The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have entered into what is known as Full Communion, under which the denominations may worship together, may exchange clergy and share a common commitment to evangelism, witness and service in the world. Each entity agrees that even with their differences, there is nothing that is church-dividing.
The Nativity-Holy Comforter agreement has been blessed by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ, in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The mission of the church, as stated in our Book of Common Prayer, is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
We have Five Marks of Mission:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
The Reverend T. Stewart Lucas, Pastor
Stewart hails from Macon, Georgia and majored in Horticulture at the University of Georgia. Having been heavily involved in the Canterbury Center at the Episcopal Chaplaincy there, he followed a call to seminary directly after graduation. He graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2001 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2002 at Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore. He was Associate Rector there working with children and youth and the newcomers and evangelism ministries. In 2007 he was called to be Associate Rector of St. Margaret’s Church in Annapolis. He served there as chaplain to the Day School and liaison to the Newcomers Commission. In addition, he was in charge of communications and taught several Adult formation classes and Bible studies. Stewart lives in Towson with his partner Doug Campbell along with their two basset hounds, Otis and Maddie.
The Reverend Don Burggraf, Pastoral Associate
Pastor Don has served as a pastor in the Delaware Maryland Synod of the ELCA for more than 40 years. His first call was to serve as an Assistant Pastor at First English Lutheran Church in Baltimore with special concentration in youth, young adult, and campus ministries. At the same time, he also helped with the ministry of St. Mark Lutheran Church of the Deaf, meeting in Towson Maryland. After three years, he received a call from Christ Lutheran Church in LaVale, MD. He served that congregation for eleven years. Then he received a call to return to First English Lutheran Church, but this time as its lead pastor. He served in this capacity for 26 years until his retirement at the end of 2015. He began ministry at Nativity and Holy Comforter in June 2018 with special emphasis on Visitation and Bible study.
Pastor Don is married to Cindy (42 years and counting!). Their daughter Laurel is now working on her doctorate, having previously served as a drama teacher for a private school and Christian Education director for First English Lutheran Church. She and her husband have two children, who get to spend regular time with their grandparents. Their son Josh is an independent artist in New York City.
Pastor Don’s interests include birding (and bird photography), reading, and spending time with family. He is an active participant in the Renaissance Institute, an educational organization for seniors on the campus of Notre Dame of Maryland University, where he has taken many courses and taught one himself. He and Cindy live just around the corner from the church on Lake Avenue!
The Reverend Linda Hollis, Episcopal Deacon Associate
Linda was born in Baltimore and began attending Nativity in 1953. She met her husband Tony at summer camp at the Diocese of Maryland’s Bishop Claggett Center in 1957 in Buckeystown, Maryland. With a degree in Sociology, Fine Arts and English, she joined other Episcopal women who felt called to work in the church. While living in community with women of the broader Anglican Community (Hong Kong, India, Korea, Canada, Caribbean and USA), she attended Union Theological Seminary and later completed a Masters of Art in Education with a certificate in Christian Education at Columbia University.
Tony and Linda married in 1965 after Tony was ordained to the priesthood. They moved to Western Maryland and all over the world with Tony’s service in the army. All the while Linda engaged in ministry helping immigrants in Texas, teaching Sunday School in various churches and ministering to soldiers in rehabilitation at Ft. Benning, GA. They worked with Vietnam orphans and dealt with the realities of racial segregation in the Deep South.
After time in Germany, they came back to Sherwood Parish in Cockeysville where Tony was rector for more than 12 years. Linda taught school and even started a childcare center. In 1992 they began ten years of ministry together in the Diocese of Bermuda when Linda was truly feeling the call to ordained ministry. This began a 5-year adventure from 2003 to 2008 when she was ordained as a deacon in June of 2008.
Linda currently serves on the diocesan Commission on Ministry, the Maryland Episcopal Clergy Association Board and is a mentor for the Education for Ministry program. She and Tony also serve at the Baltimore International Seafarers, the USO at BWI and they represent our diocese for Episcopal Relief and Development.
The Reverend Anthony Hollis, Episcopal Priest Associate
Born and raised in Bermuda, Tony attended Saint Andrew’s School, Middletown, Delaware, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, The General Theological Seminary in New York and Long Island University in New York. He was ordained in 1964 and served parishes in Western Maryland before becoming an Army Chaplain. He ministry has taken him to Georgia, Virginia, Texas, South East Asia, New York and Germany. God finally brought Linda and him back
to Maryland and parish life at Cockeysville, MD but then once more to Saint George’s in Bermuda before retiring in 2002. (He retired from the Army in 1993).
Tony hasn’t really retired though. He volunteers weekly at the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Institute, the USO and the Maryland Defense Force. Their three sons and seven grandchildren keep him busy, but in his free time, Tony enjoys reading, especially history. He likes to travel and hike in the woods.
