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, firstname.lastname@example.org)
|Church History:||The following history from
Christ Church's 100th Anniversary book was shared with us by Georgia
Reber Elliott, email@example.com
If we let our imagination work a little, we can almost feel that we know the early pioneers of our church personally. For instance, because of public disclosure policies of the 1880 census (which obviously annoyed many people) we find that the Rev. Mr. Bushnell failed to answer many of the questions. He claimed to be 50; actually he was 54. He and his wife Theodosia, who was 10 years his junior, had something else in common with many Ridley Park families: they kept a black female servant and a boarder - in their case, an elderly woman.
We can find details of nearly all the early vestry members. Gen. Noah L. Jeffries was a 51 year-old lawyer whose 26 year-old daughter and her infant son lived with him. Maybe her husband had been killed fighting the Indians. He had a large household to look after: the family, two black female servants, two white males, and a nurse.
Another vestry member, Orrin S. Ross, was an architect and he lived in a hotel with 19 others, including his four year-old son. Maybe his wife had died in childbirth. John Smith, the agent of the Railway, called himself a gardner. He was an immigrant from Scotland and along with his wife and three sons, he had brought a young girl as a servant. Others like Sydney Fuller, Charles Leedom, and Henry Kenney conformed to the pattern of having both servants and boarders in their households. Incidentally, if you wish to study your roots, the early census is invaluable. Many names of our current parishioners are to be seen in the data from one hundred years ago.
At this point, we think that it would be of interest to record the thirteen bishops who have served the Diocese of Pennsylvania. They are:
What follows are little sketches and anecdotes about some of them [our former rectors]. We would like to give full individual biographies, but details have sometimes been hard to come by. Some letters and inquiries have fallen on stony ground and not brought the results we hoped for, but we are indeed indebted to the many people who have supplied information, and, in some cases, pictures of our fourteen pastors. With much persistence, we have managed to write something about them all.
The Rev. Mr. Bushnell was the General Agent of the Board of Missions of the Diocese, and as such he was not only concerned with our parish, but others at the same time. He was known as Frank Bushnell and gave his occupation as a preacher. He was born in 1826 and obtained a BA degree in 1850 and an MA in 1853 from the Berkeley Divinity School. He was made a Deacon in the same year by Bishop Brownell, and was ordained the following year by Bishop Smith in Kentucky. From 1853 to 1855 he was the assistant at Christ Church, Louisville, and then Rector at Grace Church, also in Kentucky. He then moved to Philadelphia, and was Rector of St. David's, Manayunk, Philadelphia in 1866.
In 1875 he joined the Board of Missions, and in 1878 he became rector of The Church of the Messiah in South Philadelphia. This church existed for 40 years between 1870 and 1910. We, of course, claim Francis Bushnell now as our first rector. Nobody else seems to agree with us, however. After leaving us in 1880, he dropped his other activities, so that in 1883 he was rector of The Church of the Messiah only. In 1897 he was elected Rector Emeritus of that Church. He died on January 7, 1904 at the age of 77.
Our second rector suffered with health problems nearly all his life. Born in 1851, he obtained an MA degree in 1874. Made a deacon by Bishop Jagger in 1879 and a priest in 1880 by Bishop Whitehead, his first duty was as an assistant at St. Andrew's, Philadelphia, in 1879. He was next an assistant minister at The Church of the Atonement, also in Philadelphia, and, in 1880, he became an instructor at the old Philadelphia Divinity School. After nine months with us he resigned for health reasons and, in search of a cure, he moved farther and farther west. In 1883 and 1884 he was rector of St. Andrew's, Fort Scott, Kansas and in 1885 moved on to St. Matthew's in Laramie, Wyoming. Finally, in 1886 he retired as a rector and did non-parochial work in the Diocese of New Mexico. He lived another 26 years, dying at the age of 61 at his home in Canon City, Colorado on June 4, 1912.
