- 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?
We are a resource for the surrounding community as well. 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, including Old Path Sangha, Bucks County’s oldest Buddhist community, which has met at St. Philip’s since 1997.
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 quoted 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 80 or so people in attendance 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 are a bit different. The early service (8:15) is the quieter and more contemplative of the two, with no music or singing. The late service (10:15) 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 service to practice the hymns for that day.
Between the two services, beginning at 9:15, 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 loving and joyful interaction of a small, tightly knit congregation with a deep connectedness to one another and to God.
Our declaration that all are 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. Michael was born in Pittsburgh and raised in a Roman Catholic family. He is a graduate of Allegheny College, where he majored in political science and religious studies. He holds a Master’s degree in Theology from Duquesne University.
Michael taught high school in Natrona Heights, Pa., for a number of years before deciding to enter seminary. He graduated from the Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wisc., and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2003. Before becoming rector at St. Philip’s in 2012, he served at Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh; St. Paul’s, Levittown; and All Saints, Fallsington.
He is able to perform marriages in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Michael’s interests include liturgy, monasticism, inter-religious dialogue and issues of social justice. He loves traveling for the chance it gives him to experience different cultures — and cuisines — and he is not one to pass up a good Broadway show, ever.
Michael serves as dean of Bucks County’s 17 Episcopal churches.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-862-5782.
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. A partial list of our ministries and service events follows. Just as all are welcome at our Sunday services, all are welcome to participate in outreach at St. Philip’s. You don’t have to be Episcopalian or to attend St. Philip’s to take part. Just check our calendar of upcoming events — and come “walk the walk” with us:
Ongoing ministries and events
Amnesty International’s “Write for Rights”
In December 2016, for the second year in a row, a group of parishioners participated in “Write for Rights,” an Amnesty International initiative designed to let political prisoners — and the governments holding them — know they are not forgotten. Over the course of a single afternoon at St. Philip’s, more than 250 letters and cards were written to prisoners of conscience and their captors. We look forward to reprising this event in December 2017 and every December for as long as people are interested. Contact Liz Oliver at email@example.com for more information.
The Code Blue Project for Central Bucks is an outgrowth of the Coalition to Shelter and Support the Homeless (CSSH), an alliance of faith-based and community service organizations. It provides shelter for homeless adults on nights when the temperature (or windchill) is expected to be 26°F or below, or if excessive snow or ice is expected.
Host churches agree to provide space for shelter, kitchen facilities for meal preparation, storage of Code Blue supplies and an onsite coordinator for one month each during the winter. Host church sites for the winter of 2015-2016 are Neshaminy Warwick Church; Trinity Episcopal Church, Buckingham; Doylestown Presbyterian Church; and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Doylestown.
With limited physical space for shelter, St. Philip’s provides financial support and donated items (bedding, blankets, food supplies), and church volunteers help move Code Blue supplies between host churches and into storage come springtime. We are always in need of volunteers as well as cars, vans and trucks to do this. In addition, Code Blue is looking for people to work the overnight shift at the churches being used for shelter. These volunteers (unlike those moving supplies) must participate in a training session prior to volunteering.
People become homeless for many different reasons, many of them beyond their control. To get involved in this vital ministry, visit www.cssh.org directly or contact St. Philip’s Code Blue Transport Coordinator Jan Gnadt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the past couple of years, two of our parishioners have driven to Mexico with a carload of diapers, baby wipes, powdered milk and other necessities bought with donations from other parishioners, family and friends. These goods are then distributed weekly, benefiting 25 children and several elderly people in the Puerto Vallarta area. To donate, participate or learn more, contact Lupe Summers at email@example.com.
Folder Drive with The Simple Way
In 2016, in partnership with our friends at The Simple Way, members of St. Philip’s collected more than 1,200 two-pocket folders for school kids in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, where The Simple Way is headquartered. (Our 2015 back-to-school drive netted more than 1,000 composition-style notebooks.) Each year, The Simple Way tells us which school supplies are in greatest need.
The Simple Way is a nonprofit organization and community that describes itself as “a web of subversive friends conspiring to spread the vision of ‘Loving God, Loving People, and Following Jesus’ in our neighborhoods and in our world.”
