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BALTIMORE — More than once, Eric and Andrea Lorick have arrived for Sunday worship only to find their church’s parking lot roped off with police tape, officers swarming the asphalt that, only hours earlier, had become a killing field.
The Inner City Church of Christ, the congregation the couple has served for four years, meets in a gritty Baltimore shopping strip between a Subway restaurant and a liquor store.
Despite the drug dealers, crime, vice and at least two homicides since the church opened its doors here, the Baltimore couple can’t think of a place they’d rather minister.
“Everybody was planting churches in the county, but nobody was planting them in the city,” Eric Lorick said.
For a quarter-century, the Loricks worshiped about seven miles to the northeast, with the East Baltimore Church of Christ, a 300-member congregation outside Baltimore’s Interstate 695 beltway.
Eric Lorick loved serving as a leader and elder of the East Baltimore church, but he felt the need to plant a congregation in the heart of an urban community. So, despite being in his 60s, he decided to help plant the Inner City church — with his wife’s help, of course.
“My wife is my co-laborer in Christ,” Eric Lorick explained. “We have been together since our high school prom.” To supplement their humble ministry income, Andrea Lorick works for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
‘SAINTS BEST NOT SLEEP’
In the past four years the congregation has grown from 12 to 70 souls, worshiping together in their storefront auditorium.
The small church has launched a heavenly host of ministries, including a program for women called Sister 2 Sister fellowship, a young adult network and a Bible education ministry to train future church leaders.
Last year, the church sponsored a youth ministry event featuring frank discussions on sexually transmitted diseases and abstinence. At a back-to-school party, children in the church’s community received backpacks of school supplies and lessons from the congregation’s schoolteachers.
The church also hosted a “Bible Bowling” event, focused on the book of James, that included a trivia challenge and actual bowling.
It’s the “sweetest congregation in Baltimore,” said church member Jessica Veale in a Facebook post after the church’s second anniversary in 2006. The hard-working members also make it a church where “saints best not sleep,” she added.
Andrea Lorick agreed. Most of the members hold down several jobs, she said, yet still make time to help in ministry and outreach to their community.
“One sister even drives the church van,” the minister’s wife said.
Most of the people they serve are single mothers and their children, she added. From time to time, the church has a shortage of Bible class teachers.
Her husband said, “Inner city ministry is not for everybody. You have to deal with crime, people with limited resources and other issues.”
But the work is vital, said fellow minister Kevin Bethea, who preaches and serves as an elder of the East Baltimore Church of Christ.
“Church planting will be the savior of the Churches of Christ,” Bethea said. “Across the country, churches are dying, so it is important to plant churches where the people are.”
A CHRISTIAN ANCHOR FOR BALTIMORE
Nonetheless, the Loricks were all smiles on a recent Sunday night as they welcomed members of Churches of Christ across Maryland for an a cappella concert featuring the singing group Victory.
There was no crime scene tape in the parking lot that night — just lots of cars. The church’s 200-seat, second story auditorium was packed. As various vocal groups took turns lifting up songs of praise, the church members and visitors clapped and praised God.
“It wasn’t just a singing program; it was a function of inspiration,” said Ed Maxwell Sr., minister for the Suitland Road Church of Christ in Suitland, Md. Maxwell said he and fellow church members were glad to show support for the Inner City church and, hopefully, provided “inspiration to those on the front lines of the work.”
The neighborhood, accustomed to crime and vice, seemed a little more calm and a little more joyful, attendees said.
“I love my Inner City family in Christ!” church member Yolanda Robinson posted online. “My husband and I have been here almost a year, and we hope to stay. Baltimore needs a good, Christian anchor!”
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