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!
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Would be interesting to see weekday only services in a church in the City (of London, which as the financial district is dead on the weekends but also has some historic churches).
  • There are several City churches with weekday-only services - St Andrew, Holborn, comes to mind.

    Even more interesting (well, mildly) would be any weekday-only churches in other UK towns/cities.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    25 years ago I used to go to St Stephen Walbrook for my fix of the sort of churchmanship I grew up with on a Thursday lunchtime before returning to the more banal surrounding of the church in which I worked.
  • Yes - I thought of Walbrook, but couldn't remember the church's name! Weekly Eucharist on Thursdays at 1245pm, and a monthly Choral Evensong.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    This church gets listed this week in the "What's New" column on Anglicans Online.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    Beautifully written article, and beautiful photo of the interior -- just as I remember it being on the day of my visit.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited June 24
    Just saw that story in my Twitter feed and came here to link to it, but it looks like @Bishops Finger beat me to it. :smile:

    I wish posts in MW threads showed up in recent discussions.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I wish posts in MW threads showed up in recent discussions.
    I don't know why they don't -- I could ask Simon about it.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    The official answer seems to be that the way Comments have been set up has exposed a bug in the software that prevents them from appearing under Recent Discussions.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Ah well. I only realized recently that there’s a MW forum in Discussions, so I’ll just learn to look there regularly.

    Thanks for checking!
  • PDRPDR Shipmate

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

    Stylistically it is Strawberry Hill Gothick, which is about right for 1823. That date would have been extremely early for Gothic Revival Architecture - so it is not surprisingly it is built in the precursor style to the Revival proper. However, even this is quite remarkable given the usual adherence, at least at this date, of Methodism to Classicism.

  • Thanks, PDR.

    The article I linked to above says it was built in 1823, so not a revamp of an earlier Methody fane.

    IOW, I woz wrong (it does happen...last occasion was a Saturday afternoon in April 1978).
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I am frequently wrong, but how often I get caught is a different matter! ;)

    I often find that early-ish Gothic Revival buildings are more 'fit for purpose' than those from the 1850s, 60s, and 70s because they were designed for the Anglican liturgy, not against it, as seems to be the case with many mid-Victorian structures. The BCP's strictures about audibility and visibility tend to mean that the officiant and readers need to be fairly close to the congregation.
  • Yes indeed, and the later Victorians (not always just the High Church party - I can think of a few Evangelical churches of this ilk) did tend to build churches with long chancels and elevated altars which militate against today's less grandiose ideas, as well as the BCP requirements!

    I rather like the neat re-ordering of St Stephen's, perfectly suitable, it seems, for the small weekday congregations (though 117 for Ash Wednesday is pretty impressive).

    Hmm.

    Not far from Our Place are three neighbouring churches, all very much of the same churchmanship (MOTR to High), which TPTB plan eventually to form into a Team Ministry.

    One of the churches - a late 19th C barn - already has nice new kitchen/WC facilities installed, and would make an ideal 'weekday church' like St Stephen's. It's on a busy main road, close to buses, shops, the Hospital, and some schools, so a fair bit of possible 'passing trade'.

    There is, however, a small, elderly, but very faithful (and feisty) Sunday congregation, so some provision would need to be made for them, even though St Next-Door is only half-a-mile away.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited June 27
    At least the Evangelicals and Broad-Lows could be "heretical" when it comes to architecture even in the 1870s. The most famous example is Trinity Church, Boston, but there are others. Both the present and the previous St Bartholomew's, NYC, were designed as preaching churches, though by the time the present St Bart's was built even the Anglo-Catholics were beginning to temper their mediaevalism a little by making the chancels shorter, wider, and more open. I was going to cite St Thomas', 5th Ave., as an example of that, but before the 1970s it was a MOTR brass and class parish.
  • deacondaviddeacondavid Shipmate
    How lovely to have homeless folk there with you while you worship - a poignant reminder that Our Lord was, himself, in that same situation (Matthew 8:20) and that those are some of the people to whom we are asked to show particular favor. Also fabulous that a lay person set the table. The deacon setting (and clearing) the table, when present, is presenting the symbol of the diaconal role of modelling servant ministry to God's people. Lay people taking that on in the absence of a deacon is the symbol that they have received the message and are prepared to be God's servants in the world. Even more powerful with the homeless at your feet.
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