1933: Glading Memorial Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
We are a congregation in lower North East Philadelphia. We were started as a mission from Covenant Church in Germantown in the 1920s. We met in a house on Bridge St. Eventually, we outgrew our literal home and applied for a grant from the presbytery. We were given the Glading Sisters’ grant monies to build our sanctuary, hence our name, Glading Memorial. It was constructed in 1933. We grew and added on a gym and a Sunday School building in the 60s. Our pastors have generally had 10-20 year tenures, so the complete list is short. Just recently, we called our first woman pastor, Rev. Samantha Hudson. Our living memory is incredible as we have many members since the 40s or 50s still with us. Oh, the stories we can share about having to add chairs in the aisle for Christmas or Rally Day; the bazars held to raise money for Sunday School; the ‘discussions’ had about whether food’s allowed in the church parlor, and how to place the flowers.
Like so many other churches, our building and endowment were designed for and come from a different era when, socially, people just went to church. But now, in relationship with our recently, and quickly, culturally-changed neighborhood, we are adapting to a new way of being church. After a year of discernment, we hear God’s call for us to be a church whose mission is to be local, transformative and personal.
We are a church who loves the city of Philadelphia. We boldly declare our belief that God loves this city, when it seems so many would ‘boo’ it. We go to Phillies games for fellowship. We partner primarily with NE ministry partners. While we do keep a global perspective—we recently went on our first international mission trip ever!—, it is our call to do the work immediately around us. We have no parking lot and are really only accessible to our neighbors who can walk here; but that does make us very connected with the closest blocks. We open our church buildings to the primary needs in our neighborhood: children. The Police Athletic League runs full time out of our gym, reaching over 500 kids yearly, and we have a great day care in our other building, Amazing Kidz.
We are a church who believes in the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Our mission is to transform the lives of our members and neighbors. We believe in empowering the next generation, and so we provide parent cafes to strengthen families, partnering Turning Points for Children. And we believe that transforming someone’s living situation is a crucial way to transform their whole lives, so we partner with Interfaith Hospitality Network to offer temporary housing, especially for families to stay together. We support the transforming work of Vision for Equality, which empowers people with disabilities and their families to seek quality and satisfaction in their lives.
We are a church that operates through personal relationships. In worship, the passing of the peace is one of the most significant moments where we all get out of our seats and greet every single person with the peace of Jesus Christ. Our Deacons care for those in great need in our congregation with personal cards, calls, and visits; and our annual Deacon dinner. And we lift up especially the young people in our church, financially supporting their college education.
We, of course, wonder about the future of our congregation, as finances are always troubling. But we believe that as long as we continue to follow God’s call, whatever happens, God will be with us.
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.