Services Still Ongoing at a Compromised Church in West Philly

The decay of various ornate churches dotted across Philadelphia has been a common discussion point among churchgoers and preservationists alike.  These physical manifestations of human excellence, aesthetics and ritual are being razed and/or sold to make room for single family homes designed with as much style as a politician’s suit.

Mount Olive AME was torn down last year

Such was the fate of St. Boniface in Norris Square. And soon will (probably?) be that of the Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden. Yea, many churches have gone on to meet the gods.

In West Philadelphia, a church at 52nd & Chester, constructed in 1910, suffers from a collapsing roof, boarded up windows and holes punctured in its stained glass windows. Yet, according to a sign posted at the property, the Word Tabernacle Baptist Church (WTBC) hosts Sunday worship at 9:30.

The church
Broken windows
Services still ongoing

We know it’s been written numerous times, but it is upsetting to see these old buildings suffer to the test of time. It’s a testament to the community and the pulpit that its members continue to enter this compromised building to hear the testament of the Lord. And looking at their Facebook page, an active community is apparent. But who knows how close church officials are to hanging a For Sale sign from those old stones? And who knows what buyer might be interested in a church in a neighborhood that might be considered a few blocks too far outside the rebirth of West Philly, just beyond Cedar Park and on the fringe of Kingsessing?

Looking down Chester Ave.

Just across the street from this church stands an abandoned building. As Chester Avenue proceeds southwest, blighted and abandoned Victorians line the way. These structures at 52nd and Chester serve as two icons for needed revitalization in the Southwest. Perhaps this is an item that will come up during University/Southwest planning for Phila2035.

–Lou Mancinelli