Friday, March 7, 2014

How old is your church?

Christ Church Sellers Ave. Ridley Park from the late 1940's

As I showed in last weeks column, church histories can be a nightmare. Most church histories tend to be very good, EXCEPT for age and that is what I want to talk about today. Some churches date there church from when members first began to meet to start the church, some churches when they were chartered, and others when the church was officially dedicated. The difference between the first couple meetings and the time a church is dedicated can be years. My church was dedicated in 1879 and the 100th anniversary was held in 1979, even though newspaper accounts showed meetings to organize the church were held in the summer of 1877. As a historian I always have thought when the church first starts meeting to organize, is when the a church "officially" starts, but many people do not buy into that theory. A church I was just researching is a perfect example, it started prior to 1836, bought property and built the church in 1838, BUT their anniversary date is 1840. WHY?  because that is when the church was finally dedicated. Even when a church first began meeting can cause heated discussion. I was doing research on a Chester Pike church and they had everything, the first minute books etc. all you could ever want. Well, almost everything. I was in the newspaper looking for something else and came across in article about the church. The church had been meeting for over 6 months before anyone ever thought to take notes. Lastly,  some churches seem to pick a date right out of the blue. I have run into several churches, whose anniversary date of it's founding matches none of the above criteria. They just picked a date . The church had been built and there were meetings but nothing special happened on that date. It was just a date they picked. That simple.

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