In many ways the Rev. Mr. Morsell was a founding figure of our church. He came to us only five years after the start of our church, five extremely rocky years in which we had had a rector for less than two. The Rev. Mr. Morsell persevered for eight years, which must have taken their toll on him. He had been made a deacon by Bishop Lee of Delaware in 1868 and a priest the next year. He was associated with the Pennsylvania Diocese for the next fifty years. He began as an Assistant in 1870 at All Saints, Torresdale. Then in 1873, he became the rector of Christ Church in Media. After one year he became the rector of St. Philip in West Philadelphia for ten years, when he came to us.
After leaving us, he went to live in Philadelphia, until he was called for six years as the rector of The Holy Comforter Church in 1896, again in West Philadelphia. The records of this church state that "the Rev. W. F. C. Morsell was sent as Minister-In-Charge and under his strong hand things became more prosperous. It is worthy of note at this point that in 1898, the vestry, already pondering the problem of a changing neighborhood, had gone so far as to consult the standing committee about moving the Corporation, but their request was refused. However, the idea born in these years of the 1890's did not die. Holy Comforter was a mission of St. Stephen's at that time, and the decision not to move resulted in its becoming a ward of the Diocese. Some thirty years later, Holy Comforter moved to Drexel Hill.
The Rev. Mr. Morsell retired to live in Germantown in 1903, and died February 13, 1918. During this time, ill health prevented him from undertaking regular work, but he did do occasional missionary duty. His hobby during his retirement was a vigorous study of scientific matters.
Edwin Gernant was born in 1855 and obtained a BA degree in 1878 and an MA in 1881. He was made a deacon and priest in 1891 by Bishop Whitaker. Before he came to us, Mr. Gernant was an assistant in 1892 at the Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, and, after being our rector, he went to the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. From 1900 to 1914 he was rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Towanda, Pennsylvania. In fact, there are still parishioners at that church who remember Father Gernant. He was described by one lady as a very positive man whose counsel was greatly respected. (She also recalled that he had a sickly daughter who had died). Later, he became the first rector of St. Paul's, Overbrook and then moved to New York State where he was an assistant at St. Peter's, Brooklyn and then rector of St. Paul's, East Chester. He died on February 7, 1919 at the age of 63.
One other note on Father Gernant: he was also an author and, while our rector, he wrote one of his books. Its title was "Thy Kingdom Come," written in 1895. We can only hope that Christ Church, Ridley Park will always be an example of Christ's kingdom on earth.
In a weekly parish magazine of St. John's Church of 1946 is a testimony to the Rev. Mr. Steinmetz. It says " - An Eloquent Preacher - A Distinguished Theologian - An Able Teacher - An Eminent Builder of Churches - An Indefatigable Missionary - A Loyal Friend - A Devoted Servant of God And Of His Christ - ." This seems to capture the spirit of a man whom we know had a lot of energy and commanded great respect as an intellectual.
He was born in Philadelphia on October 8, 1866 but shortly afterwards moved to New York. He graduated from St. Stephen's College, Annandale, New York in 1893 with a BA degree, and in 1896 obtained the degree of MA followed by Doctor of Sacred Theology in 1910. He also studied at the Philadelphia Divinity School from 1894 to 1895, and at the University of Pennsylvania at the same time. From 1895 to 1896 he moved back to New York and studied jointly at the General Theological Seminary and at Columbia University. He was made a deacon in 1896.
In the same year, at the age of thirty, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Whitaker, and he also married Mary R. Lawson. They had two children, Carl and Katherine, who worked at the University of Pennsylvania library. For two years, Father Steinmetz was the assistant rector at Old Christ Church, Philadelphia before coming to us. After leaving Christ Church, Ridley Park in 1908, he served for nineteen years at Christ Church, Norfolk, Virginia. However, he returned to Philadelphia in 1927 after an event which, in its day, was something of a sensation.
