Neighborhood Bible school approaches 90th anniversary

There are lots of schools in and near Bolton Hill: MICA; the University of Baltimore; Midtown Academy; Mt. Royal Elementary and Middle School; Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary.  And there’s Baltimore School of the Bible.

BSTB isn’t much talked about, but next year will be its 90th year as a learning center “fundamental in its teaching, evangelical in its beliefs, non-denominational in its scope, evangelistic in its purpose, missionary in its outlook–a school which would maintain a consistent relationship between the purity of doctrine taught and the purity of life admonished,” quoting its website.  It’s housed in a three-story building at 1712 Park Avenue that the school has owned since 1942.

Each August in recent years until this one, the school’s executive director Vince Mercer has fired up a barbecue grill in the Park Avenue median strip and introduced new and returning students and staff to nearby neighbors at the school’s annual open house.  The pandemic wiped that out and reduced enrollment slightly, said Mercer. He hopes to resume the open house this summer.

The Bible school is not a degree-offering college but rather aims to help religious people do a better job in their roles as paid or unpaid stewards of Christian churches and institutions, according to Thomas J. Schetelich, a lawyer who serves as president and dean of education.  “The great majority are adults active in their church, looking to be helpful in their ministries” he said. About 90 percent of the student body is African American, he said. “Some see this as a step toward a seminary.” Some BSTB graduates now are pastors.

Tuition is free and books and fees often are subsidized by 50 to 100 churches in the city and Baltimore County, along with contributions from supportive individuals. Enrollment hovers around 250, down slightly during the pandemic when all classes are conducted online. Classes run for three hours and are conducted two nights a week, supplemented by occasional Saturday workshops or seminars. 

Prior to the pandemic, classes were held at the Park Avenue center and also at a church in South Baltimore.  The Bolton Hill campus houses a library, a book store, classrooms, an alumni Center and offices.

–Bill Hamilton