The Antietam-Conococheague Watershed Alliance (ACWA) is seeking houses of worship and faith-based organizations (or any organizations!) willing to participate in a free tree planting project to “green” their grounds and promote environmental stewardship. The trees will be planted & maintained by contractors and/or volunteers between 2022-2025. Outreach materials on the benefit and care of trees will be provided by ACWA. For more details visit ACWA’s website. If your organization is interested or would like more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to determine eligibility. Letters of support for the grant request are due 2/26/22.
Want to learn more about the Micah’s Backpack program in Washington County? Watch this four-minute VIDEO. In it, Micah’s Backpack Steering Team members and Bester Elementary Title I School Liaison BJ Lushbaugh share about this important program, which ensures children are fed over the weekends in Washington County, Maryland.
From November 28 through December 19, 2021, area congregations participated in a regional effort to collect winter clothing for Afghan refugees. Here’s what we collected:
Other items also collected: blankets, sleepers, robes, snowsuits, vests and shoes. All items together totaled over 4,850!
This effort was a partnership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, HARC and Catholic Charities of Harrisburg, PA. The collection was a HUGE success with an outpouring of support from the community! Thanks to all who participated in this effort, including:
The Churches of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hagerstown, Cumberland, and Hancock, MD, as well as in Chambersburg and McConnellsburg, PA; and in Berkley Springs and Keyser, WV.
Covenant Life Church
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Girl Scout Troop 15081
Haven Lutheran Church
Hebron Mennonite Church
Otterbein United Methodist Church
Rehoboth United Methodist Church
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Trinity Reformed UCC of Boonsboro
Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown
HARC is pleased to welcome David Brechbiel as our new News Flash Editor!
David Brechbiel, a Greencastle native, has worked in the typesetting and printing industry for 26 years, 16 years as a cake and cookie decorator, and 11 years as the office administration clerk at New Light Metropolitan Community Church, and 12 years as Billing Manager for CB Studios. He has a certificate in office procedures from Hagerstown Junior College. He is retired from the work force and now likes to share his experiences with several causes. He focuses his personal ministry on making holiday goody bags for homebound patients of Keystone Health in Chambersburg, PA and is on the Keystone Health Executive Advisory Committee. He enjoys using his talents by informing people of events and causes. He maintains several Facebook and Websites, including New Light MCC, Sanders’ Cookie Jar Bakery, CB Studios, and some of his own including Washington County Fundraisers and Franklin County Fundraisers.
We are grateful to have David’s skills and commitment to compile the HARC News Flash each week!
January 11, 2022 Edward Poling
I appreciate the opportunity to share my recollections of the Washington County Council of Churches. I came to Hagerstown in January 2001 as the new pastor of the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren. Most of my memories are of the last 21 years. But I do have a childhood memory to start. I’m not quite a Washington County native. My parents brought me here when I was just a little over a year old. My dad became the pastor of the Brownsville Church of the Brethren in 1948. Brownsville is just about 20 miles south of Hagerstown, almost in the next state. My childhood memory is of hearing him lead vesper services at the Bandshell in the Hagerstown City Park. In the 1950’s at least, the Council of Churches offered services every Sunday evening in the summer, an hour before the Hagerstown Band would present their concert. This was one of the ministries offered back in the early days of the Council.
On coming to Hagerstown, and beginning my ministry, I remember being visited by Bob Hyssong one Sunday morning. He was the Executive Director at the time. After the service he introduced himself and invited me to come to the monthly council meeting.
There was no hesitation in accepting his offer. I have always been interested in meeting clergy in the community where I served. And this was no exception. The fellowship was warm, and I got to know many of the pastors in Hagerstown. The monthly meetings were helpful in learning about the community and its challenges. There were clergy and lay representatives from the various churches as well as folks from the non-profits and governmental organizations. I learned about Habitat for Humanity, REACH, the Washington County Social Services, and others who were reaching out to the community.
One particular person was Betty Willson. She worked as a volunteer for the Council’s Social Help Services, that had its center at Trinity Lutheran Church. This ministry offered physical assistance to neighbors in need. As a downtown pastor, I understood the great need of folks who were living on the edge. And I appreciated the good work that Betty and her volunteers did. This was real ministry.
I was impressed with the Council of Churches, especially its leaders. I want to recall their names, over these last 21 years and the houses of worship they served.
