Founded by former slave Truman Pratt in 1825, Metropolitan United Methodist Church had outgrown several locations, before his employer donated land in1837 to build an edifice which was erected by free men and former slaves. It was named Orchard Street Church. Membership continued to grow, and in 1928, the congregation purchased its present location on West Lanvale Street. Agnes Irene Taylor Ray, 96, was among the members who marched from the Orchard Street location to the Lanvale Street location.
“My great-grandmother took me to Orchard Street Church,” she recalled. “I hadn’t even started school at the time. I remember the light oak benches and it seemed to be a brightly-lighted ceiling. It was brilliantly lit always. We came into Metropolitan year 1928, March. I remember standing at the Carrollton Avenue door where you came in. Just watching all those people march in. All I knew was that it was a big crowd. Everybody was happy and excited because they were going to a new church.”
She added, “This church was built on solid ground. I reminisce about the massive choirs, concerts, people wrapped around the corner, and the children likewise always happy. Children were taught to listen, and be quiet. That was what was with us growing up as a child in this church.”
This year, Metropolitan United Methodist Church celebrates its 195th Anniversary. The theme for the 195th Anniversary Celebration is: “Celebrating The Past – Embracing The Present – Anticipating the Future”.
“I learned to get into the Bible from the actions of the older persons,” said Taylor Ray, who was married at the church. “As young children, a group of us would sit in the balcony, and we would see the actions of people. I saw people run around the church and fall out prostrate. I would pray for them until I realized what it meant. I didn’t realize what it meant until it happened to me. It was my conversion. My Lord what a joy.”
She added, “They were opening the doors of the church and all the while, my ears began to burn. I saw sunrays. There I stood alone at the alter and tears were running down my eyes like a watershed. All of a sudden something jumped outside of me and stood beside me at that altar. I looked at everybody, and they were all beautiful. When I looked up and saw my mother coming down the aisle, I became filled with love for everybody. It was such a joyous experience. It only happens once. I really know my God is real.”
Margaret J. Lowry is 99-years-old.
“I came after the church came from Orchard Street,” said Lowry, who will turn 100 this year. “I was seven-and-a-half years old. I have been a member all my life. We had a wonderful congregation. We had so many people in our sanctuary, we had to bring chairs up from downstairs. On Saturdays, most people did their cooking so they could be in church Sunday.”
She added, “ We had a well-baby clinic and cots here during The Great Depression. In the 1960s when rioting took place, people came to this church. The parsonage and the balcony were opened. It was like a home.”
Metropolitan United Methodist Church also served as a central headquarters and gathering place during the Civil Rights era. Since then, the church has served as a meeting place for the community and several city agencies.
The Rev. Dr. Howard W. Hinson, 83, is the Lead Pastor of Metropolitan United Methodist Church.
“It’s a glorious experience,” said Dr. Hinson who has served as pastor for three years. “I grew up in the conference that this church was in for many years, and I knew many of the former pastors here. This church has had a history, and from what I have read, Metropolitan was the first mega church in the city of Baltimore.”
In celebration of its 195th Church Anniversary, Metropolitan United Methodist Church was scheduled to hold an Anniversary Banquet on Friday, March 20, 2020 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at The Forum Caterers on Primrose Avenue. Metropolitan was also to hold its Church Anniversary Worship Service at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 22, 2020. In lieu of the coronavirus state of emergency in Maryland, both events have been postponed.
For more information call (410) 523-1366.
Coming Next Week: Part 2.