Canton (Baltimore) Mission Start
Salem is supporting the new joint ELCA-Episcopal mission in the Canton area of Baltimore. This long range goal of a new mission support was developed following input by the congregation and formally approved during the 2013 Annual Congregational Meeting. After consulting with The Rev. Kati Kluckman-Ault, our Synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission, our goal team determined that the Canton Mission was most promising. Salem’s support will be $20,000 each year for three years.
The Canton neighborhood of Baltimore is a vibrant and growing part of the city, with increasing numbers of young adults moving in. Demographics tell us this is a population much less likely to have attachments to any existing faith group, or to have heard the Good News of God’s love for them in Jesus. There is now only a limited mainline Christian presence in the neighborhood. Although Messiah Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation over 100 years old, is located on O’Donnell Square in the heart of Canton, it has few members and declining attendance. Messiah has offered the use of their building to the new mission start – a significant asset to any new mission.
This mission is a joint ministry between our Delaware/Maryland Synod and the Diocese of Maryland in the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. Our synod and the diocese have both committed funds to this endeavor, as have our respective national church bodies. The Rev. James Hamilton, an Episcopal priest, has been screened and called by our synod and the diocese of as mission developer for this new worshiping community. While Father Hamilton will be given a great deal of latitude to use his creative gifts in forming this community, in these opening years he will work in close partnership with both our Director for Evangelical Mission and the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland for support and accountability. Jim has been serving for the past five years in the Detroit suburbs, where he has simultaneously both planted an alternative Christian community, Lex Orandi, and served as rector of a traditional congregation, Trinity Episcopal Church. Educated at Seabury Western in Chicago, his passion is for liturgical innovation, serving the “lost generations” of X and the Millennials and finding the grace margins between church and culture. His wife, Elizabeth (Beth), is a primary care physician with a background in opera and ballet. Their son, Theodore (Teddy), is two and a half.
Ever since our 2001 “Called to Common Mission” agreement, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. (ECUSA) have been in a relationship of Full Communion, which means we have found enough common ground to engage in many tasks together for the sake of the Gospel. For instance, Episcopal churches are empowered to extend calls to Lutheran pastors, and vice versa. Studies show that denominational loyalty is on the decline: the current generation of young adults cares less than ever before about the name, label, worship style, or abstract doctrines of a congregation, than about whether it is welcoming, offers opportunities for community and service, and provides a meaningful experience to them. This current partnership came about in ways that we believe God provided. Members of the Episcopal diocesan staff have been present at the mission table in Canton that discerned the possibilities for this new start. Both of our church bodies feel we can accomplish much more as a team than by working separately in the same mission field.