ABOUT ST. AUGUSTINE
In the autumn of 1903 an unattached mission Sunday school, meeting Sunday afternoons in a hall on Brad Street above Diamond Street in Philadelphia, was brought to the attention of Bishop Mackay-Smith by Nathan Nutter. After Archdeacon Henry L. Phillips visited the school and made a favorable report, the Bishop authorized the adoption of the work as a mission of the Episcopal Church.
The Reverend Norman V. Lewis, Rector of the church of Incarnation, instructed the first class of five candidates, which was confirmed in the Church of the Incarnation in the spring of 1904.
In the month June 1904, Bishop Mackay-Smith sent the Reverend A. A. St. Claire Moore to be the first Priest in Charge of St. Augustine’s Mission. A Class of twelve candidates, which Father Lewis had started to instruct, was prepared by Father Moore and confirmed by Bishop Mackay-Smith in April of 1905. Later that same year, Father Moore was sent to Germantown, his successor, the Reverend Henry S. McDuffie, became Priest in Charge in January 1906.
Under the leadership of the Reverend Henry S. McDuffie, membership increased to the extent that the Committee of Supervisors was encouraged to seek larger and better housing for St. Augustine’s Mission. By the generosity of a charitable layman, a site on Thompson Street, west of 16th Street was purchased. A modern parish house was planned for the site, leaving a space for a future church building to face Thompson Street.
On November 11, 1909 the cornerstone was laid. The opening service of the new parish house was held on March 27, 1910. For three years, services were held in the parish house on Thompson Street. Membership increased steadily and plans were formulated to build the much needed church building.
Father McDuffie had the hearty cooperation of a most sympathetic Supervising Committee of the North Philadelphia Convocation, and when the Church of the Beloved Disciple was disbanded, St. Augustine’s was placed in possession of the buildings at 2026 West Columbia Avenue. The First service held at this site was in 1913. When the mortgage of $10,000 was satisfied, Bishop Rhinelander consecrated the building on May 20, 1923.
In 1925, the Reverend Joseph H. Hudson came as assistant to the Reverence Henry S. McDuffie. Three years later, in March of 1928, Father McDuffie resigned as Priest in Charge, after twenty-two years of service. Father Hudson, his successor, served faithfully as Priest in Charge until his death, which occurred on September 26, 1937. The Reverend James Deaver acted as Priest in Charge until Vestry called the Reverend Tollie Caution in September of 1938.
Finding a work well organized, Father Caution realized that St. Augustine’s Mission possessed all the potential necessary to Parish hood and set about to lead the Mission in that direction. After making several necessary renovations to the building and presenting three larger and several smaller classes for Confirmation, a Charter Committee was formed and application was made for a Charter. At the 159th Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, the proposed Charter was approved on May 4, 1943 and permission was given to apply to the proper Court to grant the same. The parish was admitted into union with the Convention, and the delegates were seated for the session without vote.
On June 1, 1943, after four years of faithful service, Father Caution resigned from St. Augustine’s Mission to accept the position of Vicar at St. Luke’s Church in New York City. The Reverend William D. Turner, who began his service as Vicar on December 5, 1943 succeeded him.
On March 27, 1944, the Court certified Articles of Incorporation and St. Augustine’s Mission because St. Augustine’s Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. At this time, Father Turner became Rector. Mrs. Catherine V. Keene and Mrs. Charles W. Simpson unveiled the Charter on October 8, 1944.
Under the leadership of Father Turner, the Congregation moved from 2026 Columbia Avenue to 27th and Girard Avenue, in April of 1955. Bishop J. Gillespie Armstrong and the Vestry of the Church of the Covenant offered this opportunity for change to Father Turner. After much consideration, involving the Vestry of the Church of the Covenant, the Vestry of St. Augustine’s Protestant Episcopal Church, Father Turner and Bishop Armstrong, it was agreed that the property at 2026 West Columbia Avenue would be sold and the Congregation would move to the 27th Street and Girard Avenue site. The proceeds from the sale of the property of St. Augustine’s Protestant Episcopal Church would be used for repair on the property of the Church of the Covenant. Later the Church known as St. Augustine’s Church of the Covenant incorporated the names of both church.
During his years as Rector, Father Turner gave leadership in the Diocese of Pennsylvania through his membership on various Committees, Departments and as a member of the Diocesan Council. After a long illness, he died on September 10, 1975, having served St. Augustine’s Church of the Covenant for thirty-four years. A spirit of independence and adherence to the faith will always remain his legacy to the Congregation.
The Vestry, Wardens and Congregation exhibited a tremendous spirit of faith, devotion and determination during the period following Father Turner’s death. Under the guidance of Bishop Lyman C. Ogilby, a survey of the Congregation was made, a Search Committee appointed and various candidates for Rector were considered.
In September of 1978, the Reverend Arthur J. Kelly was called from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica, New York, and he began his duties as Rector of St. Augustine’s Church of the Covenant. In his acceptance speech he stated, “I anticipate a very challenging, fruitful and rewarding ministry.” When we celebrated our 80th Anniversary in 1983, it was Father Kelly’s fifth year of service to this parish. In that period of time, some former members re-affiliated with this Parish and new members were added. A new spirit of love and Christian fellowship developed.
Since the 80th anniversary, unfortunately, we have witnessed a decline in the economy of our Country and unemployment has increased tremendously which consequently has been disastrously which consequently has been disastrous to many “traditional” denominations. Saint Augustine’s Church of the Covenant was not an exception as membership has declined through deaths and transfers. However, Parish Guilds, Clubs and Organizations within our Church have through hard work and sacrifice and the blessings of Our Lord and Savior, raised and donated sufficient funds to help the Vestry meet the financial obligations of the Church for which we are fortunate and most grateful.
On October 1, 1999, after completing exactly twenty-one years of service, Father Kelly retired from active Parish ministry to pursue other goals and ministry. His retirement was marked at the annual Men’s Day service with uncertainty about the future of the Parish in the next millennium.
The Vestry introduced the Reverend George O. Master, II as Priest in Charge of the Parish to the Congregation in September 2000. Father George inherited a Parish in decline at the beginning of the new millennium. To his credit and with the help of the Congregation, new ministries and directions were planned and acted upon.
Under Father George’s direction we have become an active parish once again in the community. Martial Arts classes, prayer meetings, Bible study classes and a basketball team call the St. Augustine’s GLO (God’s Little Overseers) flourished. New lay ministries such as Lay Eucharistic Ministries, Prison Ministry and a Health Ministry serving the church and its surrounding communities were started. Pledges increased, the church became active in the Diocese and Sunday school increased.
In 2003, St. Augustine continued to initiate Christians with the waters of baptism, confirm members of the living Church, nurtured children and young people. The congregation merged with Calvary Episcopal Church, Northern Liberties in January 2009 and is moving forward as Calvary St. Augustine Episcopal Church.