. I have met with them at least twice a month since that time and have attended many of their Sunday worship services which began at St. Luke's United Church of Christ on January 13, 1963. During these months the spirit and determination of the group to move forward has been inspiring. They have been patient and understanding in very trying situations when places for them to worship could not be found in the Northwest area either in the United Church or in churches of other denominations..."
The Group with which Mr. Wallace initially met was composed of Marian Alston, Anne and Vallen Emery, Wayland and Lettie Wilson, Mildred Forehand, Lillian and Howard Green, Fannette Hughes, Edith Sparrow, and John Wood.
In 1962, the Baltimore-Washington area was still in the process of crystallizing the merger of the Potomac Synod (Evangelical and Reformed) and the Mid-Atlantic Conference (Congregational-Christian). Both groups were invaluable in their support and supervision of this mission church. This mission church, which soon carne to be known as the Northwest Congregational Church had its inception at a most historical period in the life of the United Church of Christ. The merger of two great Protestant bodies-the Evangelical and Reformed Churches-with the Congregational-Christian churches-had just been completed nationally with the adoption of its new constitution in 1961 in Philadelphia. (This transitional period in which the merger was taking place also at different points in our development added to the confusion.) But as we reflect on that part of our history we recognize now that that was a very necessary part of our wilderness experience!
The first initial meetings of the group (later to be known as the Northwest Congregational Church) were held at the home of Vallen and Anne Emery at 1620 E. Biddle Street. Meetings were held on a monthly basis from May until January 13, 1963 when the first formal service of worship was held at St. Luke's Church. Subsequent meetings were held at the homes of members on a rotating basis.
The first formal worship service was held January 13. 1963 at St. Luke's United Church of Christ on Fayette and Carey Street at 2:00 p.m. The Rev. Theodore Ledbetter, Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church (U.C.C.) preached the sermon and the 40-voice choir of Plymouth under the direction of Miss Alma Blackman and Mr. Thomas Kerr; organist furnished the music for the service. This was a cold and snowy Sunday, but the Spirit and enthusiasm was felt. Many people carne to the altar declaring their desire to become a part of this growing religious venture.
With the help of the Conference and the Board for Homeland Ministries, the parsonage located at 3604 Edgewood Road was purchased and negotiations began to obtain the Second Church of Christ Scientist at 3106 Liberty Heights Avenue.
The Reverend Shelby Rooks again appeared in the picture and became the Interim Pastor, February 1964. Reverend Rooks commuted from his office in Princeton, New Jersey to Baltimore on weekends for services. Rev. Rooks provided leadership to this little band of members in formulating worship services and guidance in denominational understanding.
The members agreed to try to raise funds for the well-appointed building in which we now worship. A letter on March 14, 1964 was sent to Members and Friends of Northwest Congregational Church from Wilbert Jones, Chairman of the Trustee Board; Charles Mitchner, Financial Secretary; and Samuel Hicks, Treasurer stated: "Our faith is boundless, just as the five thousand were fed with five loaves and three fish by the Sea of Galilee, just as the widow's jug kept filling, believe we can raise this amount of money." Within one week $1 was pledged and the drive began.
NORTHWEST CONGREGATlONAL CHURCH BECOMES
HERITAGE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
In September 1964, the Potomac Synod and the Mid-Atlantic Conference completed the merger into the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ. Northwest Congregational Church became Heritage United Church of Christ.
"In response to the love and grace of God we unite in Christ fellowship for the worship of God through Jesus Christ. God's will for our lives and to share with others the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they too may discover God's will for their lives, regardless of race, color, class or ethnic background. We have come together so that we might be sent out in the name of Jesus Christ to assist in the regeneration of society and thereby translating God's Word by our lives into living actuality!"
… WE HAVE COME THIS FAR BY FAITH …
Monday Morning this time, there was absolutely no question that God had been with us as we sojourned in the wilderness! His goodness and mercy were certainly with us and was certainly a very important part of our history! Because this whole Heritage movement is of GOD, He moved and used us oft times in spite of ourselves!
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He had anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Heritage United Church of Christ preaches a strong social gospel. Our life has been intimately intertwined with the life of the total community. Our calling is one of social action, involving ourselves in the issues of the community that we might participate in the total redemptive process. We make our unique witness in the name of our Lord, Jesus the Christ. Through Christ, unto Him as the "church gathered" that He might send us out as the "church dispersed," as sheep in the midst of wolves!"
A look at our history bears this out as one takes a glance at our life as a church as exhibited by our program during our existence. We have always been heavily involved in the Civil Rights Struggle during the days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and after; Resurrection City’s Poor People's March are a few examples. Our church has been a resting place for many groups involved in the struggle. We believe that God is Lord over all people and therefore the arena of politics is under His jurisdiction. Based on this belief we are actively involved in the political situation as we try to discern what God is saying through this process that we might interpret it for the people.
Heritage United Church of Christ’s foundation is based on the following programs:
The above mentioned activities and programs did not exhaust the extent of the church’s involvement, but gives a general idea of our style of ministry at Heritage United Church of Christ.
Sunday Services Spiritual Services
Links to Rev. Jefferson’s sermon excerpts are