David Neff, Director of Music
David was born in the heart of Wisconsin dairy country, where his father practiced veterinary medicine. Tired of the fierce winters, his family moved to the desert Southwest, where at age 16 he took his first appointment as a church organist. He attended Loma Linda University in Southern California, where he met and married his first love, LaVonne. David graduated from the seminary at Andrews University in southwest Michigan and pastored several churches in Southern California before joining the staff of a collegiate church in Washington state. On the side, he played the organ for Episcopal, American Baptist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and Lutheran Church in America congregations.
After moving to Illinois in 1981, he edited magazines for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Christianity Today, where he became editor in chief. During his 32 years in magazine publishing, he also served as organist at St. Andrews Episcopal Church and organist-choirmaster at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Chicago.
The Neffs moved to Baltimore in 2014 to be closer to their daughter Heidi, a painter and art professor, and her husband and children. David and LaVonne share their Rodgers Forge home with their quintessentially cute Havanese mix Maisie Grace.
Amanda Valentine, Vice President
Jeff Regner, Treasurer
Margaret Raymond, Secretary
Craig W. Hart
Church Council Members
Class of 2023 – Nancy Fenton, Diane Macklin, John McConnell
Class of 2024: Harold Hardinger, Barbara Herron, Deborah Robinson
Watch sermons and special videos.
Listen to the WYPR interview with our clergy.
Read the article from the Baltimore Sun!
Watch our story on WBAL.
The Church of the Nativity, Cedarcroft
In 1910, under the clergy leadership of the nearby Church of the Redeemer, a number of Cedarcroft residents began gathering in nearby homes to pray and to study the Bible together. Soon the mission had a name—the Chapel of the Nativity—and some land, but they still had no building. Fortunately, a summer colony in western Maryland was disbanding, and they offered their chapel to the Episcopal bishop. The building was dismantled, shipped 240 miles by flatcar, and re-erected on Nativity’s present site. The first service was held in the restored building on Christmas Day, 1913.
In 1923 the parish house was built. It included four bowling alleys whose income helped the mission’s bottom line. In 1929, a lawn fête was held as a fundraiser, now known as the June Fair. Meanwhile, membership was growing by leaps and bounds—all through the Depression and the Second World War, and especially during the postwar baby boom.
In 1947 the mission was incorporated as the Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Cedarcroft. The Cedarcroft School, a private preschool, was established in part of the parish house. The church was enlarged several times and air-conditioned, a new organ was installed, a library was created, and an elevator was added. A church is not a building, however: it is God’s people gathered to worship God and serve their neighbors. The people of Nativity are a diverse lot representing five continents and the entire political spectrum. United in Christ, they have reached out to the poor and elderly, members of the armed services, homeless families, seafarers in the Port of Baltimore and many others.
The Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter
In 1911, the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lutherville. surveyed Govanstown residents’ interest in forming a church. By New Year’s Eve, 1911, a congregation was organized and incorporated. Worship services were held at makeshift sites for the new First English Lutheran Church.
As the congregation grew, its members purchased a lot at the corner of York and Harwood Roads, and ground was broken for a church building in May 1914. In just six months, a splendid gray stone church was dedicated. Four years later, the northern border of Baltimore City was extended, Govanstown became simply Govans, and, because there was already a First English Lutheran Church in Baltimore City, the Govans church was renamed the Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter.
The congregation continued growing. A parsonage was built next to the church. But in 1955, as fuel oil was being delivered, the boiler room exploded. Fire damaged the nave, destroyed the pipe organ, ruined large oil paintings and destroyed the kitchen. Although building a new church in the suburbs was considered, the congregation decided to rebuild. Fourteen months after the fire, they moved into a new building on the same site.
But Govans was changing. The congregation was overwhelmingly white. As other churches abandoned the city, Holy Comforter took a different approach: it reached into the community and welcomed its neighbors. Word gradually spread that this was now a multicultural church.
While facing problems confronting many older mainline churches—aging buildings, declining attendance, and financial strains—Holy Comforter in 2011 celebrated its 100th anniversary with a sense of hope and resolve.
Longer Nativity History
The story of the parish begins on February 20, 1910, when services were first held in private homes in the vicinity of the present church as a missionary effort of the Reverend Charles A. Hensel, rector of the Church of the Redeemer. Later that year, Bishop Paret reserved the name, Chapel of the Nativity, for the new mission, and in 1911 the diocese purchased the land. The present church building was originally a chapel for summer colony inhabitants of private estates in Garrett County, located in western Maryland. When they moved away in 1913, W. McCulloh Brown offered the building to the Bishop, who gave it to Nativity Chapel. The building was dismantled and shipped 240 miles on Western Maryland flatcar to Baltimore and then re-erected at a cost of $12,000. Other parishes donated furnishings, and the first service was held in the still uncompleted church on Christmas Day 1913. When Hensel left in the latter part of 1921 because of growing responsibilities as rector of the Church of the Redeemer, the mission had an income of $3,000, debt of $4,500 from construction of the church, and property valued at $27,000.
