1835: Marple Presbyterian Church, Broomall, Marple Township, PA
Marple Presbyterian Church celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2010. Our founding was recorded in the minute reporting the reception of the First Presbyterian Church of Marple Township by the Second Presbytery on October 7, 1835. It notes that "the Church ...is in a very interesting region remote from any Presbyterian Church." Apparently this mission of the Middletown Church was also remote from any concentration of Presbyterians in its early days. Reporting only 78 members in 1870, that small number, however, included some who established a mission that became the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in 1873.
Membership began to grow after World War I, reflecting the gradual change of Broomall from a semi-rural to a suburban community. By 1930 membership stood at 221, and the Sunday school enrolled 240 pupils. After World War II, when residential development transformed the community, many Presbyterian families from West Philadelphia moved in. By 1960 Marple reported a membership of 1,242, and a church school enrollment of 1,115. Membership climbed slightly to a high of 1,289 in 1970. During that period the church invested in new buildings that included generous sanctuary space as well as a separate Christian education building which also houses an industrial kitchen and event space.
During the late 20th century, cultural and local demographic changes resulted in a shrinkage of the MPC congregation. Recognizing these challenges, we have thoughtfully assessed our talents and our position in the community and have remained a vibrant if smaller congregation, committed to our members and the community.
We have a growing group of children at every Sunday's Children’s Moment, have recently expanded the number of Sunday School classes to two levels, have an active Children’s Choir, an active Youth Group, and a regular adult Christian Ed book group.
As a ministry to the regional community, we deploy our physical resources to housing homeless people at night for 1 to 2 months during the year and hosting weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. We also host regularly scheduled Cub and Boy Scout meetings, singles dances, and other community events as requested.
Responding to financial and stewardship considerations, we rent some space as well, housing a preschool, banquet hall, and Spirit of the Arts Music Academy.
Our other active ministries include Vacation Bible School, annual Strawberry Festival, Communion Lunches, Food bank, Medical Supply Lending Closet, regularly feeding individuals at the Life Center of Eastern Delaware County, and annual School Supply collections for local homeless shelters.
Through these endeavors we have strengthened community ties and gained some new attendance.
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.