Christ Episcopal Church

106 Nevin Rd.
Ridley Park, PA 19078-2108

Phone: (610) 521-1626

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(Christ Church interior Photo courtesy of Georgia Reber Elliott, reberjo@citlink.net)

Former Rectors  |  Former Organists  |   Church History  |   Membership Directory

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of this church, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com


Church History: The following history from Christ Church's 100th Anniversary book was shared with us by Georgia Reber Elliott, reberjo@citlink.net

1. In the Beginning God Created
2. The Heaven and the Earth
3. And thy Neighbor
4. As Thyself
5. The Gifts of God
6. For the People of God

3. And thy Neighbor

Who are our neighbors? Perhaps we had better start with who might have been. The Baptist Church had the strongest organization, as they had commenced operations in 1825. In 1832, William Trites built a small church on Lazaretto Road close to the White Horse Tavern, and here they functioned from April 19, 1834 to 1872, when they too persuaded the Ridley Park Association to donate their present lot. In fact, H. F. Kenney, the superintendent of the railway, was on their building committee before his association with our church. They were certainly well-endowed at this point, as building started on July 3, 1873 from a design by S. D. Button costing $27,000, and in 1874 the new church was opened, the Rev. Robert Compton officiating.

Incidentally, one of the people The First Baptist Church is most proud of is the Rev. Mark R. Watkinson, who was the minister from 1851 to 1853 and again from 1862 to 1864 when the church was located in Prospect Park. During his second pastorate he wrote to Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury in Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet, suggesting the recognition of the Almighty God on our coins. A memo was sent to the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia and in 1864 "In God We Trust" appeared on the two cent piece. Ninety-two years later in 1956 these words became the national motto.

The fortunes of the Presbyterian Church were very similar to ours. In 1873 and 1874, they had also started operations at the railway depot, first under the Rev. Mr. Ewing and then under the Rev. Mr. Alexander. In 1875 they retreated to hotels and stores to conduct their services and a Sabbath School. John Smith, who had helped us so much, placed the dining room of the Railway Hotel at their disposal until the hotel opened for summer trade. Again the Ridley Park Association donated a lot, and building started on December 13, 1875 using plans of A. W. Dilkes. The first simple frame building was opened on September 10, 1876 with the Rev. Dr. M. B. Green as pastor. The church was later pulled down and the present stone building was dedicated on June 6, 1915. New additions were made in 1954 and a west wing in 1961. The similarity of the operations coupled with the help of the Ridley Park Association in all three ventures is very striking.

The two other churches of Ridley Park are the Methodist Church and St. Madeline's Roman Catholic Church. The Methodist Church began as a Sunday School on February 15, 1891 on the second floor of Ward's Hall at 29 East Hinckley Avenue, which is now Costa's Pharmacy. After moving to #21, then Deakyne's Hall, now Lobb's Shop, for a spell, the church obtained exclusive use of Ward's Hall. In 1895, the corner lot of Swarthmore Avenue and Dupont Street was purchased from the Ridley Park Association and the church was dedicated on June 28, 1896. A new sanctuary was begun in May, 1948 and dedicated in February of 1949. The old church school was replaced with a new building and was dedicated on October 1, 1961.

St. Madeline's was part of St. Rose of Lima's Church in Eddystone. Parishioners went either to that church or to a mission in Norwood until a new mission was started in Ridley Park. In 1906, Frederick J. Mitchell donated a plot of ground at Penn and Tome Streets and the cornerstone was laid September 9, 1907 with dedication of the church on February 2, 1908. In January 1909, the church was separated from St. Rose. The church school was built in 1923 and opened in 1924. In 1938, the convent, which had been housed in the school, was moved to the former house of Federick J. Mitchell. In 1950, the church was expanded and the school was rebuilt in 1954 with a one story building, which had a second floor added, plus an auditorium, in 1957.

Let us now consider the fortunes of the four missions started by our church. The original building known as Christ Church Chapel, Collingdale, was modified and added to and became Trinity Church. It was known as the White Church and lasted until 1957. It had survived for 69 years, as the original Chapel was opened in 1888. By one of those strange coincidences or miracles, in 1927 a man named Belfield, a resident of Norwood, approached the Diocese with an irresistible offer. He was prepared to donate $55,000 to construct a new church in Collingdale. The parishioners gave another $7,000 and Bishop Garland officiated at the ground-breaking ceremonies. Also, at about this same time, the old Divinity School at Woodland Avenue was being rebuilt and its beautiful old altar and organ were donated to Trinity. The White Church became the parish house where Sunday School and social events took place.

