To understand the rich history of Boulevard Christian Church we must go back to the beginning of World War II. Our nation was engaged in a mighty struggle to preserve the free world from Naziism. The East Baltimore area was one of the industrial areas that turned out the goods needed to win the war. Glenn L. Martin built the bombers, Bethlehem Steel produced the steel, Bethlehem and Maryland Shipyards turned out the ships, General Motors provided the trucks, and many others contributed to the war effort.
Young men and women of many nationalities and backgrounds from all over the United States flocked to Baltimore, providing the labor needed to keep these industries humming around the clock. Many were from the south and well steeped in the traditions of the Stone-Campbell movement to reunite the church. During the war years, the great need for a church was filled by community churches composed of people of all denominations who found themselves bound together by a common cause.
After the war, many began to return to their former homes and attendance at these community churches dwindled to the point they could not survive. Many, mostly from the south, did stay and they began to look for churches of their own choice. Some began attending Mountain Christian Church near Bel Air, MD.
It was not long before they desired a church closer to their home in Essex. They began to talk to Dr. Walker, the Senior Minister at Mountain, about the possibility of organizing a Christian Church in the Essex area since none existed. Dr. Walker was interested and plans were made. The first attempt failed when the plans were turned down for funding from the Council of Churches, who lent money to Christian churches.
By 1956, new plans were formulated and a place to meet was sought. Mrs. George Purcell reserved the basement of the Masonic Temple at 140 Orville Road in Essex for Sunday afternoons because another church met there in the mornings. Dr. Walker and his assistant, Mr. Barton, agreed to this arrangement. This would allow them to hold services at Mountain in the morning and Boulevard in the afternoon.
Dr. Walker placed ads in local newspapers about the new church and advised anyone interested to write to him. The first letter received was from a Miss Shirley Thacker, who later became the church’s piano player. On Sunday February 3, 1957 at 3:00 pm the Masonic Temple was filled with interested people and Boulevard Christian Church was organized. The Christian churches at Edgemere, Fork, Havre de Grace and Mountain supported the venture. As a result, 24 people pledged themselves to build a church in Essex. The people of Boulevard met on Orville Road for 5 ½ years.
The purpose of the congregation at Boulevard Christian Church was that as revealed in the New Testament: to win people to faith in Jesus Christ and commit them actively to His church; to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ that increasingly they may know and do His will; and to work for the unity of all Christians and with them engage in the common task of building the world-wide kingdom of God.
Until 1958, Glen Barton, an associate minister from Mountain Christian Church, was the part-time minister.
Incorporation papers were approved and filed February 22, 1958 and were approved by the state of Maryland May 9, 1958. The church hired Mr. James Carpenter from Houston, Texas as its first full time minister on July 1, 1958. Under his leadership the church flourished, doubling in membership. He is responsible for establishing an annual picnic (usually held in September). Commitment to the church grew as well and this growth necessitated buying property to build a church building. A 2 ½ acre lot at 920 N. Essex Avenue was purchased for $13,000 on July 15, 1959. An adjoining 2 ½ acre lot on Catherine Avenue became available and was purchased July 1, 1960.
Mr. John Mills from Akron, Ohio was called as minister in December 1961. Under his leadership the church began a fund-raising program and the church built the current sanctuary at a cost of $60,000. The church moved in October 14, 1962 as the congregation continued to grow. The enthusiastic members pitched in, offering their talents and labor to finish the work on the church. One example is the baptistry painting which was done by church member Ada Liston. The building at 920 Essex Avenue was dedicated December 9, 1962.
Ground was broken June 2, 1968 for the education wing of the church and it was dedicated on March 30, 1969. It took over $140,000 to complete. With the congregation strong and growing, Mr. Mills resigned in October 1969 to accept the challenge of a church in Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. Earl King was interim minister from October 5, 1969 until May 1970. Mr. King was the academic dean at Eastern Christian College.