Rev. Don Stevenson – Christ’s Reformed Church
Rev. Ed Heim – St. John’s Lutheran Church
Rev. Jan Dorsey – Hagerstown Church of the Brethren
Rev. Steve Robison – Otterbein United Methodist Church
Rev. Tim Leighton – Church of the Holy Trinity
Rev. Gregg Meserole – Christ’s Reformed Church
Rabbi Ari Plost – Congregation B’nai Abraham
Rev. Elizabeth Jackson – Otterbein United Methodist Church
It wasn’t long until I was involved in the Council of Churches in more than monthly meetings. It was Don Stevenson who challenged the Council to become more than an ecumenical organization. Even before the tragedy of September 11, Don was encouraging the Council to have conversations about the growing interfaith challenge. And that next winter and spring, he started the Interfaith Coalition, calling together clergy and lay people to begin this work. I attended an early meeting and became part of the coalition. We met regularly and planned events that brought a diversity of folks together to find common ground. And over the last twenty years, this group has advocated for tolerance, respect, and appreciation for the many religious and spiritual traditions in our county. I’ve gotten to know and work with folks from the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Bahai traditions as well as non-theists. Hopefully, this advocacy has helped make our community more respectful of people from many faiths and cultures.
Significant for HARC has been a Statement of Peace that was developed to speak to the divisiveness in 2016. Signed by over 400 people in our community, it called for our religious community “to refrain from language that degrades or demonizes another religion, and halt all religious rhetoric that attacks another’s beliefs and practices…” A sign of our growing unity was two public meetings – one at the Islamic Society of Western Maryland after a tragic shooting in a mosque in New Zealand; and the other at Congregation B’nai Abraham after a similar tragedy in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was a time to support our faith partners in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
Two other significant ministries of HARC for me are the Good Friday Cross Walk, and the annual HARC Hike.
In 2007 the idea came to hold a Good Friday observance out-of-doors. We took to the streets, inviting folks to join us in a walk through downtown Hagerstown on Good Friday. We stopped at various social service ministries and significant public places to relate our faith to the social justice issues of our day. This became an annual event and continued downtown for the next four years. Then we moved to the Hagerstown City Park and have continued there over the years. During the last two years it has become a virtual event because of COVID. I am especially indebted to Angie Scheerer for writing the liturgy for these services. (We are needing volunteers to organize that effort again this year.)
The Annual HARC Hike started in 2013 when Kathy Powderly became our Executive Director. We wondered how we might provide the funding for this new and exciting venture. That first year, a group of supporters hiked the length of the Catoctin Trail, in Frederick County, some 28 miles, getting financial sponsors. This has continued as a significant fundraising event each year. More recently our group of nearly 100 participants meets at Shepherd’s Springs Outdoor Ministries Center with hikes of various length on the C & O Canal. This past year, we raised a record $24,000. This coming June will be our tenth year. (Kathy notes that The HARC Hike was actually born in 2012 when Ed Poling hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland – 41 miles – in one day to raise funds for HARC.)
For me, all these experiences with what we now call the Hagerstown Area Religious Council have been rich and rewarding. Not only did it extend through my tenure as one of the local pastors, but also into my retirement. I have been richly blessed. And I believe that the work and ministry of HARC has had a significant positive impact on our community. I regret there are many other programs and offerings now provided by HARC I have not touched on. But, in closing, as Rev. Gregg Meserole used to remind us, “let us continue to engage our faith communities in doing more together than we can alone.”
THE WASHINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (WCCC) – AS I REMEMBER
Rev. Don R. Stevenson
Ecumenism is about dialogue and cooperation between different branches of the same religion.
Nearly fifty years ago I moved to this area after a few years of ministry and grad school in the South. Eager to experience the new in this region of the country one of the first groups that I came to know was the WCCC. As the new pastor at Paramount Baptist Church, I was delighted to find and be a part of an ecumenical group that had interest in connecting with other variations of Christianity. The WCCC was precisely that. My file from the 1970’s notes an organizational listing of active participants that included Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Mennonites, Unitarian Universalists, United Church of Christ, Church of the Brethren, not to mention other faith entities and affiliates like Church Women United, Habitat for Humanity, and Cooperative Church Nurseries.