Free the Girls
In November 2015, St. Philip’s held its second “Free the Girls” drive, collecting many hundreds of gently used bras to benefit sex-trafficking survivors. Free the Girls is a U.S.-based nonprofit that helps formerly enslaved women set up micro-businesses selling secondhand bras in Mozambique, Uganda and El Salvador. Joining St. Philip’s in this effort were Mom’s Club of Buckingham North and three area Episcopal churches: Holy Nativity of Wrightstown; Trinity Church, Buckingham; and Trinity Church, Solebury.
Now we’re at it again, collecting bras at the church for the month of February 2017. Have any bra “mistakes” at the back of your drawer? Bring them to church, and we’ll make sure they’re used to help vulnerable women get back on their feet. Interested in starting your own drive? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In-Church Food Collection
St. Philip’s collects non-perishable food items every week and takes them to the Food Pantry at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Lambertville, N.J. Since the recession began in 2008, demand for food has consistently outstripped the Food Pantry’s ability to provide assistance to all who need it. To help, contact Jamie Hagan at email@example.com, or simply bring non-perishable food items to St. Philip’s and drop them in the basket by the front door (please see the list there of most-needed items).
Needlework Guild of America (NGA)
For more than 60 years, the Needlework Guild at St. Philip’s has been helping people in our community secure clean, warm clothing and other necessities.
In recent years, we’ve been able to gather hundreds of new or gently used items, including winter coats for children, blankets, and men’s and women’s clothing, which in turn have been distributed by NGA to local agencies such as the Salvation Army. St. Philip’s is joined in this effort by Doylestown United Methodist Church and Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, also of Doylestown.
Each November, we hope to increase from past years the number of winter “Coats for Kids” we collect. Contact Penny Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org to donate or otherwise help out.
Are you homebound following an illness or surgery? Do you wish you could come to services at St. Philip’s but you no longer drive? Do you need help getting to and from a medical appointment or treatment and friends and family are unable to take you?
Volunteers from St. Philip’s provide home-cooked meals, transportation and other pastoral care services to church members and others in need. For more information, contact Lupe Summers at email@example.com.
Volunteers from St. Philip’s can frequently be found cooking up something delicious in support of Peacemeal, the once-a-month dinner founded and hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church, Solebury, for people affected by AIDS. (In the warm months, the feast moves to Trinity Episcopal Church, Buckingham.) Started in 1994, when misinformation about AIDS was still rampant, Peacemeal attracts people from all over Bucks County and as far away as Philadelphia for fun, food and fellowship.To don an apron, get more information or to donate food or funds, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip’s Nablus, Palestine
St. Philip, our patron, taught and baptized in the 2,000-year-old-city of Nablus. Today, St. Philip’s Nablus is spiritual home to a tiny and beleaguered community of Palestinian Anglicans in the Diocese of Jerusalem, one of only five Anglican parishes in the Palestinian territories. Together with another Anglican parish, Good Shepherd Rafidia, St. Philip’s Nablus supports a small school, the Christian National Kindergarten, which they’d like to expand to add more grades. We help support our sister’s parish’s efforts by selling the beautiful “peace lamps” they create — working oil lamps like those of Jesus’ day — and through other fundraising activities. To purchase a lamp or otherwise support this ministry, contact email@example.com.
Socks for the Homeless
For most of us, a pair of wet socks isn’t a problem for long: We simply go home and change into a dry pair. But for people who are homeless, a pair of wet socks can mean illness and even disability, especially during the cold winter months. Hence St. Philip’s “Socks for the Homeless” drive, which collected more than 550 pairs of new socks during the 2015 Advent-Christmas season — a total we almost doubled in 2016. To participate, simply bring a donation of new socks to St. Philip’s beginning in Advent. The collected socks will be distributed to the homeless throughout the year. An estimated 80 homeless people live in the Doylestown-New Hope area.
Recent Ministries and Service Events
St. Philip’s has long supported the annual New Hope AIDS Walk — with funds, walkers, water and enthusiasm for a good cause. Sponsored by the Bucks County chapter of Fighting AIDS Continuously Together (FACT), the event was held every fall and helped support people living with HIV/AIDS in Bucks, Hunterdon and Mercer counties. The last annual New Hope AIDS Walk took place in October 2015.
