Did you know that our church has roots dating back 256 years? Did you know there is a time capsule buried in our church walls? We've been through many transformations and have come out of the merger of several different Presbyterian denominations. Through it all, we are proud of our loving, diverse, and community-engaging congregation.
The History of Penn Wynne Presbyterian Church
First meeting of Scot's Presbyterian Church
Scot's Presbyterian Church Built
John Adams attended the church
British took over Philadelphia
A merging in the denomination causes the First Associate Scot's Church to become the First Associate Reformed Church
A union occurred and the new denomination was called the United Presbyterian Church
West Hope Presbyterian Church built
Congregation merged as a result of the pandemic and World War and moved to Penn Wynne area.
A merger between West Hope Presbyterian and a mission church in Penn Wynne established a church, Christ West Hope, on our current property.
Penn Wynne Presbyterian Nursery School was founded.
written by Rev. Dr. Lisa C. Farrell
Most people living in Penn Wynne would be very surprised to learn that the Presbyterian church they pass by every day has some very old roots. That’s because we come out of the merger of several different Presbyterian denominations and more than a few congregations. Our earliest congregation was the Scot’s Presbyterian Church. Unfortunately, the building no longer exists, although some of the surrounding homes on Spruce Street between 3rd and 4th streets do. They met for the first time in 1764 in a hall but were able to build the church by 1770. The Scots Church congregation were a rebellious bunch. John Adams attended the church in 1772 and described them as “not very genteel” but all patriots who supported the revolutionary war. They suffered for it when the British took over Philadelphia in 1777 and Hessian troops made themselves at home in the building, and looted the pastor’s furniture in the manse next door.
This denominational line went through several more transformations with buildings scattered throughout the city of Philadelphia. In 1919 on the heels of a pandemic and a world war, the congregation could no longer sustain itself and merged with another church whose origins had begun in 1848. They also moved several times mostly within West Philadelphia, finally ending up in what is now the Armenian Catholic Church in Penn Wynne.
On the other line of descent were Presbyterians who began a Sunday School mission in Mantua, West Philadelphia. The mission evolved into a congregation and they were finally able to build a church in 1874. That original building is now the church hall of the larger building that was erected on Preston and Aspen Streets in 1892. (It is now a Baptist Church.) This congregation was called West Hope Presbyterian, and its corner stone is located in the front of our current church building halfway down the stairs in the front stairway going into the auditorium. A time capsule is also buried in our walls, and a plaque commemorating soldiers from World War I is outside the main office. West Hope was a thriving congregation for many years, but after World War II it too had declined in size. Many members had moved to a strange new place called Penn Wynne. And there was a mission church there, located in an old carpenter’s shop on the present property. A decision was made to merge, and our congregation was created in 1948, although at that time it was called Christ West Hope. This was an amazing congregation and incredibly active in the community. Ladies from the church founded the library, and the land on which it stands was donated by the church.
By 1973 the Presbyterian Church up the street, (then Wynnewood Presbyterian) and Christ West Hope were in the same denomination. The decision was made to merge and to use the larger building. Penn Wynne’s Nursery School was founded by the pastor’s wife at that time, Dottie Doherty. There was one classroom. In the 1980s the congregation did a survey of the neighborhood to find out what the greatest local need was and discovered it was childcare, and thus the Latchkey Program was born. A half day kindergarten program seemed a logical next step. In normal times the Penn Wynne Church building is occupied from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The current congregation is very different from the first, although I probably would have to say we are a bit of a rebellious bunch. We would have hidden people from the redcoats. And in a supreme bit of circular history the current pastor, Rev. Dr. Lisa C. Farrell, graduated from the same university as the first pastor, Rev. William Marshall, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.