The spiritual leaders of these congregations included Russell Butcher of the Presbyterian Church, Ben Jones (the artist) of Covenant Presbyterian, Bill Hogevoll and Bob Reginald of the First Christian Church, Bartow Harris of the First Baptist Church, Doug Bailey of the Episcopal Church, Dewitt Miller and later Dean Miller of the Church of the Brethren, Wilson Shearer of Otterbein United Methodist, Lawrence Strunk and Larry Fisher of Christ’s Reformed UCC, Dick Masters of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Joe Davies of St Joseph Roman Catholic Church, et al. These individuals I remember with great fondness. They were astute, caring, and wise spiritual leaders who exampled the best of ecumenism. While there were other peripheral church councils in the county that were more geographically localized in the Williamsport, South County, and Hancock areas, the WCCC largely represented the Greater Hagerstown Area of institutionalized Christianity.
The WCCC met monthly, except in the summer, and it was not unusual to see up to forty clergy and laity from these churches and affiliates come together to enjoy each other’s company and organize for community service. I was so very impressed with the oneness WCCC represented. While the members had different slants and perspectives about faith, to be sure, a dominating love, respect, and unity was equally important across denominational lines.
In the community the WCCC held a measure of power. I recall the WCCC Social Concerns Committee visited the management of an area radio station to protest a prevailing bias and prejudice in its programming. The meeting was successful, and the radio station altered its perspective. And, it was not unusual for WCCC members to attend Mayor and City Council meetings to voice common concerns.
At the annual meeting in 1999 I was honored to be elected WCCC’s President for the ensuing year. I was keenly interested in continuing the work the previous spiritual leaders had modeled. One of my key objectives as President of the WCCC was that we begin listening to other religions that had an emerging presence in our community. Therefore, we initiated a program called “Interfaith Dialogues” on the first Wednesday of each month beginning in November of 1999 through March of 2000 in the old Argosy Room of the Tortuga. One advertising copy for these meetings read: “In our effort to better understand and deepen commonality between the many growing faith expressions in our community and world, we invite all area residents to join the WCCC membership from 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. to learn about other religions. The more we grow in the Christian faith, the more we will understand and appreciate other pathways to God.”
Little did we know then, that an interest in other religions would be magnified by the tragedy of September 11, 2001 or “9-11”. These were and still are haunting numbers in America’s life, and we in the churches at that time were stunned and lock-jawed by what had happened. Additionally, we suddenly knew that we were ever so ignorant about the Abrahamic religion of Islam, from which Christianity also descends. We began to ask: “What do we now do as a Council, as a people of God? What do the churches of the WCCC do to speak to the pain and pathos of a devastating occurrence?” Indeed, there was a prevailing silence. Our tongues were stapled, so to speak. We huddled, decided to ring church bells at synchronized hours, open the doors of our church facilities for prayers, all in an effort to make sense out of the senseless. Truly, America’s 9-11 experience opened the eyes of WCCC Christianity, and helped it embrace an interfaith perspective.
Download a PDF of both articles here.
THE BIRTH OF THE INTERFAITH COALITION OF WASHINGTON
COUNTY – AS I REMEMBER
Rev. Don R. Stevenson
While ecumenism is about dialogue and cooperation between different branches of the same religion, interfaith promotes dialogue, respect, understanding, and cooperation between differing religions.
Sitting beside Ron Bowers at a Hot Spots luncheon meeting on West Washington Street in the Frostburg State College Community Room in early December 2001 we began to talk about the community and the WCCC’s response to the September 11th tragedy. Ron, having been a County Commissioner and one who was interested in the community’s religious life was quite inspiring about connecting with our Islamic sisters and brothers to seek greater understanding. We referenced people we knew or could know in our community that might help us better understand the after-shocks of 9-11. We referenced the Jewish community and the Rabbi Janice Garfunkel, several Muslims we knew or knew of in the community like Dr. Shahab Siddiqui, Lu Yumlu, and a couple others of the Islamic faith. Ron and I continued in conversation, and immediately I made contact with Dr. Siddiqui, and he helped me gain a meeting with Imam Burmi of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland. I then had lunch at the Venice with Lu Yumlu, a frequent visitor with his Christian wife to our church. Each of these meetings helped me focus on how the WCCC might relate to the severing pain of 2001 and our ignorance of the Islamic faith and other religions as well.
