Day 7 – Philadelphia
Tucked in an historic neighborhood just south of Independence Hall, we stayed in a little third floor loft. It was from this apartment that we streamed worship today, transforming the living room into a worship space. Providing a deep dive back into our FBC Savannah community, worship was a wonderful opportunity to slow down from the fast paced pilgrimage.
After worship, we packed up all of our audio and video equipment into our backpacks and traipsed the mile and a half west toward First Baptist Church of Philadelphia. We were greeted at the door by Pastor James Williams, who began his tenure as pastor at FBC Philadelphia in January, just three months before the pandemic hit. He graciously showed us around the building, escorting us into the grand sanctuary complete with great stained glass windows of the four Gospel writers and Saints Peter and Paul. The gilded sanctuary is no longer used by FBC Philadelphia, as they sold their building and are now renting from the new owners, Liberti Church. Liberti Church uses the sanctuary now for their services, though the sale contract included a part that requires them to maintain the integrity of this sacred space.
We have found it most interesting the different ways that each of these historic city churches has approached their building. Each one has treated their space differently. Several have become landlords in order to offset the costs of building maintenance. Others, like FBC Philadelphia have sold their building in order to no longer be responsible for building maintenance.
This move for FBC Philadelphia has freed them financially to continue as a church defined by its service to the community. They have a thriving ministry to those experiencing homelessness and other urban ministries that are necessary in a city like Philadelphia. In their history, one of their congregants describes the building as an “albatross around their neck.” When Liberti Church took ownership, they committed to a major renovation, something that benefited FBC as well.
We preached our homilies for November 8th in their space. It will be our stewardship Sunday and we wanted to highlight the ways in which FBC Philadelphia has been able to continue serving their community century after century. As we approach our stewardship Sunday, it is important for us to recognize the ways our gifts and pledges lay a foundation for years to come.