To many of Wayne’s old time residents, the picture used with this week’s column will bring back nostalgic memories of the day when this was the only school building on the entire Radnor school grounds. The building stood on part of the site of the present high school, with the old Wayne Coffee House between it and the small structure which originally housed Wayne’s early fire engines.
It was in this school building that the Wayne Methodist Episcopal Church held services while its own church edifice was being erected across the way, at the corner of Audubon and Runnymede avenues. The room which the church used was on the first floor at the front of the building. Upstairs was the Assembly Room, while the gymnasium was downstairs on the right, with classrooms on the left side.
The bell on the roof was rung each morning to call the school children in to classes. After it was taken down, when the old school building was demolished, the bell was stored away in one of the other buildings, to be brought forth on the occasion of several Radnor football victories over Lower Merion.
Ground had been broken for the new church edifice on September 30, 1890, and ten months later, almost to the very day, the dedication services of the completed church took place. Page after page of newspaper clippings, pasted in the old Church Minute Book, attest to the importance of the occasion – not only locally, but to Methodist circles in the entire Philadelphia suburban area. These dedication services took place on Sunday, June 28, 1891”… not only Dedication Day and the anniversary of the young church, but also a notable day to Methodists in all lands, in that it was the anniversary of the birth of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism”, to quote from, the then current issue of the “Wayne News.”
The day itself is described as “a perfect one… the church, with altar filled with potted plants, over which shafts of light streamed from the stained glass windows …as pretty a picture as could be presented.” Within the altar rail and on the platform were seated such dignitaries as Resident Bishop Cyrus D. Foss, Rev. George MacLaughlin, Rev. J. Hepburn Hargis, presiding elder; Dr. A.J. Kynett, secretary of the Board of Church Extension, and Rev. C.W. Straw, of Berwyn.
Leonard E. Auty, well-known tenor from Philadelphia, was the soloist. Another musical feature was an original dedication hymn written for the occasion by Rev. James Morrow, secretary of the Pennsylvania Bible Society.
And not one, but three services were held in the course of the memorable “Methodist Sunday”, as the day had been aptly named. At the conclusion of the morning service, at which Bishop Foss officiated, the Rev. George Bickley, pastor of the church, read the financial statement, showing a balance of some $6,500 still to be collected. Again to quote from the newspaper account of the occasion, “Dr. Hargis then presented the needs of the church in a brief, terse manner, collectors took their places in the aisles, and in less than an hour $3,610 of the $6,500 asked for had been contributed… the Doxology had an added meaning.”
An afternoon service beginning “promptly at three o’clock”, followed the interlude for dinner. And then there was still an evening service which was “largely attended and at which the interest of the day seemed to increase.” At the close of the sermon by Dr. Kynett, subscriptions of the day were resumed, under the direction of the apparently untiring Dr. Hargis. A final announcement reported a total of $6,005. And since the $6,500 asked for in the morning had included $500 estimated for completing the basement for social purposes, the trustees decided to postpone this part of the building program.
And so “the magnificent result of the day’s work was the raising of $6,005, the sum needed by the board of trustees for the cancellation of the entire floating debt, leaving the original funded debt of $10,000 as the only obligation against a property that cost $27,800.”
And with the conclusion of the third and final service of that memorable June 28, 1891, the actual dedication of the new church took place, with Bishop Foss using the beautiful and impressive ceremony chosen for the service “after which the congregation dispersed, well satisfed with their Dedication Day.” And well they might have been.
In connection with Pastor Bickley’s financial statement, read at the conclusion of the morning session, it is interesting to note contributions other than money which had been made to Wayne’s new Methodist Church. Mr. R.W.P. Goff. of Bryn Mawr, had donated the furniture for the pulpit, while the open fireplace had been the gift or the young men of R.C. Ware’s class. The “young ladles” of Mrs. R.C. Ware’s class had presented the furnishings of the organ loft, while the altar had been given by the little girls of Mrs. William Post’s class. The Ladies’ Aid Society had purchased a complete Communion Service, together with linen and table, the cups themselves being of solid silver. And even the “scholars of the Infant Class” had furnished the organ to be used in their own classroom. And, last, but not least, a practical gift had come from William C. Allison, of Philadelphia, in the way of “pipe and fittings for steam heating.”
Surely the Wayne Methodist Church, built some 62 years ago, was the result of concerted and loyal action on the part of young and old among its parishioners – the result of an interest in a cause and a devotion to it that has seldom been equalled in church circles anywhere. The completion of the beautiful edifice, looking in 1891 much as it looks now in 1953, had come in only a few short years after the arrival of “the Pioneers of Methodism in Wayne – Wesley G. Sentman, Homer J. Hoey, Arthur M. Ware and James Williamson, who had settled here with their families.” The spirit in which it had been done had indeed been “in harmony with the remarkable growth that in less than a decade had developed Wayne from a little hamlet of only a score or more of dwellings into one of the most desirable of suburban towns.”
(To be continued)
(There will be an interlude of two weeks in the publication of “Your Town and My Town”, the next column appearing in “The Suburban” of August 28.)