Swarthmore United Methodist Church Celebrates 125 Years

SUMC in the beginning

Growing Up with the Town

Members of Swarthmore United Methodist Church celebrate its 125th year as a house of worship next weekend, and invites all the public to join them in several events.

On Saturday evening, September 16, SUMC presents a free outdoor concert by SwUKEstra on the church lawn at 129 Park Avenue (inside the church if it rains.) Come from 6 to 7:30 p.m., bring a picnic dinner, and spend a relaxed summer evening with friends and neighbors.

On Sunday, September 17, all are welcome to join a service of celebration at the church, beginning at 10 a.m. A free luncheon will follow the service at the church.

A Bit of History

At the turn of the 20th century, Swarthmore was a young borough, only seven years old. A flower garden was planted down the middle of Park Avenue, and new homes were under construction. Aside from the Friends Meetinghouse on the Swarthmore College campus, there was no place of Christian worship until a group of 22 Methodists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians came together to worship in July 1888 as a Union Church.

Swarthmore United Methodist Church, circa 1925

The charter for this union church, the Union Evangelical Church, was created on November 29,1892, the date used as the reference for SUMC’s 125th anniversary.

The first pastor was a retired Methodist minister, the Rev. John Cass, who was also the editor and publisher of a paper that eventually became The Swarthmorean.

Within a few years, the Episcopalians and Presbyterians split off to form their own congregations, and in 1901, a charter was signed, transferring Union Chapel to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

By 1925 the church had outgrown the chapel building, so the present sanctuary building was erected in 1926 and then expanded in 1963 to form our present space.

This 1963 expansion included the installation of the Casavant organ that marked an era of fine musicianship.

Twenty-seven pastors have served the Swarthmore United Methodist Church since 1902. Thousands of Christians have called this place home and have been equipped for Christian service.

SUMC today

In 2017, SUMC is looking to the future of Christian ministry in Swarthmore, neighboring communities, and the larger world. We are also taking time to reflect back on our beginning as a union church, where a diverse group of Christians came together for the good of the community.

Please join us September 16 and 17 as we celebrate the past and present, and look to the future.

— Sheila Bell

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