Robinson assumes role of council's president

August 29, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART


As he begins his two-year term as president of the Washington County Council of Churches, the Rev. Stephen Robison says the group is prepared to step back and re-evaluate its mission while keeping its forward focus on faith and understanding.

"We'll be asking questions and redefining what we do," Robison, 55, said from his study at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Hagerstown, where he has been senior pastor since 1996.

Robison - who proudly calls himself a West Ender - graduated from South Hagerstown High School. The Hagerstown native wanted to become a math teacher and was prepared to attend Frostburg State College when his life took a dramatic turn.


"My pastor wanted to know if I had ever considered pastoring, and I told him I hadn't," Robison said.

The idea of taking that challenge kept popping up and Robison changed the course of his life.

He enrolled at Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, in Westminster, Md., where there was a strong "pre-flight" religion curriculum. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in philosophy and religion.

"I was in 'Angel Factory' at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.," Robison said, using terms prospective clergy often tag on their training years. Later, he returned to Wesley, where he earned his doctorate in 1989.

After serving three churches in Cumberland, Md., and two in the Boonsboro/Mount Lena area, Robison moved to Otterbein, where he worked with Wilson Shearer, then a senior pastor.

Robison, active in the community and in his own church, has been chaplain of the Hagerstown Police Department for many years.

"I haven't been able to ride along or walk with officers as much as I would like recently because of lack of time," he said. "But I still have my badge."

As leader of the county council, Robison said he hopes more churches and houses of worship will join the group. He estimates it has about 250 members, with a core group of about two dozen active members.

"Maybe they will have a voice in this community of faith," Robison said.

In that spirit, he said, interfaith efforts will continue in the council and hopes are that community participation in those projects will grow.

Robison has had to deal with the exit of the county council's executive director, Robert Hyssong Jr. An executive committee of six to eight members is handling those responsibilities.

Monthly meetings will become quarterly meetings at Otterbein in the fall, Robison said.

"The vision I have is that the council will become a vehicle through which the faith community can express concern for and care of the community in which we live," he said. "We can do that by bringing resources to bear on the problems we all share."

The county council began in 1946 and has evolved from a strictly Christian group to its current diverse makeup. In 2000, the ranks were opened to encompass all faiths.

The council does not receive government money but accepts contributions from individuals and churches, as well as annual dues from members. Those funds pay for newsletters and seminars.

Robison and his wife, Darlene, have two daughters and two grandsons.

For more information about the county council, call 301-739-9386.

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