Parkside United Methodist Church
Brief History 1914-2020
On July 19, 1914, a Methodist Sunday School was formed in response to the desire of Parkside area residents in a rented room of the Community Athletic Association. A gathering took place on the evening of November 15, 1914 marking the first church service of what is now called Parkside United Methodist Church. By March 1915, the church had outgrown its location and moved to a local movie house. The present location of the church and parsonage, then a lot, was purchased in June of 1915 and dedicated as the “Sunday School Temple” on Sunday, June 10, 1917. The parsonage was completed in 1924.
The church membership grew, forming various ministerial departments. During the next twenty years, evangelistic services and radio wired church services supported efforts of outreach to the community. In the late 50’s, critical issues addressed the church. Financial needs and a changing community called for greater strides in reaching people. The “Every Member” visitation was an outgrowth of the era as was the concentration on youth and education. In the middle of the late 60’s, the church became extremely involved with community, national and international issues; the concern for housing, racism and war.
From 1914 through 1968, twenty-three dedicated, spirit-filled ministers strengthened Parkside’s growth and service. In 1968, the Conference appointed Parkside’s first Afro-American Pastor, Reverend Calvin R. Woods, who until his retirement in 2011, directed the church in the development of many new approaches to meet community needs; both financially and spiritually. Included among these were the “Shepherd System”, Youth Recreation, Head-Start, Nutrition and Tutorial Programs, Marriage Enrichment/Human Sexuality from a Godly Perspective to name a few. Parkside has since been led by Rev. James A. Keeton, AME, (2011-2015) and currently by Rev. Keith D. Dickens, Baptist, (2015).
Initial stages of refurbishing and renovating both church and parsonage began in September, 1974 with carpeting the parsonage and sanctuary, restoring pews and paneling several meeting rooms. In 1975, Parkside purchased a “used” twelve-passenger van to transport senior citizens to worship service and related activities. This was the start of the “Van Ministry”. In September of 1980 a “new” sixteen-passenger van was purchased, expanding the ministry. We currently own three vans that support all levels of church ministry and activity.
There have been numerous restoration and beautification projects, including the 1985 purchase of an Allen Digital Organ which thirty-one years later still adds to our weekly worship experience. The most needed addition was the installation of a central air-conditioning system in the summer of 1989. New carpet, padded pews, lighted cross, electric Chair-Lift, outside message board, kitchen fixtures, ladies’ room renovation and the completion of the men’s room were necessary upgrades in building maintenance
In 1988, the Media Ministry began as a tape ministry for the shut-ins with two borrowed tape recorders set up in the sanctuary. In 1990, Media moved into its own room and continued to grow. By 1993 video was added to the ministry (the goal of the Media Ministry is to broadcast via cable TV). We currently provide videos of the worship service as part of our ministry to Shut-Ins. On April 3, 1994, Easter Sunday evening, Parkside broadcast its’ first radio program, “This is the Word of God”. at 8:00PM on WTMR-800 AM Radio. This ministry operated 22 years, ending in 2016. Under the umbrella of the Parkside United Methodist Men, 1989 bore witness to a movement of the Holy Spirit within the church; a Tuesday Night Men’s Bible Study and Fellowship and an annual men’s retreat held each year at Sandy Cove Christian Retreat Resort in Maryland. The Parkside Spiritual Army is formally in place to nurture, teach and guide men concerning spiritual warfare as described in Ephesians 6.
In 1991, the Parkside UM Men formed the Male Encounter Mentoring Program. Since that time, more than 400 young men and boys from the community have benefitted from the program. The King’s Kids Afterschool Program began in March of 1994 in an effort to assist neighborhood children with their homework, Bible Study, Christian fellowship and Choir. In 1998, an extension to the program was added which included remedial reading, language arts, math and reading comprehension. Those services were voluntarily provided by experienced teachers from the community. In October of 2009, Parkside welcomed a revised Afterschool Program again supervised by those with a compassion for teaching and loving young people.
As a result of a “Hot Meal Service”, provided for shut-ins initiated in 1994, what was labeled as the “Monday Night Worship Service and Food Ministry” was established in 1996. The intent was to serve the community by fulfilling a need for spiritual and physical food. As of this date, several hundred people have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, with many becoming members of the church and involved themselves in serving others. The first baptisms (2) resulting from these services, occurred in October 1998. During the Services mentioned, 30-40 children were fed a complete meal and taught Biblically- Based Arts & Crafts.
