Brown Memorial celebrating 150 years in the neighborhood

Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church is having its sesquicentennial celebration, albeit a year late.

The church was established in 1869 with a gift of $150,000 by Isabella Brown and dedicated on Dec. 4, 1870, in memory of her late husband, George Brown. He was one of the founders of the Baltimore investment firm Alex Brown & Sons and of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1827. The church was built on the corner of Park and West Lafayette in what was then the new and fashionable northern neighborhood known as Bolton Hill.

Anniversary celebrations, like so many other things, were deferred by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of the church building.

Senior Pastor Andrew Connors reflected on the meaning of the anniversary in a message to congregants: “One hundred fifty years of Brown has been the story of a home that many sojourners have found and also the story of ‘renovating’ that home, hopefully to make more space for those who have been left out.”

Like many congregations in Baltimore and across the country, Brown Memorial is revisiting historical ties to the institution of slavery and policies of exclusion and discrimination. Rev. Connors concluded: “As with most renovations, each time we change our home, our renovations can’t help but reflect the cultural times in which we live, but also the ethics that are a part of the congregation’s heart and values of the time.”

On Sunday, Dec. 5, the church will have a day-long celebration, including the creation of a time capsule to be created and kept in the church columbarium for a future generation to discover.

Bill Hamilton