“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Old St. George's

Old Philadelphia Congregations

Old St. George's Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 27, 2019
1. Old St. George's Marker
Old Saint George's (side 1)
In 1729, in Oxford, England, a group of fiery, compelling preachers began the religious movement that would become Methodism. Preaching a message of repentance and conversion, men like Captain Thomas Webb and Francis Asbury led a religious revival in the colonies as well. Old St. George's played an important role in the beginnings of Methodism. Today it stands as the world’s oldest Methodist Church building in continuous service.

Philadelphia's first Methodists were a small, dedicated group of eight men, mostly merchants and artisans, and their wives who met in a sail loft on Dock Street in 1767. As their numbers grew, the congregation purchased, in 1769, an unfinished shell with a dirt floor that had been erected in 1763 by a German Reformed congregation and already named St. George's. An estimated 2,000 attended the first service. Before the Revolution, though, Methodists still considered themselves a “society" and part of the Anglican church. Members received their Sacraments at local Anglican churches until the Methodist Episcopal Church was officially formed in 1784.

Old Philadelphia Congregations<br>(<i>marker side 2</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 27, 2019
2. Old Philadelphia Congregations
(marker side 2)
Click or scan to see
this page online
1771, St. George’s became the base of operations for Francis Asbury, "the father of American Methodism," who traveled on horseback all over the country, ordaining more than 4,000 ministers in 35 years. One of the deacons Asbury ordained was Richard Allen, the first African American licensed to preach by the Methodists. Allen left St. George's in a controversy over seating and went on to become the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. St. George's also spawned the first religious publishing company in America, the Methodist Book Concern, established by John Dickens, who was pastor in 1789.

During the great revival sparked by Methodism in 1836, St. George's again played a leadership role. Membership surpassed 3,000, and the basement story was excavated to accommodate a Sunday School. By the end of the 19th century, the industrialization of this part of the city led to a drastic decline in membership. In the 1920's, St. George's was almost demolished to make way for the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. A court battle saved the historic site, and now St. George's is known, among its many other distinctions, as "the church that moved the bridge." A National Park Service Shrine, St. George's today is a touchstone of spiritual renewal for Methodists around the world.

(side 1 photo captions)
• Richard Allen, first African American licensed to
Marker detail: St. George’s sanctuary<br>much as it has appeared since 1792 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Peter Zirnis
3. Marker detail: St. George’s sanctuary
much as it has appeared since 1792
• Captain Webb, organizer and early preacher
• Bishop Francis Asbury, first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, 1784

Old Philadelphia Congregations (side 2)
It was in Philadelphia, alone of America's colonial cities, that Quakers, Jews, Catholics and Protestants "experienced the difficulties and discovered the possibilities of fruitful coexistence that American democracy was to offer."* Philadelphia is a city that not only tolerated but welcomed diverse modes of religious practice from its beginning.

That diversity is still evident today in the Old Philadelphia Congregations, a consortium of historic churches and synagogues of different denominations working together to broaden interfaith understanding and celebrate Philadelphia’s unique contribution to religious freedom in America.

The freedom of worship mandated in William Penh's 1701 Charter of privileges ensured that Philadelphia made significant contributions to American religious history: Philadelphia is the birthplace of the Methodist, German Reformed, Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal churches in America. It is here that the first African-American bishop was named, the Hebrew Bible was first translated into English, and the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was held. And in the 1730s, Philadelphia was the
Old St. George's Marker (<i>wide view</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 27, 2019
4. Old St. George's Marker (wide view)
only place in the British Empire where a public Catholic mass could be celebrated.

In other words, Philadelphia's religious history is the nation's own.

"Because noe people can be truly happy though under the Greatest Enjoyments of Civil Liberties if Abridged of the Freedom of theire Consciences as to theire Religious Profession and Worship"
from William Penn’s Charter of Privileges for Pennsylvanians 1701

(side 2 photo captions)
• Location of the Old Philadelphia Congregations
• East Prospect of Philadelphia by Scull and Heap (copper engraving, 1756)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansChurches & ReligionColonial EraSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and the Francis Asbury, Traveling Methodist Preacher series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1729.
Location. 39° 57.317′ N, 75° 8.768′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker is at the intersection of North 4th Street and North Marginal Road, on the left when traveling south on North 4th Street. Marker is located on the sidewalk, directly in front of St. George's United Methodist Church. Touch for map.
Old St. George's Church<br>(<i>west side view • marker visible near bottom left</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 27, 2019
5. Old St. George's Church
(west side view • marker visible near bottom left)
Marker is at or near this postal address: 235 North 4th Street, Philadelphia PA 19106, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. St. George's Church (here, next to this marker); Nicola Monachesi (a few steps from this marker); St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church (a few steps from this marker); Old First Reformed (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Benjamin Franklin Bridge (about 800 feet away); Kahal Kodosh Mikveh Israel (approx. 0.2 miles away); National Funeral For President Washington (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ralph Modjeski (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
Also see . . .  Old St. George's • The Church that Moved the Bridge. This link presents photographs and video from the St. George's Museum. (Submitted on July 12, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
Old St. George's Church (<i>northwest corner view • Benjamin Franklin Bridge background right</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, June 27, 2019
6. Old St. George's Church (northwest corner view • Benjamin Franklin Bridge background right)
Marker is visible along sidewalk at bottom right.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 12, 2019. It was originally submitted on June 30, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 157 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 1, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 11, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   6. submitted on July 12, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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May. 26, 2022