Why We Love St. Peter's Church
We asked parishioners to tell us why St. Peter's Church was important to them. Here's what they said.
The roof problem reminds us that a church is more than a building. During my short time at St. Peter’s, I have felt part of the community. And that sense of community has never been stronger during these past months. But, having said that a church is more than a building, the historical edifice in which we worship is a symbol. And I hope God will allow us to indulge just a bit in our love for that symbol.
I will never forget the many kindnesses shown to me by the parish family of St. Peter’s following my sister’s death three years ago -- especially the grief group that met on Sundays after the late Service. They listened with sympathetic ears and gentle hearts. They showed me over and again the true meaning of Christian love. I am so grateful.
St. Peters is a warm and loving embrace--a feeling of connection to the Holy Spirit, to the love and kindness that God offers. I walk in and see a smile from a fellow parishioner that speaks volumes: I care; we can experience this journey together; I feel your pain; let's pray together for healing, for thanksgiving.
"I remember the afternoon I first walked into the church and down the main aisle. I felt the loving presence of God envelope me. Sweet echoes of many choirs, many voices sang to me from the box seats, the choir stalls, the galleries. The floor resonated with the footsteps of people who had walked on those stones over hundreds of years, people who had built Philadelphia and joined together there to praise God and to form their own sacred space to share and care for one another.
I didn't pick St. Peters church. It entered into me through my arms and my eyes and my ears and my feet. It picked me and filled my heart, and spirit and soul with the warmth of welcome and love. It has held me in its warm embrace for 28 years. I find God elsewhere, too- but always there."
Whenever I attend a church service, hear a sermon, go to a meeting or special event, my spirit is always touched and lifted. I am pleased and happy to have found Saint Peter’s Church – an important part of my spiritual life and is one I do not wish to lose.
Mayor Michael Nutter
“The City of Philadelphia is rich in historic places, but few have remained so consistently open and available to our citizens as Saint Peter’s Church,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “Many great Philadelphians have worshipped here: President George Washington, Vice President George Dallas, Absalom Jones, Commodore Stephen Decatur and many others. So today, as we celebrate two hundred and fifty years of worship, let’s also look ahead to the tremendous work still to be done in Philadelphia. St. Peter’s, with its storied past, is working to create a better future for our city. On behalf of the citizens of our city, thank you.”
I arrived at my obstetrician’s office at 10am on a December morning, about 7 hours after my water broke. Since my labor didn’t appear to be too advanced, she recommended that my husband, David, and I walk from her office in the Curtis Building on 6th and Walnut, to Pennsylvania Hospital, on 8th and Spruce; walking, after all, can be pretty effective at moving labor along. So David and I took the elevator down to Walnut Street and started through Washington Square Park.
Which was about the time that my labor came on strong. As first-time parents we didn’t know what to expect, and in hindsight we probably should have hailed a cab or summoned an ambulance. Instead, I braced myself against benches, trees, mailboxes and Society Hill’s old brick walls every few minutes during contractions. The 4-block walk in the shadow of St. Peter’s steeple took about an hour and a half. All the while, David stood patiently and protectively next to me, silently bearing witness. By the time we arrived at Pennsylvania Hospital, I was on my hands and knees when an orderly crossed the intersection to fetch me with a wheel chair.
Our daughter Evelyn arrived within the hour. After so much high drama, David and I enjoyed the relative calm of our 3-day stay in the maternity ward and the coddling we received from nurses ready to answer any anxious rookie question we threw at them. It was only when we were about to be discharged with Evelyn that I felt overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of keeping someone I so desperately loved safe from whatever would come to pass. In tears, I had the strong urge to open the window shade, which had remained closed since we’d arrived, just to take in the “real world” from behind the glass before crossing the threshold into our new lives. Pulling up the blinds, I saw it: St. Peter’s steeple had been standing quietly above the tree line outside of our window the whole time, like an unflappably seasoned midwife or venerable village elder. How many of us have locked eyes on her in the same way over the past 250 years and been immediately steadied?
