In Spring 1974, the Baltimore Annual Conference decided that Columbia had grown sufficiently to warrant establishing another Methodist congregation on the east side of Route 29 in the emerging village of Owen Brown. Working with the Columbia Cooperative Ministry (CCM), a consortium of twelve diverse congregations, the Conference appointed Rev. Mary Kraus to start the new congregation. Mary arrived in Columbia in July 1974, and spent the summer months talking with local Methodists and settling into the future home of the unnamed congregation to be housed at "Old Brick" - Christ Episcopal Church at the intersection of Oakland Mills and Dobbin Roads.
In September 1974, George and Judy Pittman hosted a coffee hour for approximately thirty interested Columbians who wanted to meet Mary Kraus and hear of the potential for a new congregation. Services were held regularly at Old Brick beginning in November 1974. Many participants enjoyed the uniqueness of worshipping in the traditional setting of Old Brick while experiencing contemporary worship services of clown ministry, monthly guest speakers, folk hymns, and liturgical dance.
The first year there were numerous meetings to determine the new congregation's style, identity, worship, goals and name. A joint Sunday School with the Episcopalians enabled us to offer religious education in our earliest months. The ecumenical 1960s and the socially conscious 1970s influenced much of our worship, outreach, and purpose. Mary Kraus encouraged active lay involvement which is still a hallmark of this congregation's identity.
A Chartering Service was held on October 12, 1975, almost a year after we first began meeting. This marked our "Official" beginning and was a joyful service involving clergy from many congregations and the reception of twenty-two charter members. The choice of Christ United Methodist Church for the name of the new congregation was influenced by the close association with Christ Episcopal Church. Charter members Ann Barnett, Sue Deatherage, and George and Judy Pittman remain active today.
After several years at Old Brick, both congregations needed more space, and it was time for Christ United Methodist Church to "move on." The Conference had determined that Owen Brown Village would be our home, so our next location was in the community room of Owen Brown Place, the senior citizen complex next to the village center. While far from ideal, the congregation "lived" in Owen Brown Place for nearly four years while going through the search for a permanent home. After eight years as our pastor, and in the midst of planning for the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, Mary Kraus was appointed to another church, and in 1982 Rev. Jim Hunt became pastor for the next two years while we held worship service at Owen Brown Place.
During 1983-1984, major effort went into planning the Owen Brown Interfaith Center (OBIC). After many meetings with our Unitarian-Universalist partners, conference consultants and unending committees, the ground breaking finally took place in the spring of 1983. From our vantage point at Owen Brown Place, the congregation could literally watch as OBIC was being constructed.
Rev. Gene Funk arrived in June of 1984 to a congregation impatient with the building process, anxious about mounting debts, but still committed to the future of Christ UMC at OBIC. As the congregation waited for completion of its permanent home, all activities other than worship took place in members' homes, a tradition that continues for several regularly scheduled events.
The first years at OBIC saw adjustment to sharing the new facility and its management with our Unitarian co-owners. Over the years, the interfaith center concept has supported new congregations of many faiths that have rented space for worship and other activities at OBIC. There periodically have been ecumenical services in which the owners and all renting congregations have participated.
Rev. Mary Ellen Huzzard became our fourth pastor in July 1989, and in July 1994 Rev. Douglas Fox was appointed our fifth pastor. After a two-year period of study and reflection, Christ UMC became a member of what is now called the Reconciling Ministries Network in 1997.
Rev. Kathryn B. Moore was our sixth pastor, July 2000-June 2002, and Rev. Gladys Joyner Hubbard became our seventh in July 2002. During their terms, the plans for renovating and expanding OBIC that had been discussed for several years were transformed into a building program, the first phase of which was undertaken in 2003. On January 11, 2004, dignitaries and honored guests attended the ribbon cutting and dedication of the renovated and expanded OBIC.
Rev. Marilyn Newhouse began her appointment as our eighth pastor in July 2004, during the first Vacation Bible School to enjoy the fruits of the expansion. October 2005 saw the start of our LOGOS program for children and youth and a contemporary service the second Sunday of each month. New ministries, study groups, and outreach efforts are emerging continually as the congregation focuses on discipleship.
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