This is a tale of two racially segregated parishes, formed one hundred years apart, that came together through a ministry to children. The path of faith sustained them through slavery and Jim Crow, through the struggle for Civil Rights, and up the present where the struggle continues but love sustains.
Father Charlie Fox founded St. Matthew’s Mission on Bond Street in 1949 around the black community’s shared concern for its children. Children came every afternoon for religious instruction with Father Fox riding his bicycle to children’s homes on Saturdays, visiting parishioners at school cafeterias and work sites, coaching and encouraging youngsters to continue their education.
Founded 100 years earlier, Cranmer Chapel had followed a similar path in a nearby white community. With a growing congregation of families with young children, the chapel was in need of larger worship space. Even before the new building was completed there were 300 children in Sunday School. The congregation moved to a new building at the corner of Broadway and McElderry Street and changed its name to the Church of Our Saviour.
Members of St. Matthew’s began worshipping in the older parish’s former building. The two parishes followed parallel ministries within blocks of each other for another decade.
But the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s saw the neighborhood become less residential as younger families moved away; a story that replicated itself all over Baltimore City. Both churches adapted with one creative solution after another to minister to their communities. With the financial wolves at the doors of both parishes in 1971, St. Matthew’s and Our Saviour prayed for guidance and discerned that a merger was in the best interest of both congregations. On May 16, 1972, in a historic leap of faith and love, the two racially separate parishes merged to form the Church of the Holy Covenant, its ministry devoted to the spiritual nurturing of children.