1873: Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA
Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church was organized by 13 women and three men in 1873, when our land adjacent to the Bryn Mawr Hotel (now The Baldwin School) was purchased from the Pennsylvania Railroad. Our first building was a modest, green-stone chapel on the site of our current Sanctuary. Our second building, a brownstone church at the site of our current Chapel, was completed in 1886 to seat 500.
The vision of our congregation was apparent in 1927, when the present Sanctuary was built to seat 1,200 — double the size of the congregation of that time. The old brownstone church stood next to the new Sanctuary until 1940, when its foundation and three walls became the framework of our Chapel. Three treasured Tiffany windows from the brownstone church enhance the Chapel’s north section, which follows the lines of the old Sunday School building, built in 1894.
Today, our Education Building serves as a place for engaging Sunday School classes for children up to fifth grade as well as a variety of Children and Family Ministry programs and outreach activities held throughout the year.
Our congregation has been committed to mission and outreach since the late 1800s, when BMPC became the first Presbyterian Church in America to directly maintain its own foreign missionaries. Among them was Dr. William Wanless, who established a hospital in Miraj, India, that exists to this day as a thriving medical center. The BMPC Worldwide Ministries Committee continues this work through partner organizations around the world.
Our commitment to churches in Philadelphia was formalized with an Urban-Suburban Partnership in 1998, the year of our 125th anniversary, and many of our current outreach efforts support Presbytery of Philadelphia ministries. In addition, BMPC offers financial support each year through grants to mission partners and organizations in the Philadelphia area and around the world.
Many volunteers are dedicated to our outreach efforts, including those who participate in activities organized by our Mission Council, Outreach, Worldwide Ministries, Environmental Justice, Hunger, Refugee Support, and Peacemaking and Tutoring committees. Regularly scheduled service days are opportunities for hands-on support for outreach projects, and monthly casserole blitzes provide more than 1,600 casseroles annually to help feed the hungry in the Philadelphia area.
Music and fine arts are also vibrant ministries at BMPC. Comprised of more than 80 singers, our Sanctuary Choir sings most Sunday mornings, from the beginning of September through mid-June, in addition to performing two major concerts with orchestral accompaniment per year. Our choir has toured extensively throughout the world, sharing music and mission with the places they visit.
BMPC’s Visual Arts Ministry organizes educational programs and exhibits, which are mounted throughout the year in our Ministries Center, where the church offers educational opportunities to enrich the lives of youth (grades 6-12) through adults. Weekly Wednesday night dinners in the Ministries Center’s Congregational Hall are open to the community as are exercise programs, a basketball program for children with special needs, and programs with guest speakers. The Ministries Center is connected to Converse House, home of the Middleton Center for Pastoral Care and Counseling, which provides therapy, spiritual direction education programs and support groups for the Main Line community.
Today, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church serves as a Christian community of more than 2,500 members. Known for being inclusive in welcome, creative in nurture, faithful in service and traditional in worship, our church provides opportunities to gather for worship, spiritual enrichment and reaching out in service to the community and the world.
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.