Over thirty years ago, however, this building became rather 'infamous', especially after the Thursday night dances; and, as the public library was in dire need of a building, the rector offered it to them at a nominal rent. The library remained in the White Church for ten years until 1957. When the new rectory was built and when the library relocated to the old rectory, the White Church was finally dismantled. In 1971, the old rectory was sold to the borough of Collingdale for $17,000.

In the early 1950's, the rector, the Rev. John McGarvey, husband of our organist, Betty, by chance kept photos of both Belfield and Bishop Garland in a prominent position. Sure enough, a nephew of Mr. Belfield came around one day to see just how his uncle's money had been spent. He went away very satisfied.

Turning to our second mission, a tragedy plays in important part. Mrs. Charles Brock of Philadelphia had a seaman's library erected in Essington to the memory of her son drowned in the Chesapeake River. In 1902, the Rev. Mr. Steinmetz persuaded the authorities to loan him the property for services on Sundays, where he was assisted by a layman, Mr. Lewis R. P. Downing. In 1929, the property was bought and the present Norman-type building was started. This was made possible by a diocesan campaign fund which raised $60,000. The completed building was dedicated by Bishop Taitt on January 26, 1930. The mission continued under Christ Church until 1943, when it was transferred to St. James, Prospect Park. One of our missions looking after another of our missions.

The rectory was built in 1954, largely due to the efforts of the men of the parish and was occupied by the Rev. Harry Johnson, Jr., the first full-time vicar of the mission. In 1958, the mission was granted full parish status, and the Rev. Francis Blake was instituted as the first rector by the Bishop of Shanghai, Bishop Roberts. Under Dean Erb, many changes have taken place, noticeably, restoration of the organ and numerous improvements to the windows. The organ was dedicated by Father Bill, when he was the Dean of Delaware.

Singing and strawberries are the highlights of St. John's, Essington. The cantatas of the choir and the annual strawberry festival used to raise money are the items of note. The strength of this parish is assured, and a great tribute to the efforts of both our parish and the people of Essington.

Our third mission was St. James Mission in Prospect Park. The origin of this mission was dissension. There was a Methodist-Episcopal Church, but in September 1906, a number of the congregation wished to form their own Episcopal Church, and they split from the Methodists. In December 1906, 26 people attended Evening Prayers at Galloway Hall with the Rev. M. Belknap Nash officiating. The Rev. Mr. Steinmetz had been put in charge of the mission by Bishop Whittaker, and he in turn got the Rev. Mr. Nash fully involved.

For many years afterwards, Galloway Hall played an important part. For three years, the second floor was used as a church with an altar on wheels which was rolled into place. Then, for many more years after this, it was used as the parish hall with many fund-raisers for the church. The fruits of the early efforts produced enough money to buy three lots at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and 11th Avenue in June 1909. A new church was started on the site, and the first service was held there on January 25, 1910. In 1923, we appointed the Rev. William Warren to be the vicar and in October 1929, shortly before his death, he was present at ground-breaking ceremonies for the present church and rectory.

St. James became independent of us in 1945. The first rector, Father Reinhart, is buried on the church grounds. More property was bought in 1952 for future expansion, and in 1962 this took place in the form of a church hall completed as a memorial to Father Reinhart.

Our fourth mission, St. Luke's, Eddystone, started as St. Peter's Mission in 1912. Meetings took place in private houses at first and from there they eventually moved to the Town Hall under the leadership of the Rev. William H. Anthony. Then, a great benefactor came on the scene. Samuel M. Vauclain not only gave the land on 10th Street but had the church and parish house built as well, at no cost to the congregation. Work started in 1915, and St. Luke's Church was opened under its first rector, the Rev. Mr. E. A. MacNamara in 1917. At this time, the church became independent of Christ Church.

1. In the Beginning God Created
2. The Heaven and the Earth
3. And thy Neighbor
4. As Thyself
5. The Gifts of God
6. For the People of God


2000 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07