Early attempts in the 1960s at hands-on social ministry got off to a rocky start. An initiative to hire a part-time social worker was initially rejected by the congregation, leading to Dr. Johnson’s resignation. However, with the installation of Dr. Carl Folkemer, Christ Church’s first “homegrown pastor,” in 1965, the church slowly became involved in a wider range of social programs. Meals on Wheels came to Christ Church, a social worker was eventually added to the staff, and a teen center was started.
Through the late 1960s and 70s, the church expanded its ministry beyond its own community of believers to meet the medical and housing needs of others. Using seed money raised by Christ Church members, the 220-bed John L. Deaton Medical Center, an apartment building for low and moderate income senior citizens, a beautiful plaza, and an underground garage all opened. This complex was the first project completed in Baltimore’s nationally-renown Inner Harbor redevelopment program.
In January 1983, the Rev. John R. Sabatelli became the sixth pastor of Christ Church. Under his dynamic leadership, the congregation built on its existing ministries to the sick and elderly; the quality of the music program was enhanced significantly; new opportunities to worship were added in a variety of formats, including weekly “contemporary” and Wednesday evening services; and opportunities expanded for members and friends to learn, socialize, and grow spiritually. The Ministry of Word and Sacrament was enhanced through the weekly celebration of the Holy Communion and Dr. Sabatelli’s high level of pastoral care and thought-provoking sermons centering on God’s Word.
Opening a temporary shelter for the homeless men in the church’s lower hall led over time to a major commitment to social ministry through the establishment of the non-profit Baltimore Outreach Services, providing not only housing, but substance abuse counseling, job skills training, and transition housing services for homeless women and their children, empowering them to become self-supporting citizens. Tutoring programs were started at neighboring elementary schools, and Pastor Sabatelli served as a mentor for many members of the congregation who entered the ministry, as well as several seminary interns and pastors from neighboring churches.