ABOUT CALVARY EPISCOPAL

 

The death of Bishop White in 1836 generated a movement to erect a monument of some type in Christ Church, but on a "sober second thought" it was deemed more appropriate to establish a 'living' monument, a parish church which would better reflect Bishop White’s devotion to parish work and presenting the Gospel to all conditions of men.



A sum of several thousand dollars was raised, but no action was taken for ten years until a group of Christ Church women took the matter into their own hands, obtaining a charter and incorporating their group as "Ladies Missionary Society of Christ Church, Inc." Additional money was raised to purchase land and build a church edifice.



Bishop Alonzo Potter appointed a young Deacon, the Reverend Jacob Smith, Jr. to organize a new mission church along the Delaware River in the Northern Liberties community. Boatmen and poor families comprised most of the congregation. 



The first service was held in a sail loft on Sunday, August 9, 1846. Ground was purchased at Front and Margaretta Streets and the first stones of the church were laid during the winter of 1850; the corner-stone was laid on the 4th of April, 1851, Bishop White's 103rd birthday. The church was finally occupied in its "fragrant newness" on July 4, 1852 and soon it boasts a Sunday school of 300 children and all debts were paid. The official consecrations of Calvary Church as the Monument to Bishop White took place on October 12, 1856 while the General Convention met in Philadelphia. The entire House of Bishops attended this service, an honor which is believed to be unprecedented in the Episcopal Church of the United States.



The first rector, Reverend Smith, served Calvary from 1846 - 1854, and he was followed by the Reverend Aaron Christman who was Rector for two years.  A stained glass window, the first one on the Epistle side, was dedicated to his memory.

 

Following the death of Father Christman, Reverend Charles R. Bonnell (1857-1864) became rector.  He was a member of a prominent Philadelphia family.

 

From 1865 to 1874, a period of nine years, Calvary had four rectors:

Reverend F. Dillion Egan (1865-1866)

Reverend F.J. Clerc (1866-1868)

Reverend Jacob Miller (1869-1870)

Reverend G. Woolsey Hodge (1870-1874)



In 1874 the Reverend Thomas Poole Hutchinson became rector for the next twenty-two years and was truly "God's Man" for Calvary during a period of great trial and stress.



Waterfront expansion and railroad growth caused the removal of hundreds of homes in the area many of which were occupied by Calvary members. "Soon the church stood alone in the midst of rubble from torn down buildings." It was a desperate period and it appeared that Calvary Monumental Church might be eliminated and become a chapel of Christ Church. But Father Hutchinson determined that the "sacred building" be moved to a new location.



Almost unaided he began to gather money and the present site of Calvary was purchased. With his own funds the rector paid for lumber and bricks salvaged from the Centennial of 1876 and a one story temporary building was erected on the rear of the lot. The last service was held at Magaretta Street on April 23, 1882 and the work demolishing Calvary began immediately. Each stone and timber was numbered and brought to the 41st street site and reset as before. Bishop White's Monument had been saved!



Calvary was suffering a loss of membership due to the rapidly changing racial makeup of the community. A few African Americans joined the parish but most newcomers preferred St. Michael. The Vestry of Calvary voted to invite Father Logan and the congregation of St. Michael to merge with them with Father Logan as the new rector. St. Michael accepted and the merger took place on September 9, 1945.



Father Logan retired from activity ministry in 1983, after serving Calvary for 38 years. The Reverend Antonio Martin was called to Calvary and served for ten years.



Calvary went through a period of prayerful discernment over how to proceed and to prepare the Church for the new millennium. During that time, the Reverend Canon Edwin Smith served as a supply Priest bringing his family and his love of jazz to the Parish.



In 2003 a newly ordained priest, the reverend Renee E. McKenzie-Hayward was called to Calvary. She brought with her a vitality that re-energized the congregation into active ministry and mission within the community.



However, as with all Protestant churches, membership declined and the church began to have difficulty meeting its financial obligations. Unlike most parishes, this Vestry knew that Calvary was not done yet. In the fall of 2008, the Vestry began a period of analysis and prayer to determine the best way to keep its doors open and to continue its outreach and ministry within the community. This analysis and prayer led the Vestry to reach out to St. Augustine's church of the Covenant to begin discussions to merge.  In 2009, the congregation merged with St. Augustine Church of the Covenant. 

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