The Reverend Wesley David Adams was appointed vicar on November 1, 1921. The Adams’ pastorate is the story of the building of the parish house and the struggle to pay for it. Built in 1923 for $77,000 borrowed on the credit of the diocese, the parish house was to be paid for by Nativity Mission primarily from income generated from its four bowling alleys. By 1929, the debt still amounted to $50,000 when the total income of the mission was $10,000. In 1929, an annual lawn fete was held as a fundraiser that has evolved into what is now known as the June Fair. The Great Depression of the 1930s left the mission with reduced income and a huge debt, with little prospect of paying it off. In January 1937, Adams disappointedly resigned even though the number of communicants had doubled during his tenure.
On May 1, 1937, Bishop Helfenstein appointed the Reverend George B. Scriven as Vicar. An unexpected legacy in 1941 and a grant from the Reconstruction and Advance Fund of the Episcopal Church in 1946 enabled the diocese to pay off the remainder of the parish house debt that year. Freedom from debt and growth in membership enabled Nativity to incorporate as a parish in 1947 with Fr. Scriven as the first rector. In 1947, a non-parish preschool was begun that still uses the parish house today. With the postwar housing boom and growing number of worshipers taxing seating capacity, the church building was enlarged and financed with a loan paid off in 1969. Growth in church membership caused the addition of a third, family-oriented service.
The Reverend Herman A. diBrandi was called to be Nativity’s second rector in 1971. He led the parish through the transition to the new prayer book and hymnal, incorporated the Holy Eucharist at services, and instituted a program of home communion. During his pastorate, the church building was air-conditioned, a new organ was installed, and a library was created in the parish house.
The Reverend C. Allen Spicer came to Nativity as the third rector on February 1, 1984. During his tenure, the Christian education program was overhauled and a midweek healing service with Bible study was begun. Ecumenical and outreach programs including many volunteers in Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO) services to the poor and elderly were developed. Fr. Spicer was also a member of Diocesan Council, chairman of the Claggett Board, member of the Standing Committee and Deputy to General Convention before retiring.
The Reverend Thomas B. Carter came to Nativity as the fourth rector on November 13, 2000. Outreach ministries included Partners in Care through the Maryland National Guard to care for soldiers in need after returning from war. The Baltimore Interfaith Hospitality Network (BIHN) was successful in helping homeless families get back on their feet. The parish relationship with WORLD, Inc., was strengthened when Fr. Carter led a 2-week mission trip to Liberia. The project to expand parish offices and install an elevator was a tremendous success and was paid for in five years. Nativity celebrated its centennial in 2010 with many special activities throughout the year. Fr. Carter retired on December 31, 2012.
The Reverend T. Stewart Lucas began his ministry at Nativity as Priest-in-Charge on March 17, 2013. After a year of ministry, the Vestry discerned along with Bishop Eugene T. Sutton that he was the right person to be called as the fifth rector. His celebration of new ministry took place on May 15, 2015.
Worship is at the heart of all we do at Nativity. Join with us as we seek to proclaim God’s goodness to us and offer praise and thanksgiving in all of our actions.
We celebrate two services of Holy Eucharist each Sunday, warmly welcoming visitors of all ages and backgrounds, sharing God’s peace with genuine concern and affection for one another, and responding to the liturgy with energy and thoughtful consideration.
At the 8:00 AM service on Sundays, we generally worship using the more traditional language of the Rite I Liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer in a spoken service singing a hymn at the end of the service. At our Sunday 10:30 AM choral services, we generally use Rite II Liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer with organ. The choir sings from September through May.
8:00 AM Holy Eucharist, Rite I in the church (spoken)
10:30 AM Holy Eucharist, Rite II in the church (with music – Children’s Chapel)
9:15 AM Formation Hour
10:30 AM Holy Eucharist, Rite II in the church
At this informal service, we normally remember one of the saints of the church. We read his or her biography, and the clergy person leads a dialogue on what we can learn from the readings and the lives of the saints. We then offer prayers for healing for those in our congregation and for those on our hearts for who we have promised our prayers. Those who desire to receive the lay on of hands for healing are invited to the altar rail. The Holy Eucharist then follows.
After the Wednesday services, the clergy lead a Bible Study in our own ‘Upper Room.’ Folks bring a bag lunch and discuss a book of the Bible, currently the Gospel of Luke.
All are Truly Welcome!
While the Episcopal Church, as with all churches rooted in the historic Christian faith, affirms that the sacrament of Baptism is the ancient and normative entry point for receiving the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, or communion, we also believe that anyone who desires to receive the body and blood of our Lord is always welcome at God’s table. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, we invite you to explore with us what being baptized means for your life. If you want to know more, please speak to one of the clergy.
All are welcome to receive communion, including children. To receive bread, place your hands palms-up. once you come to the altar rail. To receive wine, assist the minister by guiding the chalice to your lips. If you do not wish to receive, place your arms across your chest to receive a blessing. Gluten-free wafers are available. Indicate your request by extending your hands palms down.