In 1995, “Partners with Promise” mentoring program was founded by the women of Parkside to mentor young girls ages 5-18 in areas of personal etiquette, spiritual awareness and wholesome activities. An additional ministry, the “Sunbeam Circle” in October 2008, began mentoring girls ages 9-12 in cultural life skills, character building and beginning each class with Bible Study. The girls met on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM. The first class celebrated the graduation of nine young ladies in June, 2009. Also, in 1995, the Evangelism Team began its’ street ministry (Gideon’s Army) with the distribution of tracts, ministering in song, prayer and the Gospel. Over the years, Evangelism has offered opportunities to “know Christ” to those imprisoned, impoverished and un-churched. In May of 2002, a Praise and Worship Service was initiated to accommodate those unable to attend the regularly scheduled 11:00am Service. The Service begins at 8:00 AM each Sunday morning followed by a breakfast fellowship at 9:00AM. This service has served as a catalyst for bringing many un-churched into the Body of Believers.
Also, in 1995, the Evangelism Team began its’ street ministry with the distribution of tracts, ministering in song, prayer and the Gospel. Over the years, Evangelism has offered opportunities to “know Christ” to those imprisoned, impoverished and un-churched. In May of 2002, a Praise and Worship Service was initiated to accommodate those unable to attend the regularly scheduled service. The Service begins at 8:00 AM each Sunday morning followed by a breakfast fellowship at 9:00AM. This service has served as a catalyst for bringing many un-churched into the Body of Believers.
In the Spring of 1998, the Emergency Food Pantry began its ministry on Wednesdays from 11AM to 1:00 PM for community residents. Every attendee participated in a half-hour worship service followed by lunch and monthly, if registered, receives a distribution of emergency food. Beginning in 1994, on the last Saturday of each month, a hot meal was taken to individuals who were sick, shut-in and/or are senior citizens. Volunteers of Parkside UM Church provide service weekly to approximately 160 persons throughout the community.
In the Summer of 2012, by way of the Camden Urban Ministry Initiative (CUMI) of which Parkside is a member church; a Summer camp was adopted to service area residents with a safe and wholesome environment for youth over the Summer School recess. The camp continued to thrive with the help of church and community volunteers. Additionally, the “Crusaders” a youth centered ministry emerged in 2013 providing Biblical instruction and personal interaction through sports and fellowship activities.,
The Music Ministry had been blessed with four vocal groups that served on a regular basis. The original gospel choir “The Woodtones” was formulated in 1976 to accompany the Pastor in “away ministries”. They like the Chancel Choir, Agape Choir, Male Ensemble and the Youth Choir serviced the Church in Worship and other Services as needed, while the “Vessels for Christ” Dance Ministry continued to bring a visual enhancement to worship founded on the Word as described in Psalms 149:3. An added enhancement since 2009, is provided by the “Uplifted Hands” Dance Ministry while the Rhesa Praise Ensemble and the Restoration Singers provided the music for 11AM worship services.
September 2016 marks the resurgence of Parkside’s “Women’s Fellowship” Ministry which engaged women in all aspects of ministry within the church and community while fostering “oneness” in the body of Believers.
With the insight and dedication of Pastor Keith D. Dickens (2015-Present) in moving our church into the 21st Century, attention was given to Ministering and Communicating via Congruent Communications, (Zoom, Facebook, Email, YouTube, WEB Site). Additionally, an upgrade was made to the outdated Church equipment (cameras, change from analog to digital, screens, speakers and electronic resources for donating and contributing. Enhancements to the physical Church included repairing ceiling leaks, new ceiling lights on 2nd floor & Media Room, new Parking Lot Fence, replaced Hot Water Heater, repairs to Church Concrete. Church Woodwork painted and general upgrading to Worship Areas.
The foundation of the few events mentioned here is due to the Christian dedication of its’ Pastors, Lay Members and Congregation. Continued growth, as in the past, relies on our willingness to have God through Christ be ever present in our efforts. We thank God for a Bible Believing and Teaching Church that focuses on the Wesleyan Tradition: “Claiming the Past, Celebrating the Present and Challenging the Future.”
Shirley Stewart-Church Historian
December 3, 2020