This is a special Sunday. I know I’ve written that before, but really: this is a special Sunday. Today we are honored to welcome our Mother parish, Holy Apostles and the Mediator for a special shared Eucharist AND we are honored to welcome Madeleine Diana Fleckser into Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church through the Sacrament of baptism. Each of these two events are exciting and wonderful in their own right, but they are also integrally connected. Our history reveals part of this connection.
In 1868, the vestry and rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square decided to establish a mission church to serve the growing post-Civil War population of southwest Philadelphia. They partnered with Church of the Mediator in Philadelphia. The church that grew from that partnership was Church of the Holy Apostles, first located on 21st & Christian streets. By the early 20th century, Church of the Holy Apostles became the largest parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. In the early years of the 1900s there were 5,000 children enrolled in the weekly Sunday School. Around this time, Church of the Mediator and Holy Apostles decided to partner, and a new building, Chapel of the Mediator, was built on 51st and Spruce streets in West Philadelphia in 1919. The establishment of this chapel reflected the congregation’s movement from south to west Philadelphia. As this migration increased after the First World War, the Chapel of the Mediator flourished, while the congregation which met at the original Holy Apostles diminished.
In 1944, the original Holy Apostles building was sold and the parish was consolidated in West Philadelphia. The church was renamed Holy Apostles and the Mediator. In 1950, Holy Apostles and Mediator established the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in Penn Wynne. This reflects the fact that many members of the congregation were moving farther and farther west into the suburbs, a movement that has been dubbed “white flight.”
The funds from the sale of the original building on 21st and Christian streets were used to buy this property and build the parish hall. Throughout the 50s, Holy Apostles and the Mediator raised money to build our church building, while financially sustaining this new congregation and ensuring that its first priests, Robert Bauer and John Kolb were paid. When the church was built in 1959, the furniture from the original Holy Apostles in South Philadelphia was installed here: the altar and reredos (the wood panel behind the altar), the pulpit, the lectern, and the baptismal font. Thus, Holy Apostles and the Mediator is responsible for the holy physical objects that shape our worship of God here in Penn Wynne every week.
The font that baby Maddie will be baptized in this morning was originally given to the church in 1896 by George C. Thomas, who was, along with his wife, the primary benefactor to Holy Apostles in all of its incarnations. Over more than a century, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been baptized in this very font. That means something. Baptism is a spiritual and mystical tie which binds every Christian in every time and every place to each other and to Christ. This baptismal font is a tangible, physical link between what has ultimately become Church of the Holy Apostles, Penn Wynne and Holy Apostles and the Mediator. It is a physical reminder that our histories and destinies in Christ are bound up with each other. We are because they are, and this font reminds us of the debt of gratitude that we owe our Mother congregation, whose generosity benefits us every Sunday and especially on Sundays like this. Hopefully this baptismal font will serve today as a symbol of our friendship, our mutual love for each other, and the joy we share in worshipping our God together as sisters and brothers.