His problems started with the Selden Memorial Chapel of Christ Church, Norfolk. It seems that the Selden family had contributed a statue of the Angel of the Annunciation which Father Steinmetz did not like, and he replaced it with a statue of the Virgin Mary. The Selden family objected to this and for more than a year the vestry negotiated with Father Steinmetz, but he was adamant in his stand. Eventually the vestry appointed a committee to see that the change was made and appropriated funds to cover the cost of the work. Father Steinmetz then appealed to the civil courts using the argument that, under Episcopal Church law, the rector had exclusive control of the church edifice and property. The vestry contended, however, that under the statutes of the by-laws they had authority over the church property. A decree of tribunal failed to uphold the rector's efforts to obtain a restraining order barring removal of the statue of the Virgin Mary. At the next Sunday service, Father Steinmetz tendered his resignation. For the next three months the vestry tried to reach a compromise with him but to no avail.
Father Steinmetz then returned to Philadelphia to become the rector of St. Mary's Hamilton Village at 39th Street and Woodland Avenue, and he retired from there in 1933. He continued working, however, as an instructor at the Church Training School, a member of the executive council, and an examining Chaplain for the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Incidentally, in addition to the two missions which he started when he was with us, he also began the Church of The Holy Sacrament in Highland Park. In 1944, he acted as pastor at St. John's, Concordville. He died on October 17, 1946 and was buried at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli.
He was born in Chamberlin, South Dakota and was ordained a deacon in 1898 by Bishop Gray. For the next two years, he went to All Saints, Winter Park, Florida, and was ordained a priest in 1900 by Bishop Whitaker. The Rev. Mr. Benedict continued his career as an assistant in 1900 at St. Michael's, Germantown, and then in 1901, as an assistant at St. Paul's, Chestnut Hill. In 1902, he became an assistant at St. Luke's, Evanston, Illinois, then to St. Andrew's, Minneapolis, Minnesota from 1904 to 1907, and then to Cumberland, Maryland until he came to us in 1908.
Even though we paid Father Benedict a salary of $1,800, he left us to work for a year as a missionary in Wyoming before returning to Pennsylvania and the parish of St. Paul's in Doylestown. At St. Paul's he received $1,000 a year plus the use of the rectory, and repeated efforts to increase his salary to $1,200 were rejected by the vestry on financial grounds.
The building committee did, however, authorize funds for gas arc lights to be installed in the Church and monies to "look after" the "outside" toilet. In 1914, tenders were requested for the installation of a water closet inside the church. The success of this expense encouraged the vestry to consider a hot air heating system for the rectory and a new heater for the Sunday school room. The Rev. Mr. Benedict's last action before he resigned on February 18, 1916 was to organize a campaign for a new church organ.
He went to St. James', Langhorne, Pennsylvania for four years, but the love of open spaces overcame him again, and in 1920, he left this area for good to go to South Dakota. In the next few years, he went all over South Dakota ministering at such places as Parker, Hurley, Hot Springs, Buffalo Gap, and Springfield. In the end, we lost track of him. He died on August 26, 1946.
Gilbert Pember, like many of our rectors was a most distinguished member of the Diocese, and was elected to many committees. The son of Arthur and Alice Greaves Pember, Gilbert was born in New York City in 1876. He graduated from Trinity College in 1897, obtained a BD degree from Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, Connecticut in 1902 and eventually a DD degree from Temple University in 1931. While at Berkeley, he married Eva T. Holah in 1898. He was made a deacon in 1902, and ordained by Bishop Brewster in 1903. His first assignment was curate at Holy Trinity Church in Middletown, Connecticut from 1902 to 1905. In 1905 he went to Walton, New York, near the Catskill Mountains, where he was rector at Christ Church until he came to us in 1912. He was at Christ Church, Ridley Park for three years.
After leaving us, he spent the last nineteen years of his life at St. Michael's Church in Germantown. His work for the diocese was considerable. He was examining Chaplain from 1917 until his death. He was President of the Church Mission of Help from 1920 on and was also a Deputy at the Provisional Synod and the General Convention of Pennsylvania. In 1933 he became rector of the United Parish of Christ Church and St. Michael's, Germantown and he died on July 5, 1934.