Evelyn Sabine Hsu (Age 4, Amy's daughter)
I love St. Peter’s because it has a parking lot.
At St. Peter's I am part of a body of sincere seekers who love and support each other in our faith and life journeys.
We joined St. Peter’s in 1977 because we loved the small congregation that enthusiastically welcomed us. Some of those relationships continue to this day and sustain us in God’s love. It is the church building, however, that has given me the timeless constancy that anchors my Christian journey in this life.
When we arrived in 1977 the building seemed strange to us. Where were the stones, the gothic arches, the stained glass windows to which we were accustomed? Over the years the beautiful simplicity of St. Peter’s won our hearts. I love that we can see trees when worshipping – a reminder of the glory of God’s creation. I love that we can open windows and doors in warm weather letting in the sounds of Philadelphia – a reminder of Christ’s involvement in the world. I love that box pews give us a feeling of intimacy with those (even strangers) who sit next to us – a reminder of the inclusiveness of the church’s teachings.
For me, to step inside is an instant connection with God. When the morning sun fills the sanctuary, I am filled with joy; when the setting sun gives a warm glow, I am filled with peace. I think of the many years of parish life witnessed by this building. Through varying people, opinions, rituals, the building has remained. Through the continuum of all our journeys in faith, St Peter’s envelops all who enter with the sacredness of her space.
St. Peter’s has been my church home for 17 years. It is a community; a community of loving caring people which is evident, not just on Sundays, but throughout the week. There are hundreds of factors that make St. Peter’s a special place to worship, but the two that most stand out in my mind are the clergy and the architecture. Over the years, St. Peter’s has been blessed with some of the finest priests the Episcopal Church has to offer, and for this I am grateful. The architecture speaks for itself.
I came to St. Peter’s by happenstance. Steve and I had just moved into the city, and the church was nearby. That first Sunday, I discovered that some of my ancestors had worshiped within the box pews, and were buried in the churchyard. Since then I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t luck that landed me in this particular church, but God. I feel God’s presence in all we do at St. Peter’s: in worship, in fellowship and in the volunteer hours each of us devotes to the parish. Our wonderful priests have emboldened and strengthened me on my spiritual journey; my friendships with other parishioners are deep and true. I’m filled with gratitude every time I enter the church. When I spot our Spire glimmering in the distance, I know it’s calling me home.
Keith and Mimo Betten
Last December (2011) we felt compelled to submit a letter requesting transfer from the Episcopal parish in New Jersey in which we had been active members for more than thirty years. That action was prompted by our growing realization "that for some time the spirituality which must thrive at the core of every Christian life and which must regularly be nourished (was no longer) being fed within us". Although it had not been our intention to seek a new parish we had, over the course of that previous summer visited several of the historic Episcopal churches in town and "suddenly found ourselves, in the wonderful words of C. S. Lewis, 'surprised by joy' at 'Old St. Peter's'. How and why we had lost that critical sense of spirituality at our former parish remains a complicated matter, but "what is important to us is that we found it again at St. Peter's and that we were drawn to embrace it again in that holy place". We thank God for leading us to it.
To me, St. Peter's reflects the Light of Christ in the:
- dawn of light that I awaken to each morning as I view the cross and steeple of St. Peter's from my apartment window
- warmth of light from the people who greet me each time I enter
- brightness of the light bathing the beautiful sanctuary
- illumination of the Gospel as I am invited and challenged, through the sermons, to participate in and grow in the Christian life
- lightening up of my spirit as I experience the Grace of the Eucharist
- lightness of the music...enhanced by the choir and organ...as it bathes my soul with peace
- rays of sunshine in various encounters with with my fellow sojourners in this life of faith
- bright joy on the faces of those who come to our Food Cupboard and of those who serve
- sunny exuberant faces of the children
- warm glow of the meditation group
- light bathing the darkening steeple every night which gives me peace at the end of day.
I feel blessed to be embraced by the Light of Christ at St Peter's; my hope is that in this next part of my life, I will embrace and radiate that light to others.