I quickly prepared to present a proposal at the next WCCC meeting in February 2002, chaired by Rev. Ed Heim of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Suddenly I realized that a new kind of spiritual togetherness was beginning to embrace a new agenda called interfaith. I excitingly proposed that the WCCC establish an Interfaith Coalition Committee that would seek out and develop an on-going connection with all other non-Christian religions. This proposal was unanimously approved by the WCCC body at its May 2002 Annual Meeting, as I remember, giving a formal birth to what is now the current Interfaith Coalition of Washington County. Several members of the WCCC showed interest in this new committee, principally Rev. Ed Poling. A I edged closer to retirement, it was Poling who took the interfaith torch and cause and has carried it so very well.
My sincere hope is that the above recall increases the reader’s understanding of what institutionalized Christian religion in Washington County Maryland was about since 1972, how it evolved and adopted an interfaith connection, and how all religions of our area can be connected through what is called HARC.
The above was written by the Rev. Don R. Stevenson, a part-time retired United Church of Christ minister and since 2004 has been an adjunct instructor in World Religions, Philosophy, and Ethics at Hagerstown Community College.
Religion is a social phenomenon that institutionalizes a particular set of beliefs about transcendence or a transcendent God. Spirituality, on the other hand, is an inner attitude of reverence that is independent of any particular religious group or cultural fascination.
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is administering two separate Community Safety Works grant opportunities that will encourage the implementation of crime prevention strategies through physical design improvements and community vigilance and maintenance.
The Facility Improvements grant may be of interest to the faith community.
Facility Improvements: Maximum grant request is $25,000 for facility-related improvements that make nonprofit organizations, including faith-based nonprofit organizations, facilities safer and more defensible. Notice of Funding Availability announcement.
The Facility Improvements application will be available online. Prior to submitting an application you will be required to register with the Maryland OneStop Portal. OneStop is the central hub for Maryland State licenses, forms, certificates, permits, applications, and registrations and can be accessed at: https://onestop.md.gov.
Hello Friends of Sleep in Heavenly Peace,
On Saturday, January 22 from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm the Hagerstown, MD. ( Need 55 volunteers) SHP Chapter will be building 50 beds located at 87 West Lee Street, Hagerstown, MD. (In the warehouse across the street from Ellsworth Electric.)
We also need help to Unload Lumber Thursday 13th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm ( Need 15 volunteers) and to Pre-cut Lumber Thursday January 20th from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. (Need 10 Volunteers)
To sign up and register to volunteer we use the online volunteer and task scheduling tool: “SignUpGenius”. This tool allows our greatly appreciated volunteers to pick dates, times, and activities that best suit their schedules/talents, and still help Washington County kiddos get a good night’s sleep.
Click this link to start your signup: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0C45A4AB2BA6F4C16-january13th
– Review the date/tasks and put a check in the “Sign Up” box for things you can help with.
– When you have checked all your events, go to the bottom of the screen and Press “Submit and Sign up”.
Add your First and Last name, and your email address and click “Sign Up Now”. Also, if you would let us know if you are with a particular school, church, business, or organization, it will help us better understand Who’s Who. You’ll receive a confirmation email with the schedule of events you have signed up for.
We welcome any and all helping hands age 12 and up. Bring your gloves. Eye and hearing protection will be provided. Lunch, snacks, and water will also be provided.
We need new volunteers so if you know of anyone else who would be interested in volunteering, please pass on the invitation. You can use this to build up your community service points as well.
Again, Thanks for your Help and Support of our goal: “No Child Sleeps on the Floor in Our Town”.
We as the team of SHP Hagerstown look forward to seeing many of you on January 22nd to partake in this great experience.
On behalf of –
SHP Hagerstown Chapter President
Ms./Mama Dee from It’s a Blessing to Be a Blessing is blessing Reach as the shelter coordinator this week. She is looking for some extra hands throughout the week to help serve meals, provide search, intake paperwork and help in the laundry/supply room. If anyone is interested and able to help any evening this week, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, please call Ms./Mama Dee 240-452-9786.
Hebron Mennonite Church of Hagerstown, a friendly, caring and service-oriented congregation, seeks a full-time pastor to join us as we support each other, reach out to our community, and invite all people into a growing relationship with God and the church. All interested candidates please contact Pastoral Search Team chair Ed Poling at email@example.com