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Baltimore’s St. Philip’s Church lives generously

Volunteers pack supplies

Historic church supports inner-city neighborhood during COVID.

COVID-19 may have temporarily closed the doors for worship at the historic St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baltimore, but it hasn’t stopped the incredible work its members are doing to serve their immediate community.

“We no longer could do in-person events, so we needed to figure out a way to respond to the needs in East Baltimore,” says Rev. Dr. Louis R. Tillman, IV, senior pastor at St. Philip’s, the oldest African American Lutheran congregation in North America. “And the first need was that we couldn’t find masks and hand sanitizer within a two-mile radius of our congregation.”

The neighborhood grocery store was shut down, and area corner stores were raising prices, Tillman says.

“We partnered with FEMA and called on other area congregations to help alleviate this problem in East Baltimore, and they responded,” he says. Several different Thrivent Action Teams, led by clients with membership, including Tillman, collected, purchased and packed COVID-19 care kits that included masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves and disinfectant spray to help inner-city residents.

“More than 75,000 kits have been assembled and distributed to date,” Tillman says.

But this isn’t the only need Tillman, who also serves as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain, has identified.

“They are yearning for information on stewardship, estate planning, investments, credit repair and money in general,” he says. Tillman reached out to Terri Meekins, a Thrivent financial associate in Towson, Maryland, to help. Just before COVID shutdowns, Meekins led a workshop for about 25 people after Sunday service on the topic of decoding your credit. More than 70 of St. Philip’s 350 members are Thrivent clients.

“Pastor Tillman is finding opportunities to open doors and make a difference in his community,” Meekins says. “It’s important to me to help.”

Tillman, also a champion for social and racial justice and climate change concerns, has continued to set up virtual workshops with others in his community to address health and wellness education and worked with city government to distribute thousands of boxes of fresh produce, meat and dairy weekly to help people through the pandemic.

“Our church turned 130 years old last October, and our mayor has given us the nickname of Charm City’s Best-Kept Secret,” Tillman says. “People wonder how our little church on the corner is able to make such a huge impact. What a mighty God we serve.”

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