Mr. Barnett was born in 1882 in South Glastonbury, Connecticut where his father was a country parson. He graduated from Yale University in 1902 with a BA degree and went into business. After a short time, however, he went to Berkeley Divinity School and was graduated in 1908 with a BD degree.
Barnett went first to a struggling mission in South Dakota, where he was made a deacon in 1909 by Bishop Brewster. In 1909, he married Emily Maudsley Hale, the daughter of a fruit farmer and parishioner of his father. He was then, in 1910, ordained a priest by Bishop Johnson. In addition to being rector of St. Mary's Church in Mitchell, South Dakota, he was also the secretary and examining chaplain of the missionary district. In 1915 Mr. Barnett was called as our rector and he came to Ridley Park with his wife, son and daughter.
During the First World War he left to become chaplain of Roosevelt Hospital Unit 15 with the Army in France where he was paid a salary by the Red Cross. He returned to our pulpit in June, 1918, but resigned in August to accept a Captain's commission with the Chemical Warfare Service of the Army.
He couldn't have been that impressed with the Army however, because, one year later, he was back as rector of St. David's, Manayunk in Philadelphia. He still had his mind on danger for on January 14, 1922 he sailed for Northwestern Liberia in Africa. His objective was exploration and the establishing of missionary enterprises if a suitable location could be found. However he returned to St. David's in May of that year. In 1923 he was rector of both St. Andrew's, Yardley and St. Wilfred's in Dolington. In 1928 he gave up his position at St. Wilfred's and this church closed in 1937. In 1935 he became the Chaplain for Christ Church Hospital in Philadelphia, but he left in 1941 for New Haven, Connecticut to retire close to the place of his birth. He died on October 15, 1949.
Charles Eder is best remembered as the pastor of Grace Church, Mount Airy for thirty-five years. He was born in Philadelphia on March 31, 1887. He was educated at St. Steven's College, where he obtained a BA degree in 1911. Subsequently, he got an MA at the University of Pennsylvania in 1917. He went to the General Theological Seminary and was graduated from there in 1914. He was made a deacon by Bishop Gray in that year and the next year was ordained a priest by Bishop Rhinelander on May 26, 1915, beginning his career as curate of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill.
After six years with us, during which time he also played a major part at St. John the Evangelist in Essington, he resigned to become the rector of Grace Church. Dr. Eder was a most distinguished priest and a very active member of the diocese. He and his first wife had two children, Craig and Shirley. Craig was ordained a priest also and is associated with St. Alban's School, Washington, D.C. After the death of his first wife, Dr. Eder married one of our parishioners, the former Lucille Berlin. Mrs. Eder is now a resident of the Conner-Williams Nursing Home in Ridley Park. Dr. Eder retired in 1959 and died in 1960.
Mr. Warden was our rector during the Depression and not many changes took place during his tenure. He was an older man when he came to us and merely maintaining the church during those dark days was an achievement in itself.
He was at Wesleyan University in 1895, later graduating from McGill University, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Talbot in 1902. His first assignment was at Holy Apostles Church, St. Clair, Pennsylvania in 1901 and 1902. He then became rector of St. Paul's, Columbia, Pennsylvania, until 1907.
For the next eight years he ministered at St. John the Baptist Church in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He then returned to be the rector of Trinity Church, Moorestown, New Jersey, until he came to us on January 1, 1926. After seventeen years, ill health forced his retirement in June 1943, and he was promptly elected Rector Emeritus. He died on September 13, 1945.
Mr. Judd, as he was known during his tenure (Father was not the fashionable term at that time), was just the man that Christ Church needed. He came to us in 1943, when the fortunes of the church were at a low ebb. The congregation was greatly depleted, and we were in debt. However, this was the last time our church was to flounder, as he changed our direction and our church's health forever.
