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1884: Summit Presbyterian Church, Mount Airy, PA

September 25, 2012
Summit Presbyterian Church, Mount Airy, PA, undated.

Nestled in the heart of Mount Airy, Summit Presbyterian Church has a long history of missionary zeal, Church school education, leadership in community change and cultural, racial and religious diversity.

Summit began its life in 1885, when members of the Second Church of Germantown established weekly prayer meetings and a Sunday school in a school house one block away from the current sanctuary.  In 1894, the Presbytery organized a colony of Second Church members as the Summit Presbyterian Church. A few years later the congregation erected a church at Greene and Westview Streets.  To accommodate the growing congregation, a decision was made to build a larger building on the same site which was completed in 1911. In 1927 an Educational building was built to provide more Sunday School space and rooms for a variety of ministry, music and outreach activities held throughout the year. 

Summit continued to grow steadily. After World War II membership dropped off gradually and the neighborhood experienced racial change.  In the late 50s, the Session decided to reach out to the new African-American residents in the area.  Progress was slow in this inclusive outreach, but the church gradually became more representative of the community in its membership and leadership.  Many of Summit’s members played an important role in helping Mt. Airy become recognized as one of the first successfully integrated neighborhoods in America.  The community organized to resist blockbusting, panic selling, and redlining, especially during the period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The church currently has a membership of 133. 

Summit’s congregation seeks to proclaim God's love in Christ through word and deed. Our members and extended family have helped to make the Church a vibrant community member and resource where we nurture spiritual as well individual and community growth.

Summit has a long history of global humanitarian and missionary work.  At one-point Summit maintained its own foreign missionaries in India, China, Korea and Thailand.  We currently support Doctors Without Borders and several members engage in charity and missionary work in Africa.

Closer to home, our ministries include Christian Education programs for children as well as adult Bible study and forums on contemporary issues.   We provide opportunities for community fellowship through the Elder Diner program, a weekly luncheon for community members 55 or older and a monthly Men’s Breakfast.

Our efforts to bring about societal and environmental change include the work of the Social Justice and Environment Committee that promotes education and advocacy for Climate Change, Mass Incarceration, Voting Rights and Public Education.  Summit is a member of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, a state-wide organization of people of faith responding to climate change.  We join other congregations and organizations to prevent hunger and to end homelessness with our work with the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network and the Whosoever Gospel Mission.  We recently joined Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, an interfaith city-wide organization that works on issues of economic dignity, criminal justice reform and education.

Summit Church hosts a remarkable array of community and non-profit organizations.  Current and former members of our tenant community include a day-care and after school center, the P’nai Or Jewish Renewal community, a dance school and a theatre program. It is a center for community meetings and dance groups.  Weaver’s Way Co-op began in Summit’s undercroft, and like many of our tenants they have grown and built their own footprint in the Mt Airy community.  An estimated 5,000 community members utilize the services available through our ministries and tenants.

We, the people of Summit Presbyterian Church, believe God calls us to grow and be nourished by the Holy Spirit, scripture, tradition and reason; comfort and encourage one another; rejoice in the diversity of the human family; find Christ in service to others; and fearlessly proclaim God's love for all.

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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.