History

 
 

An account of the early history of the parish written by the late Fr. Joiner (Rector 1920-1955),  in 1934, can be found here.

A collection of materials pertaining to the history of S. Clement's Church can be found here on Project Canterbury. 

A Brief History of S. Clement's Church.

On September 13, 1855, a charter was granted to "The Rector Churchwardens, and Vestrymen of S. Clement's Church in the City of Philadelphia." The first Rector was the Rev'd Henry S. Spackman, who was elected as soon as the first charter was received, and his rectorate began officially on January 1st, 1856.

The cornerstone was laid on May 12, 1856, by The Rt. Rev'd Alonzo Potter, Third Bishop of The Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The land on which S. Clement's was built was furnished by William Wood, a relative of Dr. Spackman. He owned most of the land in this section of Philadelphia and was eager that a church should be built, not so much because of any religious devotion on his part, but because he felt the erection of a church would greatly enhance his residential projects.

John Notman was the architect for S. Clement's. He also designed and built S. Mark's church on Locust Street, the Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, and with Napoleon La Brun was associate architect for the Roman Catholic Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on Logan Square. S. Clement's Church was three years in erection, because of recurring financial difficulties. Contemporary evidence indicates that at one time all work was stopped and the building stood roofless for a long period. It was opened, however, for services on the first Sunday in January 1859. There is no record of any service for the congregation before the opening of the new building.

The Church was consecrated on April 12, 1864. Bishop Potter again officiated, and was assisted by Bishop Stevens, Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese, and Bishop Lee of Delaware.

The influence of the Catholic Revival on the parish with the election of the Rev'd Herman Batterson in March 1869 Fr. Batterson was a well-known figure in the Church because of his official connection with the Guild of the Holy Cross, a devotional guild, which had as its aim the development of the Catholic life among the members of the Church. Fr. Battersonbegan, immediately upon his accession, to teach the Catholic Faith, and by him were laid the foundation stones for all that S> Clement's has been able to accomplish in the past and for which she still bears witness today.

During Lent of 1874, a very remarkable mission was preached in S. Clement's by two priests of the English House of the Cowley Fathers. It made a tremendous sensation all over Philadelphia and led to the request the following year that the Society of S. John the Evangelist should take charge of the parish.

Brother Mayard, an SSJE lay brother, was with the Cowley Fathers for many years and left as his memorial a wonderful decoration of sunflowers on the ceiling of the Nave. When confessionals were installed in the Church, Brother Maynard was responsible for their construction. One of the confessionals is still in the S. John's Chapel.

S. Vincent's Guild for Acolytes was founded at S. Clement's Church as a local guild in 1877. Long after the rule was formed and the manual printed, a copy was sent to the Rector of the Church of the Advent in Boston, who was planning to establish a similar guild for his own servers. Becausethe Advent guild was more aggressive in furthering the work of servers, it has been generally supposed that S. Vincent's Guild originated in Boston, but the circumstances here seem to indicate that it had its inception at S. Clements, Philadelphia.

In March 1895, The Rev'd George Moffett became Rector. His coming ushered in a new era of prosperity for the church. He built the present clergy house; began perpetual reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the Crypt Chapel; was the first to use the term "Mass" officially in the parish; put the first side altar in the church, and moved the Baptistery from the head of the south aisle to the rear of the north aisle. Fr. Moffett served until his death November 12, 1904.

The Rev'd Charles S. Hutchinson was elected Rector in June 1905. During his rectorate the present Parish House was built; the new organ installed the east end of the Church; the east end of the Church was entirely renovated and beautified, and the Lady Chapel (Boudinot Chantry) was erected.

Father Hutchinson left the parish in 1920 to become Dean of the Cathedral in Milwaukee, and subsequently Rector of S. John's, Newport, R.I. The Rev'd Father Franklin Joiner, his curate, succeeded him as Rector. During Fr. Joiner's rectorate, beautificationof the church continued. The present pulpit and its baldacchino was added. Later, new Stations of the Cross were erected; the stained glass windows installed; the High Altar, pulpit, and Stations were polychromed ,and the Shrine of Our Lady of Clemency was dedicated (1943).  Fr. joiner presented the church with the Statue of S. Clement as a thank-offering for his silver jubilee of ordination (1944), and prior to his retirement, the S. John's Chapel was remodeled. As years passed, the renovations in S. Johns proved an increasing dissapointment to the parish. In the late summer of 1978, a thorough restoration of the chapel took place. The restored S. John's Chapel has a fine altar triptich by Davis D'Ambly, a local artist.