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

5. The Gifts of God

Our records of the past, covering the many memorial gifts we have received, leave much to be desired. In many instances, the records are simply not complete. Even with what we have available, in many cases it is impossible to differentiate between the donor and the person for whom the gift was given.

In the last thirty years, since the publication of a history printed on our seventieth anniversary, we have catalogued all memorial gifts. Our recent records are complete, but out of a fear of omission the vestry hesitated to list the many names commemorated by memorial gifts and donations. Such a listing would involve many pages of such a history. To list, for example, just the memorial gifts we have received for our endowment fund would alone require many pages.

For many years it has been the intention of the vestry to fittingly record all memorial gifts. We have struggled, so far unsuccessfully, to have such a listing recorded in a Book of Remembrance. We do have a desk in the back of the Lord's House, which has been ready for years, to properly house such a book. Countless hours have already been spent by many people working on this book. Lead pages for the many sections of this book, such as windows, chancel, nave, grounds, parish house, endowment fund, etc., have been professionally done.

Our basic problem as to why this book remains incomplete has been the selection, many years ago, of the style of printing and the process that was chosen. We must simply go to an easier process of free hand printing. It is sincerely hoped that the work needed to finish our Book of Remembrance will be soon accomplished. Then, each year, we need only add the new names to keep it up to date.

We would be greatly pressed, in a financial sense, were it not for the fact that countless people sought and seek to fittingly commemorate their loved ones who have passed away. Were we to take away all such gifts our present plant, endowment fund, etc., would be quite barren. We would, for example, have no altar, few appointments in the chancel and nave, no windows, no lighting, no vessels for Holy Communion, no Memorial Garden, an endowment fund reduced by more than half its value, etc. Thus we exist and have our present state of being, because people desired to fittingly honor and commemorate their dear loved ones who are now resting from their labors in that place where "sorrow and pain are no more." May they rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon them.

In the past six or seven years, our endowment fund has grown from a few thousand dollars to over $60,000. Almost half of this, $30,000, has been added to this fund by the vestry as part of the monies realized from our sale of the property adjacent to the rectory - 110 Nevin St. The rest of the fund has come largely from a few legacies, monies received in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts for the use of our Memorial Garden and our present monthly envelope marked Endowment Fund.

It should be reported here also, that some day our endowment fund should receive over fifty thousand dollars from the estate of Mrs. John V. Mershon. Our present altar and steps were given by this woman in 1929, in memory of her mother, Mrs. Cordelia R. Warrall. The Mershons lived in Ridley Park for many years, making their home on Chester Pike. Dr. John Mershon, who worshipped here, was the founding father of the school of orthodontistry, which has benefited so many people. Dr. Mershon's accomplishments must be numbered among one of Ridley Park's greatest claims to fame.

We conclude this section by singling out one memorial. We do so only because of its historical significance, and for the full story, we are indebted to Mrs. Macdonough C. Merriman for supplying us with the details. The story concerns the three lancet windows in our south transept depicted on the following page.

The inscription at the bottom of the middle window reads:

 

In memory of T. Augs. Craven Comdr. U.S.N.
Born Jan. 11, 1813 and lost with his ship
Tecumseh at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Aug. 5, 1864

These windows were given to our parish by Mrs. Emily (Craven) Merriman, the mother of the husband of Mrs. Merriman, who supplied us with this information. The giver was about nineteen years of age, when she gave these windows in memory of her uncle, Commander Craven.

Tunis Augustus Craven was truly an amazing man. He founded the Naval Base in Key West, Florida, and is credited also for helping to free over five hundred slaves.

But let us continue with our story. Mobile and Wilmington were the only important Confederate ports still open. Early in August of 1864, Admiral Farragut appeared off Mobile with a fleet consisting of eighteen ships. The entrance to the harbor was strongly defended by forts on both sides. On August 5th, the Union fleet advanced with the Tecumseh in the lead. The Tecumseh carried a crew of 141 and was one of the few Monitor steel hull ships in the service. Commander Craven spotted the lead ship of the Confederate Navy, the Tennessee, and was in hot pursuit, when suddenly the Tecumseh was hit by a torpedo and sank immediately. While reports differ as to how many of the crew of the Tecumseh survived (from two to twenty-one), it is known that Commander Craven drew aside from the ladder so that the pilot, a man by the name of Collins, might pass first. In doing so, the Commander saved the pilot's life at the sacrifice of his own. The pilot told others later that Farragut failed to give them a signal recalling the Tecumseh.

