At this point in the story of our history, I want to circle back to the founding of the Church of the Holy Apostles, and its first rector, the Rev. Dr. Charles D. Cooper. Charles Cooper was born in Albany, New York on November 5, 1813. He was educated as an engineer, but soon felt called to ministry. After study and formation, he was ordained on March 17, 1841 by Bishop William H. DeLancey, first bishop of the diocese of Western New York. Incidentally, Bishop DeLancey had deep ties to Philadelphia and had served as the 6th Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.
After ordination, Charles Cooper served as priest-in-charge of a church in Mt. Morris, NY, then Wilkes-Barre, PA, and Rochester, NY before arriving in Philadelphia in 1850 to serve as rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on Franklin and Vine streets. He served there for 18 years until his friend, Philipps Brooks, convinced him to become the first rector the new church plant, Holy Apostles in 1868. Cooper was rector at Holy Apostles for 26 years. During that time he tried to resign three times. The vestry wouldn’t let him! In 1891, three years before he was finally able to retire, the Rev. Cooper and the congregation of Holy Apostles celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. At a special service, Cooper dusted off the very first sermon he ever preached as a priest way back in upstate New York. The Scripture text that he based his sermon on was Galatians 6:14. In the King James Version—the Bible Charles Cooper and his congregations would have known—that verse reads: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” It must have been a good sermon. After it was preached at Holy Apostles, money was raised in the Sunday School and from members of the congregation, and a new pulpit was commissioned to honor the Rev. Dr. Cooper. The pulpit was to be made out wood and brass and would have four relief sculptures, one to represent each of the four Evangelists: Matthew (with an Angel), Mark (with a Lion), Luke (with an Ox) & John (with an Eagle; see Ezekiel chapter 1, and Revelation 4:6-9 to understand where these symbols came from). Near the top of the pulpit a phrase from Galatians 6:14 would be inscribed: “God Forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The pulpit was installed in the church building at 21st and Christian streets. When that building was sold in 1944, the pulpit was removed along with the lectern, altar, reredos, and other items. Those items sat in storage, until they were brought to the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in Penn Wynne, in 1950-1, where they were used in the parish hall until the new church was completed. We have been using Dr. Cooper’s pulpit ever since. For me, personally, it is a great honor and serious responsibility to preach in that pulpit. It gives me a deep sense of connection, not just with our history, but with the vast communion of saints that connects us as brothers and sisters with Dr. Cooper, and all the faithful women and men who have come before us, and have made this church what it is. My prayer is that we will continue to make that motto ring true in this church and its preaching and teaching, as well as in our own lives. Let us glory in nothing, save the cross of Jesus Christ.