The Methodist Church in Towson, Maryland: A Historical Journey

Towson United Methodist Church is a large United Methodist church located in the historic Hampton subdivision of Towson, a suburb of Baltimore County, Maryland. Its history is deeply intertwined with the United States of the 19th century and its subsequent growth has closely followed the nation's political and sociological trends. In 1861, on the eve of the American Civil War, it was a divided congregation in a border state of divided loyalties. After World War II, it was built in the 1950s, a time of reconciliation and rapid growth of major Protestant denominations, especially in the more prosperous suburbs.

Throughout the years, members of the Towson Methodist men's group and the Society of Women of Christian Service (now United Methodist Women) have been actively involved in various charitable activities such as Meals on Wheels, the League of Women Voters and Head Start, as well as volunteering at local hospitals and at the Maryland School for the Blind. In the lobby of the current building there is an illuminated screen of the stained glass windows of the old church. The current name, Towson United Methodist Church, was adopted in 1968 to reflect the merger that year of the United Brethren Methodist and Evangelical denominations in the United States. The Towson United Methodist Church sponsors missions abroad, runs the Susanna Wesley House for single mothers, and is actively involved in Habitat for Humanity projects. In 1895, two Methodist congregations that had stayed apart since 1861 came together to celebrate a great revival in Towson.

The Methodist movement had grown rapidly in America before the Civil War but was plagued by disputes over slave ownership and domination by bishops, leading to a formal division into two groups in 1844. Douglas Cooney (1928-2000) was a Methodist minister in several churches, including the First Methodist Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, and an official of the Methodist denomination. He was ordained to ministry by the United Methodist Church in 1995 after studying at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado where he obtained a Master of Divinity and Doctorate in Ministry. The old church was abandoned and finally demolished in 1952 to make way for construction of a parking lot for former Hutzler's department stores near current Macy's department stores and Towson Town Center shopping center. The chairman of church's construction committee had advanced his personal funds to complete construction and was subsequently involved in years of litigation with church. After reunification of two branches of Methodism in 1939, First Methodist Church and Second Methodist Church of Towson continued as separate entities for another thirteen years. He was Towson's Methodist pastor from 1995 to 2001 when he went to England to preach at American Church in London and appeared as frequent commentator for BBC.

A minority that opposed idea joined Southern-leaning Methodist Protestant Church and retired from Epsom Chapel to worship at Odd Fellows Hall in Towson during Civil War. With merger in 1939 of Methodist Episcopal (ME) and Methodist Protestant (MP) denominations in United States, Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Protestant churches in Towson were renamed First Methodist Church and Second Methodist Church respectively. Today, Towson United Methodist Church continues to be an active part of its community. It sponsors missions abroad, runs the Susanna Wesley House for single mothers, and is actively involved in Habitat for Humanity projects. It also continues to be a place where people can come together to celebrate their faith.

Craig Mcfarling
Craig Mcfarling

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