Mr. James Wood was called in May of 1970 and arrived in August. A church library was started in 1970, which offered a great advantage to all who sought to use it. Carpeting for the platform, etc. was added as a project sponsored by the CWF (Christian Women’s Fellowship). Mr. Wood and his family resided in the parsonage at 463 Torner Road. Mr. George Umphlett was hired as youth minister, but resigned in May 1971 to continue his education. One Sunday in September 1972, church attendance broke all records, reaching 204. Boulevard sponsored Scout Troop #668 and had a softball team. Mr. Wood resigned October 21, 1973.
Mr. Ben Faulkner and Mr. Robbins served as interim ministers from November 11, 1973 until the end of January 1975.
Mr. Wayne Murphy from Grover, Pennsylvania arrived as the new minister on February 2, 1975. Vacation Bible School was a yearly summer activity that required a lot of time and team work. In June 1977, VBS had a daily average attendance of 117 teachers and children. On November 3-4, 1977, Mr. Murphy and his family moved to 340 Leeanne Road. This was convenient for Wayne because it was very close to the church. On December 18, 1977, Boulevard was vandalized. In February 1979, a burglar and fire alarm system was installed. In 1980, the congregation voted to convert the old oil furnace to gas, costing more than $3,000. After 6 years of service, Wayne preached his last sermon as minister at Boulevard on June 28, 1981.
On August 23, 1981, Mr. Charles ‘Chip’ Moody preached his first sermon at Boulevard. During this time, it became apparent that the church needed a new parsonage to replace the one that had sold on Torner Road. The congregation had discussed building a parsonage on the church property. After much prayer, a parsonage fund was established on August 8, 1981. On April 17, 1983, ground was broken for a new parsonage on Catherine Avenue behind the church. During the summer and fall of 1983 the parsonage was under construction. It was completed and an open house held in November of the same year. Chip decided to return to the Navy chaplaincy and preached his last sermon in March 1986.
Mr. Oscar Stevens served as interim minister from March 1986 to January 1987 and was much loved by the congregation.
Mr. Larry Lamb arrived at Boulevard in January 1987, bringing a wave of enthusiasm with him. Many new ideas were tried (including sports teams) and the church continued to grow under his leadership. During his tenure, air conditioning was added. Larry resigned in August of 1991.
Mr. Jeff Berkley from Lancaster, Pennsylvania became the minister on December 1, 1991, leading Boulevard into the 21stcentury. The church allowed missionaries from a Thai church to use our building to meet and hold services. Jeff began the group called the Music Makers (who sang special music every Sunday); the kitchen was renovated, and our tradition of having ‘Souper Bowl Sunday’ was started. During his tenure, there were two organs and a piano (played by Betty Burgett, Alice Blume and Nola Shollenberger) that accompanied the singing and provided music during communion and offering. Also, it was determined that the roof could not hold the weight of the snow in winter, so major structural reinforcements (steel plates installed on the rafters) made the roof sound. Jeff served until July 2005.
Mr. David Mackie preached his first sermon at Boulevard on December 31, 2005 even though his first day was to be January 1, 2006. We experienced great things under his leadership, including development of a website, adding the ‘Faith Café’ (an upgrade to the building’s existing fellowship hall); celebrating our 50th anniversary; purchasing chairs in 2008 (some of the chairs were bought by members of the congregation) and giving our pews to a church in Wyoming; having an Easter Breakfast; having a Mother’s Day tea (sponsored by CWF); having a ‘Pumpkin Patch’ every October, a Fall Festival and Trunk or Treat; the youth going on trips to Creation Festival; amazing VBS programs; and developing one of the youth (Josh Bueno) to become a full-time minister. On July 31, 2006 to August 15, 2006, one of the elders of Boulevard (Gerald Hoskins) traveled to Poland to visit the Christian churches established by Polish Christian Ministries. He took toys for the children of the churches and preached on Sunday. In September 2007, Mr. Charles R. Fisher was hired to be the first ever full-time youth minister of Boulevard. Charles worked mainly with the Middle and High School students at Boulevard, but also served as the coordinator and overseer of the entire youth program. The youth put on an annual Christmas play under his leadership. David preached his last sermon on June 20, 2010.
