- St. Philip’s is so tiny. Is it a real church?
- What does it mean to be an Episcopal church?
- As Episcopalians, what do you believe, exactly?
- What is a service at St. Philip’s like?
- What is your community like?
- Tell me a little about your rector.
- What outreach programs does the church sponsor/participate in? How can I get involved?
- What does fellowship at St. Philip’s look like?
- Tell me a little about the history of St. Philip’s.
- Why don’t you have a Sunday school? Are children welcome in church?
- Can I get married/baptize my child at St. Philip’s even though I’m not a member?
- What is the significance of the labyrinth on your front lawn?
St. Philip’s is so tiny. Is it a real church?
Yes, it is. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church celebrates two masses every Sunday (8:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) year-round, as well as numerous special masses throughout the liturgical calendar. On Wednesdays, the church is open for morning prayer (9 a.m.), evening prayer (6:30 p.m.) and quiet Eucharist (7 p.m.).
We pride ourselves on being a resource for the community at large. The church frequently opens its doors for readings, concerts, speakers and other events of spiritual, artistic or cultural interest. St. Philip’s hosts three separate AA meetings within its walls. Our church garden is a place of rest and prayer for locals and visitors alike. Many couples choose to be married at St. Philip’s, attracted by its simplicity, history and charm. And we are proud to host other faith communities on a regular or occasional basis.
St. Philip’s wasn’t always a church, however. Originally constructed as a one-room schoolhouse around 1810, it operated as such until declining enrollment forced it to close its doors in 1919. The building was acquired by the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1921. Today the St. Philip’s property includes the parish house at 10 Chapel Road, which opened in 2012.
We believe our small footprint is an advantage. It helps to keep our overhead low, allowing us to focus our efforts, energies and resources outward, where they are most needed.
What does is mean to be an Episcopal church?
St. Philip’s is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, a community of 138 congregations headquartered in Philadelphia, which in turn is part of the Episcopal Church, one of 38 autonomous churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
We are a diverse church body, with important commonalities. Around One Table, with its multiple resources, is a good introduction to the Episcopal identity and mission. You may also want to connect with the church’s online Visitors’ Center or with Explore the Episcopal Church on the Episcopal Café website.
As Episcopalians, what do you believe, exactly?
There’s a saying that is often used to describe the Episcopal church’s approach to faith: As we pray, so we believe.
Our prayer together shapes our beliefs and is the foundation of our common life as a church community. It is drawn from the Book of Common Prayer, which contains a short outline of our beliefs in the Baptismal Covenant. For us as Episcopalians, though, faith is not primarily a list of things people have to believe; it is a way of life that is worked out through our relationships with God and with each other. That begins as we pray together, and continues as we work together in service to our brothers and sisters – even as we gather simply to enjoy one another’s company.
The best way to experience this is to come pray with us. We welcome newcomers, including those who have been afraid, for one reason or another, that they wouldn’t be welcome in church.
What’s a service at St. Philip’s like?
Joyful. Prayerful. Warm. There tends to be a lot of talking and laughter before things get underway. Whether it’s a normal Sunday with 35 or 40 people at each of the two masses, or a special mass bursting at the seams, worship at St. Philip’s has an intimacy and immediacy that is anything but institutional.
At the same time, St. Philip’s is a sacrament- and prayer-centered church that adheres in identity and mission to the Episcopal Church USA. Our prayer is taken from the Book of Common Prayer, with Rite II used at both services. Church members help Father Ruk (commonly but not universally called “Michael”) serve at communion. All are welcome in our church to receive, and indeed, the congregation is called to communion with these words: “Jesus invited everyone to His table, so all are invited to His table today.”
As is true at most churches, the early and late services on Sundays are a bit different. The early service (8:15 a.m.) is the quieter and more contemplative of the two, with no music or singing. The late service (10:15 a.m.) tends to attract people who enjoy a more exuberant expression of their faith. Members of our choir come a few minutes before the 10:15 a.m. service to practice the hymns for that day.
Between the two services, beginning at 9:15 a.m., there may be an adult forum discussion or a special speaker. Recent adult forum topics have included Franciscan spirituality, caring for oneself while caring for loved ones, and Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.
What is your community like?
It is challenging to try to describe the personality of our community as a whole, but it is safe to say that we embrace a fairly open theology and the diversity of all God’s people. Parish life at St. Philip’s s characterized by the inclusive and joyful interaction of a small, tightly knit congregation with a deep connectedness to one another and to God. Our declaration that everyone is welcome is more than empty words.These are our marching orders as followers of Jesus Christ, who commanded us to love one another and forbade us to stand in judgment, ever.
Tell me a little about your rector.
Our rector is The Reverend Michael R. Ruk – or simply “Michael,” as he prefers to be called. You can learn more about Michael here.
What outreach programs does the church sponsor/participate in? How can I get involved?
Service is an important part of our commitment to be “boldly incarnational” in the world. You can learn more about our service activities here.
What does fellowship at St. Philip’s look like?
