Ship of Fools: St Stephen’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


imageShip of Fools: St Stephen’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Two or three (well, six) were gathered, and there was God in this historic little church

Read the full Mystery Worshipper report here


Comments

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I’ve seen many a Gothic Revival parish church that isn’t cruciform. Maybe the “Revival” part allows for such. Though having looked at pictures on the church’s website, I’d have to say Gothicish Bits seems more accurate.

    But I’m curious—Do you know why don’t they have services on Sunday? I couldn’t find anything on the website that said.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    edited June 14
    I don't know for sure, but given the location and history of the church . . . .

    That neighborhood is really quite seedy despite efforts at urban renewal, and 30 years ago it was even seedier! I would be surprised if they could attract a Sunday congregation.

    I gathered from talking to the others at the service that the church was at one time either at the point of closing, or had actually closed. Apparently the current vicar has been working very hard to bring St. Stephen's back to life. I think he feels that he has a better chance of being successful at attracting a weekday crowd. I wouldn't call six a crowd, though.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Interesting. Thanks.

    I’m all for thinking outside the box, and for finding how to best minister in the spot where you are. And I can see how congregations for traditional Sunday services might not be sustainable. But I have to admit, doing nothing on Sunday seems odd.
  • [/i]
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I’ve seen many a Gothic Revival parish church that isn’t cruciform. Maybe the “Revival” part allows for such. Though having looked at pictures on the church’s website, I’d have to say Gothicish Bits seems more accurate.

    But I’m curious—Do you know why don’t they have services on Sunday? I couldn’t find anything on the website that said.

    Gothic and Gothic Revival cathedrals and some other major churches (e.g. Westminster Abbey) tend to be more or less cruciform, but in my experience, most chapels and parish churches are not. Most are two small and were planned too haphazardly over the years for such a design. But even some famous "great churches" are not cruciform, e.g:
    King's College Chapel, Cambridge
    Great St. Mary's (the University Church), Cambridge
    St. Mary the Virgin (the University Church), Oxford
    Eton College Chapel.

    And, as Nick Tamen says, many a Gothic Revival parish church that isn’t cruciform, including such showpieces of the movement as All Saints, Margaret Street (which is on a site that would definitely not accommodate transepts).
  • I've worshiped there twice--St Stephen's is an inspiring place. Peter Kountz has a great heart for the vulnerable people in the neighborhood ...and a first-rate mind, which you glimpse in his lovely, lapidary homilies.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited June 15
    American architecture in the 19th century often followed English precedents. English gothic churches usually aren't cruciform, but expansions of the basic two cell - nave and chancel - pattern that was common in the Anglo-Saxon, and Norman periods. The expansion usually includes side aisles, and a tower. That isn't to say there are not cruciform parish churches, but they are not the norm. Cathedrals and Abbey Churches on the other hand were almost invariably cruciform in England, though some of the Scottish and Irish Cathedrals and Abbeys were not.

    Cheers,
    PDR
  • AIUI (from St Stephen's website) the building was originally a Methodist church (although it's not 100% clear whether the Episcopal congregation adapted, or built anew).

    If the church was built for the Methodists, that may explain its lack of Gothic-ness!
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