Easter sunrise service at Lovely Lane Methodist Church - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Easter sunrise service at Lovely Lane Methodist Church

Lovely Lane sanctuary (Justus Heger)

The streets of Baltimore were surprisingly busy for the pre-dawn hours of a cold Sunday morning.  Men in sharply pressed suits and women in colorful spring hats buttoned their overcoats against the chill of a northerly wind.  And in the distance, the lights in a stone bell tower pierced the darkness with the sign of the cross.

Tower at Lovely Lane (Courtesy photo)

Tower at Lovely Lane (Courtesy photo)

It is Easter Morning 2013 at Lovely Lane Church in Baltimore.

Lovely Lane United Methodist Church is considered to be the Mother Church of American Methodism.  The original Lovely Lane Meeting House was located at 206 E. Redwood Street in what is now Baltimore’s busy business district.  It was at that site that the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at the 1784 Christmas Conference.  There, at the direction of  John Wesley, Francis Asbury and others were ordained by Bishop Coke and sent “to reform the nation and spread scriptural holiness over these lands.”

The present edifice, at 2200 Saint Paul Street, was designed in 1884 by Stanford White as a centennial monument to the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Exterior restoration of the red tile roof in 2001 preceded a refurbishment of the stunning sanctuary in 2003.  An astronomical mural on the interior dome depicts the sky as it appeared the morning the fledgling church was born.  Another feature of the church is theater seating –  a novel idea for a nineteenth century house of worship.  The church also houses a museum which contains exhibits respecting the founding and founders of American Methodism.

Museum artifacts include the saddle of the last Methodist circuit rider (Justus Heger)

Museum artifacts include the saddle of the last Methodist circuit rider (Justus Heger)

Though a gem from another era, there is nothing musty about Lovely Lane.  The congregation continues today as an attuned, active church which minsters to the needs of the rebounding neighborhood.

After prayers and scripture readings from Luke 24 and Acts 10, the homily for the sunrise service was delivered by the Rev. Nancy Nedwell, the pastor of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Nedwell opened by telling a story about a small town preacher named Tidwell, who had the dubious honor of having the octogenarian owner of the local paper in his congregation.  The old editor enjoyed dramatically recounting Tidwell’s sermons in print, in a way which would often make the humble minister blush.  The critiques could be somewhat outlandish, but no review was quite as jarring as the bold-face headline which read: TIDWELL CLAIMS JESUS CHRIST ROSE FROM THE DEAD.

“Yes,” thought Tidwell, “Of course I said that.  But is it really front page news?”  Nedwell said it quickly dawned on Tidwell that it is indeed front page news.  “The resurrection is the very heart of the gospel message.”

A temperance plaque in the church museum (Justice Heger)

A temperance plaque in the church museum (Justus Heger)

“Of all the mysteries our faith invites us to contemplate,” Nedwell affirmed. “The resurrection is by far the most astonishing….The very idea of resurrection shatters all the categories of comprehension with which we make sense of our world.  It draws us instead into a reality that transcends present possibility…. We are met at the gates of death with a freshness and fullness of life barely grasped by the wildest stretches of our imaginings.

Peering into the empty tomb forever changes us and gives us a story to tell.

“We tell the story of life and light, even in the face of suffering and death.  Setting out on the path of discipleship, perhaps a little more conscious of the cost of that discipleship after our Lenten observance, we do not travel alone.  We have one another, we have and are the Body of Christ, the church in the world, and we have a call.  Things may never be the same, our assumptions may never be safe, but we are not alone.  Jesus is loose in the world.  He is not in our present as a lifeless corpse or in our past as a distant memory.  Rather, he goes ahead of us into the future to meet us there and claim us, not on our terms, but on His.  This is no idle tale,” Nedwell said. “Christ is risen; Christ is Risen Indeed!”

Editor’s note: This is the fifth part of an ongoing series which will look at the places and people that make up the rich history and diverse nature of spirituality, belief and observance in Baltimore and beyond. Read the series here.






About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, "Thou shalt not steal." Contact the author.

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