The Judd family tree contains several doctors on his mother's side and ministers on the side of his father (who was also an Episcopal priest). Rev. Judd seems to have been torn between the two, as he did undergraduate work as a pre-med student at Penn State, but finished his education at the General Theological Seminary in New York in May 1936. He became a deacon on June 9, 1936, and on December 22 he was ordained priest.
Rev. Judd met his wife, Beatrice Lawrie Stevenson, while they were both members of his father's congregation, and they were married on June 30, 1936. Their daughter Helen later married an Air Force major.
Rev. Judd became an associate of St. Gabriel's, Hollis, Long Island until he came to us on October 1, 1943. He left our parish in September, 1949 to become the rector of St. George's Church in Maplewood, New Jersey, retiring after 25 years of service on December 31, 1974. At a special Thanksgiving service with Bishop George Rath on December 8, 1974, Rev. Judd was made Rector Emeritus of St. George's. The Judds now live in Frenchtown, New Jersey.
Father Loane was with us for only a short time between November 1, 1949 and September 1, 1951. Born in Philadelphia in 1902, he graduated with a BA degree from Hobart College in 1927. After obtaining a BD degree from Berkeley in 1930, he was ordained a deacon on June 9, 1930 and in 1931 became an assistant at Old St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia. In the same year he was ordained a priest.
In 1936, he became the rector of the Church of the Incarnation in Drexel Hill. In 1943 he went to Ohio, but returned to Christ Church, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and then to us.
St. James Church in Downingtown was in need of a rector, and Father Loane went there in 1951. In 1955 he went to St. Simon's in Philadelphia, and then to Christ Church, Upper Merion. He resigned because of illness in 1963, but in 1968, he returned to active work by becoming the assistant at the Church of Our Savior, Philadelphia. He died on October 18, 1974.
Father Dunphy is an intellectual who is as much at home in the academic community, as he is in the role of a parish priest. He was our most highly-educated rector with a Ph.D. degree and a strong interest in theology.
Born in Boston on February 21, 1900, his classical education started first at the Boston Latin School. He graduated from Harvard with a BA degree in 1921, and from the General Theological Seminary in 1926, when he was made a deacon by Bishop Slattery. He then started a career of twenty-five years as a priest, having been ordained on December 31, 1926 by Bishop Garland and serving the next two years as an assistant; first at the Church of The Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, and then at St. Mark's in Philadelphia. One September 27, 1928, he left for the Diocese of Milwaukee but returned ten years later to tutor at the Philadelphia Divinity School.
During this time he was engaged in university work. He went first to Nashotag Theological Seminary where, from 1928 to 1930, he was a proctor and instructor in Dogmatic and Moral Theology. He then went on the the University of Chicago Divinity School. Also at this time, he wrote many books as well as translating one from the Russian by Nicolai Berdyaev.
In 1945 he returned to St. Mark's, but in 1950 he moved to Bay View, Nova Scotia. He came to our parish with his wife Helen and son Stephen and was installed by Bishop Hart on December 17, 1951.
A lighter side to Father Dunphy was typified by his two prize Siamese cats. Vestry meetings were often conducted with Father Dunphy personifying one from Revelations with one cat perched on each shoulder. During his sermons, the cats would occasionally appear at the sacristy doors to offer strong 'vocal' opinions to the proceedings as if to indicate that he had preached too long. An acolyte was once heard to remark in appreciation, "Holy Cats!!"
In 1956, Father Dunphy decided that he wanted to write, travel and teach, and he resigned to afford himself this freedom. At the request of the Church of England he visited Europe to do some pastoral work. Upon his return to America he took a teaching post in Versailles, Kentucky and later retired to Grange, Illinois.
We must now include something on two of Christ Church's favorite 'sons': Father Joseph Hess and Father Frederick Harjes.
How many times has each of us thought of doing something different in life, but we just haven't had the fortitude to go through with it? Not so with Father Joe. After twenty-four years with the Philadelphia Electric Company he received the Call of God and, from 1960 to 1969, he studied at West Chester State College and the Philadelphia Divinity School.