From 2013 to 2016, St. Philip’s supported the primary and/or vocational education of 40 AIDS orphans in the village of Nghulugano, Tanzania, through the Carpenter’s Kids Program.The program began in 2005 as a partnership between the Dioceses of New York and Central Tanganyika, Tanzania. Before the program came to a close because of leadership changes in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, it educated more than 7,000 children through the participation of Episcopal/Anglican parishes in 5 countries and 6 U.S. states.
Duduza Doll Project
From 2009 to 2013, a number of our members were involved in knitting and distributing Duduza (comfort) dolls to children affected by illness, natural disaster, war and poverty. More than 800 dolls were sent from St. Philip’s to children in Belize, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nepal and elsewhere. An anonymous donor donated a large amount of yarn for Duduza-doll makers to use, and several master knitters in our congregation taught others how to make the dolls. While this ministry is currently inactive, all it requires is a “champion” to restart. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Feeding Our Community
Our patron, St. Philip, is traditionally associated with food and the miracle of the loaves and fishes. So it’s fitting that many of our outreach efforts have involved food and sharing from our abundance:
Food with Friends — In 2015, St. Philip’s helped sister church St. Paul’s of Levittown collect money to support its “Food with Friends” program, which serves the hungry in Levittown and beyond.
Meal-packing events — In 2014 and 2015, St. Philip’s celebrated Martin Luther King Day with a “Day of Service” meal-packing event at the Eagle Firehouse in New Hope. Undertaken in partnership with Outreach, Inc. of Iowa, St. Philip’s was joined at the 2015 event by members of Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, New Hope; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Levittown; All Saints Church, Fallsington; and assorted individuals, about 80 people in all. Organized into 7 production lines, volunteers packed 27,000 meals for the area’s hungry in the space of just two hours.
In June 2016, St. Philip’s members joined others in a meal-packing event organized by the United Way.
Philip’s Table — In Fall 2015, we hosted a “Philip’s Table” dinner to raise funds for local food pantries—and to raise awareness of hunger in our midst. Modeled after the Empty Bowls Project, an international grassroots movement to combat hunger, the dinner took place at the Eagle Firehouse in New Hope and combined delicious homemade soup with one-of-a-kind soup bowls made by area artists. Diners were encouraged to take their “empty bowls” home with them as a tangible reminder of food insecurity in our community, which often hides in plain sight. Proceeds went to Rolling Harvest Food Rescue of New Hope, among other local organizations.
Habitat for Humanity
Over the years, St. Philip’s has supported Habitat for Humanity’s home-building mission with volunteers and funds. In March 2015, a group of parishioners, joined by family and friends, journeyed to the tiny mountain village of Chirijcaja, Guatemala, for a week of bending rebar and mixing cement by hand. Per Habitat policy, they worked side by side with the recipient family (as well as a trio of local masons). By the end of an exhausting but joyous week, they had made some new friends—and constructed a 4-room cement-block house up to the crown.
Special Pride Service
Timed to coincide with the annual New Hope Celebrates (NHC) Pride Parade, a special Pride Service, with a focus on transgender concerns, was held at St. Philip’s in May 2016. The church also participated in the parade itself, as it does each year.
Interested in rolling up your sleeves with The Simple Way community in Philly? How about blessing the Delaware River, getting “Ashes to Go,” or attending a live performance of “Curiously English” music by classical artists Noelle and Sebastian Grand?
Whether it’s service-oriented, sacramental or cultural in nature, there’s always something happening at St. Philip’s. Check out our calendar of upcoming events—and check back often for updates.
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 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 the new year.)
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. (In 2017, we’re aiming for a mix of home-hosted potlucks and dinners out.) Dinners occur monthly; see our events calendar for time and place.
There is nothing like working side by side with someone—especially in a good cause—to get to know him or her. Our meal packing event on Martin Luther King Day was a perfect case in point. Organized into 7 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!
Like our church itself, St. Philip’s choir is open to all comers. The choir sings at late (10:15) service and special masses, and meets at 7 pm 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.
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 originally 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 due to declining enrollment.
In those days, Bucks County was the site of a number of different “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 over age 40, and those children who do come (mostly at the holidays) 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.
What is the significance of the labyrinth on your front lawn?
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 email@example.com.