Faith in Action for 250 years, 1761-2011

Looking Back at the 250th Anniversary Celebration

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We began our 250th celebrations with a Gala in May 2009, which featured Sam Waterston who gave a dramatic reading of the stories of parishioners who put their faith into action during the church's 250 year history.

The mission of the 250th anniversary of St. Peter’s Church was to celebrate its history by focusing on its life as a parish, its membership in the Episcopal Church and its mission to the wider community, and also to discern how that history will shape our future.

Commemoration of the laying of the church cornerstone
September 22, 2008

An evensong held with Christ Church gave a beautiful and spiritual beginning to our endeavors.

An evening with Sam Waterston
May 2, 2009

The first major fund-raising event with a reception in the middle of Pine Street and a dramatic reading in the church. The renowned actor and active Episcopal layman Sam Waterston did the reading of the church’s history researched and prepared by Cordelia Biddle.

A lecture series by University of Pennsylvania Professor Daniel Richter
October 2009

On three Sundays we explored the political and religious situation in Philadelphia in the 1750s and ‘60s when the church was being built.

A lecture about William White
December 2009

Professor William Pencak of Penn State who is writing a book about White spoke. The event was held at the Athenaeum.

Stephen Decatur monument

Our events in 2010 revolved around the restoration of this monument in the churchyard. In May we had a reception and viewing of the eagle and globe in the Milner-Carr studios where they were being restored. On September 19, the restored work was returned in a grand ceremony following the 11:00 service.

Lo! What a Cloud of Witnesses
February 27, 2011

The choir sang music composed by early 19th century organist and choirmaster Benjamin Carr as well as pieces commissioned by the church for the 250th by contemporary composers Debra Scroggins and Barry Rose. Cordelia Biddle and Alan Heavens provided stories from the church’s history.

"Absalom Jones's Neighborhood"
March 24, 2011

We welcomed eminent historian Gary Nash, professor emeritus at UCLA and leading expert on Philadelphia’s early history. His lecture focused on Absalom Jones and what his neighborhood was like in the 1790s when, not long after he was freed from slavery, he lived in a house directly across 3rd Street from the church.

Other accomplishments and jobs well done

  • Conservation of three portraits and four frames of St. Peter’s rectors of the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Reproduction of the Rembrandt Peale portrait of Absalom Jones created from a digital scan of the original.
  • Conservation of some of Bishop White’s books belonging to St. Peter’s which are held at the Library Company of Philadelphia.
  • Conservation of the Decatur monument mentioned above.
  • Fabrication of three “history panels” for the church.
  • Audio tours of the church and churchyard introduced and still going on.
  • Fabrication of new interpretive signage for the churchyard.
  • A church history website created by Alan Heavens for HSPCPC .
  • An exhibit of the church history was installed in the parlor of 313 Pine in early September 2011, in time for the final events of the 250th.
  • St. Peter’s Church: Faith in Action for 250 Years: The last major project of the 250th anniversary was the publication of the church’s history by Temple University Press. It was edited by Charles Peitz, and written by Cordelia Biddle, Libby Browne and Al Heavens.
  • Church Archives The organization of the church archives to make our archives accessible and cared for properly.

The fall of 2011 was the culmination of anniversary celebrations. On Sunday, September 18 a grand commemoration of the first service at St. Peter’s was held, with a lively reception on a beautiful fall day. A Sunday morning speaker series was presented with Shane Claiborne, co-founder of The Simple Way, The Rev. Dr. Gary Dorrien, Professor of Religion at Columbia University, Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District, Jeremy Nowak, President of the William Penn Foundation, The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, author and pastor of Western Presbyterian Church. The final speaker was the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori.

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