He was ordained a deacon on December 16, 1961 and subsequently a priest on that glorious day, February 8, 1969 when Father Fred was also ordained a deacon. Incidentally, the master of ceremonies at that service was another of our 'alumni', the Rev. Floyd A. Adams, Jr. Father Joe has always had the loyal support of his wife Helen and his two daughters, and in 1971, he left us to become the rector of St. Peter's, Broomall. He does, however, return often to see us and is never far from our thoughts.
Father Fred is associated in most of our minds with Alcoholics Anonymous. But, in addition to his dedication to that organization he is now very much involved with drug abuse programs and all types of family problems.
He had been an active member of our parish for some twenty years when, in 1964, he became a postulant in the deaconate. He was then the owner of Fred H. Harjes Company, Woolbrokers and Manufacturers Representatives, headquartered in Narberth. He and his wife Anna Mae live in Springfield, and the family homestead in Valley Forge is now the home of the Freedoms Foundation. On September 7, 1974, after about ten years of concentrated effort, Father Fred was ordained priest.
He was once asked why he does so much for Christ Church. He replied, "But I owe Christ Church so much". Truly, any debt has been repaid a hundred times over.
Father Bill has been rector far longer than any of the previous thirteen occupants. Born on August 10, 1929, he attended Norristown High School, and graduated from Gettysburg College with a BA degree in 1951. His desire to become a priest had been reinforced when, in 1945, his only brother, John, who had also wanted to be a priest, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge.
On June 23, 1951, Father Bill married his childhood sweetheart, Janet Schultz, from his Norristown high school days. They, of course, have three children: James William, born in 1954, Cheryl Ann, born in 1955, and Janet Marie, born in 1964. We will not, however, attempt to document the dogs and assorted pets that have occupied the rectory over the years.
Father Bill received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the Philadelphia Divinity School in 1954, was ordained a deacon on June 5, 1954, and a priest on December 11, 1954.
The service took place at the Church of Our Savior, Jenkintown, with Father Stanley Johnson, who is the chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, also being ordained. During his three years at the Divinity School, Father Bill had acted as a student assistant, first at St. John's Church in Norristown, and then at St. Paul's, Chestnut Hill.
After his ordination, Father Bill became the curate at the Church of Our Savior, Jenkintown until he became our rector on October 24, 1956. The service took place at 8:00 in the evening, with Bishop Oliver Hart officiating. One of those in attendance was Father James Niblo of Norristown, who had had Father Bill under his wing at St. John's, Norristown for many years.
What do we know of Father Bill the man? We do know he liked to help (or hinder!) his father by climbing electrical poles. We also know he lists "People" as his main hobby in life. Because we have each experienced his personal interest in us, and his endless efforts to help us all, especially during trying times, we know this is true. He says he can relate to the unfortunate, such as an alcoholic, not because he is an alcoholic, but rather because both he and the alcoholic are sinners. A sinner he may be, but Father Paul Westman has pointed out that, in many ways, his faults are his strongest points. We all know, for instance, that in the affairs of Christ Church he naturally likes to get his own way. The reason for this is that he cares passionately for us and our church. The strength of Christ Church today is a living testimonial to this fine man and church leader, and just one example of his dedication is his work in starting the Delaware Deanery in 1967, which he served until 1970. Bishop DeWitt also appointed him as a chaplain to Taylor Hospital in 1969.
We have, over the years, held some tributes to Father Bill. Perhaps the one which he enjoyed most was on the tenth anniversary of his service for us, when a reception and celebration were held in the parish house with Father Wilfred Penny as master of ceremonies. For his twentieth, we sent him on an extra month's vacation; someone, perchance, thought that with all his activities, he was getting a bit tired. It must be pointed out that he is unflagging in his efforts, not only in the many outreach projects, but also in his spiritual guidance, which has resulted in the increased communicant strength under his leadership. Truly we have been blessed by his presence.
© 2000, 2001 John A. Bullock III.
This page last updated 02/24/07