The History of St. John's

The size and beauty of the building does great credit to the zeal of the few members of our community resident in the small town and its vicinity.

Bishop William White, May 3, 1815

Saint John's Episcopal Church was organized on December17th, 1812, with a charter granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on January 4th, 1813. Ground was broken for the church later that year, and the building was completed in 1814. The church was consecrated on April 6th, 1815 by the Rt. Revd. William White, first Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Saint John's is the oldest church in Norristown (having been organized nine months after the incorporation of the Borough of Norristown) and the first organized in Montgomery County after the American Revolution.

From the beginning of its history, members of the parish served their community as well as their church. Levi Pawling, founder and church warden at St. John's, was also a burgess of Norristown. The Rev. Bird Wilson, who was president judge of Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware Counties when he helped establish the church, became the third rector of St. John's. St. John's also founded the two other Episcopal churches in town, All Saint's in 1872 and St. Augustine of Hippo in 1929.

As is to be expected of an organization that so closely shares the town's history, St. John's has shared its fortunes as well. As Norristown thrived, so did St. John's. The scale of the church' structure and the beautifully executed ornamentation of its interior reflect these prosperous times. The town, however, began to experience economic decline from the 1970s onward, and many area churches started to relocate to the suburbs. The people of St. John's decided to remain in the center of Norristown and minister to the community they had served since the establishment of the borough.

Rising to this challenge, the parish began an active outreach program in central Norristown. In the 1980s St. John's opened a soup kitchen, which now serves an average of six hundred meals per week.  St. John's was no mere historic monument, but was an active church which genuinely served its community by providing a unique array of services and relief to those in need.

Until June 28, 2015, St. Johns Church, stood as the oldest church building in continuous use by an Episcopal congregation in Montgomery County and with the exception of the Soup Kitchen, now passes into history.

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