Thanks in part to our small size, fellowship at St. Philip’s is an everyday (or, at least, every Sunday) occurrence. It’s impossible to get “lost in the shuffle” at St. Philip’s! But lingering over coffee and baked goods after service is just one way to get to know – and be known by – other people at St. Philip’s. Other fellowship opportunities, which are open to church members and non-members alike, include:
Meeting at 9:15 a.m. between services on Sundays, our Adult Forum is a moderated discussion that explores the subjects that matter most to us as Episcopalians and people of faith generally. Recent topics have included a discussion of Prayer in the Cave of the Heart and the contemplative life; Death and Dying; Caring for Loved Ones; Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment; and Franciscan Spirituality. (Franciscan Spirituality spun off its own discussion group, which met Monday evenings all through Fall 2016 and into February of 2017.)
Started in 2014, “dinner church” has become a popular way for the people of St. Philip’s to meet and talk over a good meal and a glass of wine. The discussion can go anywhere – and is always interesting! Recent dinners have been held at Caleb’s, The Café Blue Moose, Perfect Taste and Manon, as well as at parishioners’ homes.
There’s nothing like working side by side with people – especially for a good cause – to get to know them. Our meal-packing event on a recent Martin Luther King Day was a perfect case in point. Organized into seven production lines of about 10 people each, participants laughed, swapped stories and exchanged high fives as they worked to pack 27,000 nutritious meals for food-insecure people in our region. Check our calendar for upcoming service events — and join us!
St. Philip’s choir
Like our church itself, St. Philip’s choir is open to all comers. The choir sings at our 10:15 a.m. service and special masses, and meets at 7 p.m. on Thursdays to rehearse. In 2016, Rachel Benoit joined us as cantor/choir director, helping St. Philip’s choristers make an even more joyful noise.
We at St. Philip’s are always looking to deepen our faith and the ties of our community through engagement with leading spiritual voices of the day. Speakers have included
- Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia, author of The Irresistable Revolution: Living as An Ordinary Radical and other books
- Sara Miles, political activist, organizer and director of ministry and pastoral care at San Francisco’s St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church
- Author-theologian Matthew Fox, a leading voice in the creation spirituality movement; and Adam Bucko, co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation and co-author with Father Fox of Occupy Spirituality
- Brother John Martin of Saccidananda Ashram, a Benedictine monastic community in Tamil Nadu, India
In the fall of 2016, parishioner Liz Oliver led a compressed, four-hour introduction to the Enneagram – a sort of spiritual Myers-Briggs – for those who had missed her earlier workshops on the subject. And, for most of 2017, Liz led a workshop on St. Francis, based on the book The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life.
Tell me a little about the history of St. Philip’s.
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church has been serving people in the greater New Hope area since 1921. Our church building was constructed circa 1810 as a one-room schoolhouse. It was known as “the Philips School” because the land had been donated by a local family of that name. Walking into the church building today is like stepping back in time: Many of the school’s original features have been retained, including the dais where the schoolmaster’s (or mistress’s) desk sat.
The building was abandoned as a school in 1919 because of declining enrollment. In those days, Bucks County was the site of a number of “missions” of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Known as “center county missions,” they served the people of Langhorne, Feasterville, Southampton, Solebury, Buckingham and elsewhere.
In 1921, the old Philips School was purchased by the Diocese and the mission in New Hope was established. Between 1921 and 1943, the chapel served not only the local community but also the nearby Holmquist School for Girls. St. Philip’s shared clergy with Trinity Solebury until 1954, when it became a separate and self-supporting church under the canons of the Germantown Convocation.
In 1958, the membership of St. Philip’s established the “Friends of Saint Philip’s,” a non-profit corporation, and purchased a small house nearby for use as a vicarage and meeting place. In 2012, the church opened a new parish house at 10 Chapel Road.
Why don’t you have a Sunday school? Are children welcome in church?
St. Philip’s currently has no Sunday school because we don’t need one. Our parishioners are mostly adults, and those children who do come tend to want to sit with their families. So, yes: children are VERY welcome in church!
It is often said that parishes cannot grow unless they invest a lot of resources to attract families with young children. That is probably true in many places. At St. Philip’s, however, growth has largely been the result of adding new adult members. Should that ever change, we will shift our resources to reflect the new needs of our community.
Can I get married/baptize my child at St. Philip’s even though I’m not a member?
Yes, you can. Of course, we always hope that people who make the important decision to marry or baptize their children at St. Philip’s will continue to participate in the life of our church. But we also know this is not always possible, for a number of different reasons.
You can learn more about celebrations at St. Philip’s here.
Churches have had labyrinths in their floors since medieval times. One of the most famous labyrinths – at Chartres Cathedral in France – dates from the 13th century. Our labyrinth at St. Philip’s is a seven-circuit design based on the 16th century labyrinth at San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Monumental labyrinths date back to ancient Crete at least, and the description of a labyrinth figures prominently in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, which is centuries older.
So why would a Christian church appropriate this pagan device? At least as early as Boethius, in the 8th century, Christian writers saw the labyrinth as a symbol of life itself: a path of light and darkness, confusion and guidance. Pilgrims were encouraged to walk or crawl the path of a labyrinth as a meditative, prayerful exercise, to find direction and enlightenment.
Try walking our labyrinth. Open yourself to the possibilities, and see what you experience. To share your insight or ask a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.