"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Matthew 16:18
On February 24, 1894, during a terrific snow storm fifty excited, faith-filled people gathered to lay the cornerstone of our Church. But the story did not begin there... it started 2 years earlier and with a little Christian woman from a Quaker Church, a handful of children, a traveling Reverend and the simple truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ.
This Christian woman said to the traveling Reverend as she was teaching the children .. "I welcome thee here, and thee may have my Sunday School to start a meeting if thee wilt."
The Reverend accepted her offer and "meetings", were established in 1892. During the summer, services were held outside in the "Grove" located at Ridge and Woodside Avenues. In the winter, services were moved indoors and held at the Halethorpe Land Company on the corner of Arbutus and Linden Avenues. Negotiations for a permanent church begin immediately after the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1893. After finalizing the first step of organizing a formal Sunday School on June 25, 1893, fifty members pursued plans for the construction of the building and formally organized the Halethorpe Methodist Episcopal Church (1893 - 1939), on July 2, 1893.
Construction was not an easy task, to say the least. The U.S. was in the depths of depression and the local economy was greatly impacted. However, dedicated to seeing the church built, several individuals and groups contributed in many ways. Along with the charter members, who gave freely of their time and money, that vision became a reality. At the cost of $2,500, the church was built at the property of Ridge and Arbutus Avenue, in approximately nine months and was completed on November 20, 1894. Church records state that the congregation repaid the debt, in full, within one year's time.
The original one room building had space to seat 100 parishioners, was lit by large oil lamps suspended from the ceiling and was heated by two pot-belly stoves which stood in the center aisle. During the winter months the stove had to be kept so hot that those sitting nearby sweltered from the heat, while others by the windows shivered from the cold draft. Hence a large space was excavated to allow the installation of a hot-air furnace with two registers in the floor to distribute heat.
In the 1900's many changes took place. In August of 1912 the parsonage was built. The 3-story frame house was built for $4,500. Although updated with modern conveniences, the house remains relatively the same as when originally built and still serves as parsonage. In 1924, the church building was razed and the foundation extended to provide a basement kitchen and school rooms at a a cost of $35,000. The steps and entrance were moved to the side, and the brick Sunday School portion was added. Inside the church, the altar and sanctuary were modified, installing the side rooms and choir loft.
A significant event for the church happened on May 10, 1939, segments of Methodism were unified and the church became known as Halethorpe Methodist Church (1939 - 1968). In 1953 a new church was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation. Being the only building in town for community gatherings, the Church became the center for social and cultural gatherings, plays and musical events as well as religious services.
In 1953, celebrating their 60th anniversary, the Church was once again in need of a larger sanctuary and related facilities. A completely new church was proposed. After several years of planning and money raising, the new Church was finally constructed on Ridge Avenue across the street from the original Church. The sanctuary was consecrated on January 12, 1958. The construction debt was paid within 5 years, allowing for the construction of the Educational Unit. On September 18, 1966, the Church School Building was consecrated. The old Church was torn down and a much needed parking lot was laid. In 1968, the name was changed to Halethorpe United Methodist Church (1968 - 1995). By the 1970's the membership grew to 470.
However, by 1995, a more significant expansion took place. To strengthen both congregations, Halethorpe United Methodist Church and Relay United Methodist Church combined to form, what is now known as, Halethorpe-Relay United Methodist Church (1995 - present).
Throughout the years there were many changes not only to our Church but our world. We saw our congregation grow and struggle, but we helped one another through. There were fundraisers and anonymous donations of every kind. There was World War I, World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Gulf War and, even today, we have serviceman and women serving around the world fighting the War on Terror.
While many things have changed, the original charge of the congregation has not wavered. Our founding members would be proud to know, we, as a congregation continue our support and love of all peoples, because we are ... one Church, and most importantly ... God's children.