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Found out yesterday that Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church (OCA) in South Philadelphia is closing after St Thomas Sunday. For the past few years it's been like my second parish, my Saturday Vespers in English one where for a while I was a regular helping sing the service from the kliros up in the back loft. It even had a real bell in the tower that announced the service (like a village church in England and other places).

It began like a lot of Metropolia parishes as a schism from the Greek Catholics but with a twist. In 1912 nearby Holy Ghost Church, then in Passyunk Avenue in a little Victorian Gothicky building and the oldest Eastern-rite church of any kind in the city, became Orthodox but the next year went back under Rome where it remains to this day (now at 24th and Wolf streets in a 1920s basilica-style home). Those who wanted to be Orthodox moved a few blocks away and built a set of red-brick buildings including a handsome little church. It originally had fine silver onion domes but those blew down, I think in a 1950s windstorm possibly a hurricane. As long as I can remember it had modern metal-skeleton ones that didn't match the building.

The old rectory was a rowhouse down the street; I knew an old priest's son who was born there in the 1920s. One of the few local parishioners, whose father co-founded the church, lived in or near it as of a few years ago.

(A treat of the neighbourhood is in the summer seeing the cats, like the people, hang out on the houses' front steps like the good honorary Italians the cats are.)

As recently as 25 years ago it was a lively community, a real parish with people of all ages and a social life (bowling for example). But the neighbourhood changed, the old parishioners died and the young ones moved away. Yet every week the priests and reader opened up the church and soldiered on.

Because the history of its founding was so long ago - time heals all wounds - it was also a place for grassroots, entirely by the rules ecumenism. Holy Ghost's people didn't come for Vespers but the priest did; we'd often sing the service at the kliros together. Afterwards I, he and Assumption's two priests often would have dinner at the Penrose Diner, sometimes meeting up with one of the local Italian RC priests and talking about things in common such as saints and their miraculous relics.

Assumption of course was ethnic Ruthenian and it never was entirely russified. The old parish record forms still were in Ruthenian (year = rok in Latin script) as well as English and the music a mixture of Ruthenian (the melody for the litany was a variation of that at Holy Ghost) and Russian.

Вечная память.

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It will always be an awesome place in your heart.
Lord of the Powers be with us, for in times of distress we have no other help but You.
Lord of the Powers, have mercy on all those who are present to your Altar in his precious parish, all those who were ever present to you as family in this parish, and may the souls of the faithful departed from Assumption of the Holy Virgin have Eternal Memory.

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How very sad. Memory eternal!



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You might want to try ROCOR's Church of Our Lady (560 North 20th Street). My daughter has been going there since she began attending UPenn, and likes it very much. I went to Vigil there, and found the people very young, very pious and very friendly.

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May the memory of Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church and all those who served her and worshipped there be eternal


"One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
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Good news: somebody told me today that Assumption is still open.

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Saint Michael's Russian Orthodox Church (Fifth and Fairmount) is flourishing with an excellent priest, having recovered from a terrible bout of litigation about fifty years ago. Divine Liturgy is in English.

Fr. Serge

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Apparently the parish is still alive and kicking. I have met the priest assigned there on a few occasions and he has given no indication that the parish will be closing anytime soon.

http://www.oca.org/DIRlisting.asp?SID=9&KEY=OCA-EP-PHLAHV

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How do rumors like this get started?


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