Sunday, August 31, 2014

Images of the old America, and more

It looks like the Episcopalians in the University City section of Philadelphia have sold some real estate near what's now their cathedral ("The Cathedral," formerly the Church of the Saviour); must be worth a lot. I imagine they don't draw much of a congregation; Center City just over the Schuylkill is overserved with liberal high church for gay culture vultures, and Hindu engineer Drexel U. and Jewish Penn (an Ivy) aren't interested. University City also has UniLu, University Lutheran Church, around the corner and east on Chestnut Street; charming golden-era (mid-century) modern with great liturgical taste though ELCA liberal (the Episcopalians' merger partner); a sign says "Student Congregation," probably more like "Wishful Thinking." Kids are at Hillel, practicing the faiths of India, or likely not worshipping. (The neighborhood is where I first had Indian food.) Penn's always been secular, by the way.

The Church of the Saviour's a fine 19th-century Romanesque basilica that by the golden era had been high-churched with a nice eastward altar with six candles; all gone. But you could throw a baldacchino over their new altar, face east, and have chant echoing off those stone walls, and we'd be in business.

Update: The story behind the construction.
In 2012, facing a $3.5 million bill to renovate its bell tower, current cathedral dean Judith Sullivan petitioned the Philadelphia Historical Commission for permission to demolish its parish house and rectory, both NRHP-certified buildings. They would be replaced with a 25-story apartment building wedged between the cathedral and Chestnut Street. The demolition was approved.

Maybe Philadelphia's Episcopalians are taking a cue from Trinity Church, Wall Street, one of Manhattan's richest landlords (nothing per se wrong with that). When the congregation dies out and the endowment funds start to run out, go into real estate.

Visible: the Catholic parish church, St. James, long merged with St. Agatha's to the north (now creepily condominiums — sacrilegious), a fine "plant" (sacrament factory) marred by, among other Vatican IIisms, a piano in the sanctuary when I was last there. The Newman Center's next door. Such were places to avoid 20-30 years ago, but the Catholic religious revival among the young's been under way for about 25 years; the few kids who are practicing Catholics likely want the real thing, not an imposter. (Notre Dame has a traditional Mass.)

Englishtown and Hightstown, NJ.

At the flea market in Englishtown a Coptic gentleman had this picture of Pope St. Kyrillos VI, "father to the Egyptian Christians and miracle worker," a crucifix, images of St. Michael and St. George, an icon of St. Mina, and a Western image of the suffering Christ blessing his shop.


  1. Yes, the Copts, unlike the Byzantines, don't have an aversion to western images of Christ, the Blessed Mother or the Saints. I have seen many western style paintings in Coptic parishes.


    1. After I posted the above I found this asinine comment on,60210.msg1179628.html#msg1179628

      The guy who wrote it is a Catholic convert to the Coptic Church. He uses the same tired old arguments that EOs use against the Sacred Heart about worshipping a body part and is freaking out that normal cradle Copts have no problem displaying images of the Sacred Heart in their homes.


    2. Real Eastern Christians are often a joy in person. I even got that feeling from Pope St. Kyrillos' picture and was going to take it home, but the Copt shopkeeper explained it's not for sale; it's there to bless his shop. It was on the sale shelves, not the wall, so that wasn't clear. The self-hating Westerners are toxic. You and I can see through their silly arguments but "haters gonna hate." At least real Easterners like that Copt don't care what people like that think.

  2. Lol, there is a UniLu just outside of Harvard Square, too. We used to call it LoonyTunes. Yes, with good reason. I attended several times when I was at the Div School. It was a lovely church but so far to the left it was a wonder it didn't keel over.


    Wow, the interior looks much more modern than I remember it.


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