The next ship in the Union line was the wooden-hulled Brooklyn. She decided not to risk a rescue through a minefield. Farragut is then quoted as shouting his famous line, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead", and drove his ship, the Hartford, straight at the Tennessee. Fortunately, all the mines failed to go off, and the Tennessee eventually surrendered. To record this historic incident, an epic thirty-six line poem entitled "Craven" was written by Henry Newbolt.

Over the turret, shut in his ironclad tower
Craven was conning his ship through smoke and flame;
Gun to gun he had battered the fort for an hour.
Now was the time for a charge to end the game.

There lay the narrowing channel, smooth and grim.
A hundred deaths beneath it, and never a sign.
There lay the enemy's ships, and sink or swim
The flag was flying, and he was head of the line.

The fleet behind was jamming: The Monitor hung
Beating the stream; the roar for a moment hushed;
Craven spoke to the pilot; slow she swung;
Again he spoke, and right for the foe she rushed.

Into the narrowing channel, between the shore
And the sunk torpedoes lying in treacherous rank;
She turned but a yard too short; a muffled roar,
A mountainous wave, and she rolled, righted and sank.

Over the manhole, rip in the ironclad tower,
Pilot and Captain met as they turned to fly;
The hundredth part of a moment seemed an hour,
For one could pass to be saved, and one must die.

They stood like men in a dream; Craven spoke, -
Spoke as he lived and fought, with a captain's pride:
"After you, Pilot." The Pilot woke,
Down the ladder he went, and Craven died.

All men praised the deed and the manner; but we -
We set it apart from the pride that stoops to the proud.
The strength that is supple to serve the strong and free
The grace of the empty bands and promises loud;

Sidney thirsting a humbler need to slake,
Nelson waiting his turn for the surgeon's hand,
Lucas crushed with chains for a comrade's sake,
Outran coveting right before command.

These were paladins, these were Craven's peers.
These with him shall be crowned in story and song.
Crowned with the glitter of steel and the glimmer of tears,
Princes of courtesy, merciful, proud and strong.

from Poems of American History page 527

 

6. For the People of God

Prominent among the people of God, as far as we are concerned, are those who have supplied material for and devoted their efforts to the production of this book. We were fortunate to have such a wealth of material from which to "plagiarize." The first twenty years of Christ Church's history were documented by Charles M. Chestnut; the next fifty by William Mohr; and the next twenty, by Earle W. Deppich. That gave us ninety years of recorded history before we even started this account.

We are especially indebted to Father Bill and Father Fred for material that they unearthed, and in order to research our early history and origins, we received help from Nicholas Ridley M.P. from the House of Commons, Professor G. Elton of Claire College, Cambridge University and G. R. Pinnlett, the Senior Librarian of Crewe Library, all of England, and Mrs. Macdonough C. Merriman, who furnished us with the historical material concerning the three lancet windows in the south transept.

Rectors in our area who have helped furnish details of our missions include Father Peter Reynierse of St. James, Prospect Park; Father William X. Smith of St. Luke's, Eddystone; Father John McGarvey of Trinity, Collingdale; and Father Leighton Erb of St. John's, Essington. In trying to find out about our rectors, we have searched far and near. Help has been most forthcoming from Dr. J. Wesley Twelves, the noted authority on the Diocese, and Olga Larkin from the Church House. Since this has been written, both these faithful servants have gone to their eternal home. Details of Father Gernant came from Mrs. Dayton from Christ Church, Towanda; of Father Steinmetz from Father Light, Mrs. Case, and Mrs. Parker of Christ and St. Luke's Church, Norfolk, Virginia, and also from his daughter Katherine Steinmetz, now living in Lake Worth, Florida; Father Benedict was covered by Father Chisholm of St. Paul's, Doylestown; Mrs. Gibbs of St. David's, Manayunk helped us with the Rev. F. B. Barnett; and the Rev. Mr. W. F. C. Morsell was covered by Mrs. Newkirk of Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill.

In addition to the Philadelphia Public Library, the Ridley Township Public Library and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, many gaps have been filled by Dr. Nelle Bellamy and Elinor S. Hearn of the Archives and Historical Collections of the Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

When Earle Deppich was writing about Christ Church ten years ago, he started by quoting the last few words of William Mohr in the Seventieth Anniversary Booklet. The words also struck us as being particularly significant.

"What will the future record bring forth? Let us go forward with highest hopes for even greater progress in the years to come, as we who labor and those who will follow after, press on in living service to the Glory of Almighty God."

We also believe that Mr. Mohr's words are the perfect way to conclude our One Hundredth Anniversary book, and begin our second hundred years.

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