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1840: First Presbyterian Church of Glenolden, PA

August 15, 2014
First Presbyterian Church of Glenolden, Glenolden, PA, undated.

On April 9th, 1840, a church was organized by 16 people in the living room of George Knowles’ home. From April to December of that year; the membership grew to 90. Reverend Marcus E. Cross was the Founder and First Pastor of the original church, known as the Second Presbyterian Church of Darby.

In 1910, the ongoing conflict between naming of the “then first and second churches” of Darby was resolved.  The Presbytery of Chester approved the name change from “Darby First”, to the First Presbyterian Church of Glenolden.

The first 16 founding members included: George G. Knowles, James G. Knowles, Dr. William G. Knowles, Richard Holmes, John Collier, John Keighler, John Munyan, Martha Knowles, Catherine W. Knowles, Anne Knowles, Elizabeth Knowles, Margaret C. Knowles, Elizabeth M. Holmes, Miriam F. Collier, Elizabeth Swain and Murtha Dumbar.

Born out of conflict, the First Presbyterian Church of Glenolden flourished after World War I, reaching a membership of 644 in 1930, with the same number enrolled in Sunday school. Growth continued after World War II, to 964 members with 543 Sunday school attendees. When you visit the First Presbyterian church of Glenolden, you will find these and other historical facts, displayed on the walls of Fellowship Hall.

In 1960, what was once a flourishing church on the corner of Ashland Avenue and Chester Pike, began to diminish in membership and attendance. A new culture for the country and community was evolving. Instead of going to church and visiting family and friends on Sunday; competition erupted in the form of shopping malls, movie theaters, children’s sports teams’ practices and games, professional sporting events, as well as various concerts and theater productions. The church found itself competing with the world of retail, sports and entertainment.

By 1990, our membership had dropped to 101 and the Sunday school had only 56. This pattern of diminishing attendance and membership was recently confirmed by the following article: Recent statistics have shown that approximately "80 million Americans, roughly 40 percent of the United States population" are unchurched Americans." (J. Russell Hale, Who Are The Unchurched? (Pg 2)

We, the members and Elders of the First Presbyterian Church are engaged in a commitment of “visioning” for the church and community. Our mission statement is: “Guided by the Holy Spirit, we share God’s love in the community.”

Following the example of our predecessors, we reach out to the community, so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes “real” to people. The “Loving Care” Day Care utilizes our building during the week. We donate food to the “Loaves and Fishes” food cupboard, and regularly host blood drives. We participate in Glenolden’s Annual Community Day and other events that enable us to share our faith throughout the community. During a recent fundraiser, we hung “Door Knob” placards on every door we could find. It was an invitation to join us on Sunday Mornings for Worship and to participate in a fundraising event. During the week, we rent our Fellowship Hall to another Ministry Fellowship Group as well as to NA Groups.

We have been blessed throughout the years with Pastors who taught us to: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Listed in the order in which they served: Reverend James Ferguson, Reverend Paul A. Corcoran, Reverend John H. Dean, Reverend George R. Pomeroy, Reverend James Stuart Dickson, Reverend Donald C. Landis, and Reverend John L. Van Druff, who served for 34 years.

The Reverend Faith Hill has been our Official Supply Pastor and Teaching Elder since September of 2014. Under her leadership and guidance, we continue to grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. We have increased outreach and Christian service throughout the communities in which we reside. We continue to participate as members of the Interboro Ministerium.

Each Sunday, during worship, the children come forward to participate in a “Children’s Message. Afterward, they go downstairs for a Bible lesson, craft making and snack. Recently, when everyone was there, we had 14 children!

We held a special service to “Honor Our Many Volunteers” from the community and church membership. Each Volunteer received a “Presidential Award Certificate”, for serving as a volunteer in one or more of our ministries.

Our biggest event is our annual THANKSGIVING DAY MEAL! This enormous event provides a free, personally delivered Thanksgiving Day meal, to shut-ins and those in need who come to the church. This event is entirely free and is staffed by members and volunteers from the community and other churches. Absolutely everything is provided by donations from individuals and businesses in the communities we serve. This ministry began in 1994 from inspiration given to Bob and Norma Teta. We invite you to join us this coming thanksgiving for this incredible event!

As we journey forward, we appreciate prayers for our members and the ministries that have been entrusted to us. We also pray for wisdom and discernment, so that our labors will bear fruit unto righteousness…ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

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This brief history was recently updated as a part of the Presbytery of Philadelphia’s 300th Anniversary Year of Celebration and Witness.  The story of the congregations throughout the Presbytery were revised to remind us of our past even as we live into the present and move towards God’s promised future. Read more about the 300th Anniversary: www.presbyphl.org/300th-Anniversary.