Church's interim pastor shows 'creative streak' in current role

May 31, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

At first glance, Philip Fogarty certainly looks the part of a seasoned Lutheran pastor - clerical collar, conservative suit and a shock of gray hair.

But parishioners at Hagerstown's Christ Lutheran Church are getting used to seeing Fogarty with a cell phone to his ear "talking" to God during his sermon, playing the guitar or assuming the role of a biblical character.

"I always had a creative streak in me as a child," said Fogarty, now the interim pastor at the church on Cleveland Avenue. Being in the ordained ministry has allowed him to explore his creative side, he said.

Fogarty, pastor of Haven Lutheran Church from 1968 to 1975, wrote and performed in a musical drama titled "It" at First Christian Church in 1973 for the Washington County Council of Churches. He did another one in 1974.


There also is a 500-page novel he wrote 10 to 15 years ago and a Broadway musical he penned more than 20 years ago, both of which remain unpublished.

Fogarty served a Frederick County church for 27 years until he retired. Four years later, he spent 18 months as interim pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Middletown, Md.

When longtime pastor Ray Shriver retired from Christ Lutheran Church, Fogarty took the interim post.

"These people needed a shepherd in the meantime," Fogarty said.

Fogarty, who has a doctor of ministry degree in religious drama, began taking graduate courses at Catholic University in the mid-1970s.

The whole point was to proclaim the Gospel and make it more interesting to others.

"And to me," Fogarty said.

Fogarty does a lot of what he calls illustrated talks, such as one on Joseph Barsabbas, aka Justin, a biblical character Fogarty describes as the "loser" in the coin toss to pick the 12th apostle to replace Judas.

The winner was Mathias, by the way, Fogarty said.

"I just like being a storyteller," Fogarty said, noting that he also has portrayed a Civil War chaplain, Johann Sebastian Bach and Martin Luther, among others.

Guided meditations also are part of his repertoire.

"It's sort of a fantasy trip in your mind, where I take you to the throne room in heaven or lead you through a corridor where we encounter Christ and talk to him," Fogarty said.

Fogarty said he tells parishioners to close their eyes and get comfortable before the fantasy trip begins.

At Christmastime, Fogarty sometimes does a comic monologue for church socials. Then, he might be Gabriel talking to Mary or Joseph trying to get a room at the Holiday Inn.

"The stories are transformed into more modern terms," Fogarty said.

On Palm Sunday, Fogarty memorized the Passion according to St. Mark. He assumed the role of the saint for that presentation.

"I am impressed how doing the Bible in a dramatic way ... how it impacts people," Fogarty said.

Fogarty and Donna, his wife of 45 years and a librarian, live in Frederick County. Their only daughter, Tonya, has a master's degree in theater and is in an acting company.

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