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Atlantic United Methodist Church marks 100 years

(March 20, 2015) Atlantic United Methodist Church, on the corner of Baltimore Ave. and Fourth Street, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with a variety of events planned including a community Hymn Sing on Sunday, March 22 at 4 p.m.

It will feature choirs from Methodist churches in the area including Bethany United, Community Church of Ocean Pines and Friendship United Methodist Church.

Listen to the bell choir, clarinet and flute while joining along with the hymns sung by the congregation and choirs. An offering will be received and a reception will follow the program.

The church’s “Generations of Generosity” themed anniversary will continue with its big celebration on Sunday, Oct. 18 where former ministers and members will participate in a larger service and reception.

Two additional activities planned are a family fun night on May 17 and a morning service on Sept. 27 will welcome the Bishop of the United Methodist conference, Peggy Johnson.

Atlantic United Methodist Church’s anniversary date is April 25, 1915. On this date, more than 65 local community members gathered and passed a resolution to request the Wilmington Conference establish a Methodist Church in Ocean City and to send a pastor to serve the congregation.

Charles Spry was appointed pastor and paid $650 a year.

The church was originally named the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Ocean City, but was changed for unknown reasons around 1940, according to Atlantic United Methodist Church’s Choir Director, June Todd.

Charter members of the church include family names engraved in the history of Ocean City, such as Cropper, Hastings, Mumford, Parsons and Powell.

“The families have kept the church going all these years. There are generations of local names who started the church down to their grandchildren still coming every week,” said Todd.

Land was purchased for $2,000 and the construction of the church was completed in 1919.

Before completion, members held services on Third Street at the Bamboo Apartments.

Aid was received from the Centenary movement fund of the Methodist Episcopal Church and $10,000 was raised by 1923. Records show the church was free from debt by 1944.

A parsonage was built in 1929 and additional facilities were added for Sunday school and fellowship activities. The church’s hall and kitchen were built in 1951.

The church had standard Methodist architecture and matched the same style of other Methodist churches in Selbyville, Del. and the religion’s birthplace in Kalida, Ohio, according to Ocean City historian, George Hurley.

After viewing an old photograph, Hurley remembered during recess between Sunday school and the main church service, the steps under the bell tower were a favorite gathering spot for male smokers.

“I recall quite vividly sharing a time of smoking on those steps with Dr. Nathaniel Thomas and Alfred Harman (both pipe smokers) and myself,” Hurley said in an email to Todd.

Fundraising church dinners were held during the 1950s in the preacher’s basement. The Building and Planning Committee of Atlantic United Methodist Church began making preparations for building the current church in 1961 after Pastor Ralph Minker found termites in the foundation. 

Hensel Fink was the architect and George Cropper, Inc. was given the contract for construction.

The original church was completely torn down and a more contemporary style architecture was adopted.

“We were fortunate to save the stained glass windows because people missed not having them in the sanctuary,” Todd recalls.

A chapel was built inside the current church, which holds many “beloved items” from the original church including the stained glass windows, which were donated by the congregations’ life-long followers. The pulpit and baptismal front are other treasures from the old church also in the chapel. 

The church was completed in June 1962 with a service celebrating the laying of the cornerstone on Aug. 26.

Cropper rushed to complete the church in time for his daughter, Jackie’s wedding on Aug. 18 and carpenters were still working on the pews the night of her rehearsal. The cross above the altar was a gift from Cropper in honor of his daughter’s marriage, Todd said.

During the 1960s, Pastor Richard Gibson held services at three area churches in Ocean City, Bethany Beach and Taylorville. In addition, church dinners started to grow in attendance.

The church became well known for its chicken and dumpling dinners. In addition, members of the church specializing in oyster fritters, greens and ice cream started making food for fundraisers.

Soup sales started to take off during this time and the church continues to offer a soup and sandwich fundraiser monthly every winter.

The thrift shop was organized and opened in the late 1960s.

During the 1970s, Todd helped organize a small bazaar and assisted in publishing a cookbook to raise money. Also, an annual fashion show was added to fundraising efforts.

In 1989, Todd thought it would be great to have a pipe organ in the church and started to raise money along with other members. After many pledges, fundraisers and phone calls they were able to purchase a new organ.

To Todd’s surprise, the plaque read, “Given to the glory of God and in honor of June Rose Todd, organist since 1962 by the members and friends of Atlantic United Methodist Church.”

In 1997, an addition was added onto the church, which provided a new, larger choir room. The thrift shops current location was constructed and an education building rounded out the renovations.

The churches mission statement reads “Atlantic is an outpost of the kingdom of God in Ocean City, Maryland called to build disciples for Jesus Christ.”

On that note, the church has a strong mission program and its members are active in helping others in the community.

They participate in a backpack program where snacks, cereals and fruits are packaged for 38 underprivileged children every Thursday. In addition, they have flea markets and are active with Helping Hands in Worcester County three times a week.

The church’s current pastor, Patty Frick, is its first female pastor.

“It’s the hardworking and faithful people in town who have kept us going all these years,” Todd said.

Todd was a new bride when she joined the church in June 1962 and began directing the choirs later in the summer. Now, 53 years later, she continues to be a dedicated member and retains her choir director position. She has served under 13 of the 31 pastors in the church’s history.

“I remember so many dear friends who are no longer with us and many weddings and memorial services for which I’ve played,” Todd said. “I hope my music was meaningful to the families. It has been a wonderful journey and one that I hope is not quite ended. I still enjoy playing and directing the choirs.”

Olin Shockley met his wife, Dorothy at Atlantic United Methodist Church in the early 1950s and they were married at the church three years later by Pastor Donald Hornung. Shockley has been a member of the church for 64 years.

Shortly after getting married, Shockley received his call to be a minister under the spiritual leadership of Hornung. He preached his first sermons in the old church and years later participated in Spry’s funeral, the church’s first pastor.

“Though we have been associated with many outstanding churches throughout our ministry of 60-plus years, Atlantic United Methodist Church has a beloved reverence and meaning for us,” Olin and Dorothy Shockley stated in a letter to the church.

An old postcard with the date Sept. 17, 1928 shows the

old Methodist church. It was most likely taken in 1927

and on a Sunday, since the men on the sidewalk appear

to be dressed in their “Sunday best.” The Atlantic United

Methodist Church, on the corner of Baltimore Ave and

Fourth Street, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

Photo credit: Gordon Katz


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