Charles served as interim minister from June 21, 2010 to December 12, 2010. Following a congregational vote on December 12, 2010, Charles was given the role of lead minister of Boulevard. He started a movie night; and also went on a mission trip to Haiti after that country was hit by a hurricane. The members of the congregation supported him by donating ‘build-a-bears’ to that effort. Charles took many teddy bears with him to give to the children there. Charles preached his last sermon at Boulevard on January 13, 2013.
Boy Scout Troop #436 came to Boulevard in October 2013. The scouts built the picnic tables out back, built the benches in the front of the building, helped with Christmas decorations, and held food drives. They met here until the troop was closed in December 2021.
Mr. Brandon Thomas was minister from June 16, 2013 until March 25, 2017. During his service here, Lighthouse Café was started in April 2014 to feed the hungry and homeless; the Care Group was started to cheer up shut-ins or others that were sick or in need of the love of others; a fund-raiser for a church van was begun and on January 27, 2015, one was purchased for use of anyone in the church; on February 20, 2015, Patrick Dickerson came on board to head the worship team (a contemporary band consisting of a bass guitar, two regular guitars, drums, keyboard and singers – the acoustic piano and two organs were removed); the Streets of Hope began meeting in our church; the Hands and Feet ministry was begun; some modernizations were made to the sanctuary; Crosswalk Church (led by Ken White) used our building to meet; and Mr. Ed Barnett was ordained on June 14, 2015. Ed served as the children’s leader from January 1, 2015 until December 31, 2018. In cooperation with Essex Elementary School, Ed Barnett tutored kids and sponsored a ‘Back to School Bash’ which resulted in our church donating a pallet of school supplies to them on August 30, 2016. He was named the associate minister. Also during Brandon’s time, Brenda Pearre (a member of the congregation at the time) donated her time and talent to painting murals in the nursery and the children’s Sunday School rooms. From January 29-February 4, 2016, four members of Boulevard traveled to Honduras to help build a school building for the church in Tegucigalpa. They took clothes and other donations for the people there. Brandon preached his last sermon on March 18, 2017.
The Teen Room was remodeled under David Mackie; more was done under Charles Fisher; and further changes were made under Brandon Thomas. The Teen Room is now part of the Streets of Hope located on the ground floor of this building.
Mr. Kenneth White and Mr. Ed Barnett served as interim ministers after Brandon Thomas left. Pastor Ken White was called in January 2018 to be the full-time senior minister at Boulevard. Crosswalk Church merged into this church at that time. Under Ken’s leadership, Mr. Charles ‘Chuck’ Zellers was ordained on October 18, 2020 and currently serves as associate pastor. Also, Ken’s ministry established caroling in the neighborhood at Christmas time; instituted more Bible studies on almost every day of the week; expanded the Streets of Hope for the homeless in our community; refurbished the sanctuary and hallway (dry-wall and paint); and organized the Food Pantry. (The Food Pantry was a concept started by pastor Brandon Thomas, and has developed into an outreach program that now helps at least 25 families a week.) Pastor Ken also incorporated Zoom sessions on the computer of Sunday morning sermons during the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. The effect of COVID on weekly attendance (not only on our church) was drastic and, when the rules were relaxed (requiring masks to be worn, mandating a six-foot separation from people, quarantining of two weeks for anyone exposed, etc.), Zoom sessions were continued. Although many folks have returned to a regular presence, some still have not come back to full time attendance and Zoom sessions allow them to still participate. It also allows those sick or otherwise shut-in to tune in.
Boulevard Christian Church always has been involved in other outreach Missions besides those already mentioned (until recently). We were active in supporting Indian Lake Christian Camp; sponsoring a child in another country through Children’s International; helping those in suffering through IDES (International Disaster Emergency Service); establishing new churches in Poland through Polish Christian Ministries (PCM); giving homeless men (and now women) shelter through Helping Up Mission (HUM); and others.
This is a summary of some events in the life of this church but does not include everything that took place.