Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church is the oldest surviving brick building in Philadelphia. It is the oldest church building in Pennsylvania. It is the oldest congregation in continuous existence in the United States. Thanks to the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, this great treasure is now recognized as part of the living history of Philadelphia.
As a congregation, the past plays an important determining factor in who we are and what we need to do thrive in the future. When church history is read wisely it does not enslave us; it frees us to be more committed followers of Christ. The snapshot of history below is rich with accomplishments and names of good stewards. It gives us encouragement, strength and guidance for planning for our future.
1638: The Swedes settled in the Delaware Valley.
1697: Reverend Andrew Rudman arrived from Sweden. He helped build the present church with his own hands.
1698: The first cornerstone was laid.
1700: The building was dedicated on July 2.
1777: Betsy Ross married Captain Joseph Ashbourn on June 15.
1786: Nicholas Collin arrived and used the Episcopal Prayer Book.
1843: The United Swedish Lutheran Churches (Gloria Dei; Christ Church, Upper Merion; and St. James Kingsessing) dissolved, becoming three separate churches.
1845: The Church, no longer under the control of the State Church of Sweden, applied for admission into the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and was accepted. Dr. Jehu Curtis Clay, the first Episcopal Rector, guided the destinies of the Church during the Civil War.
1903: The Hook and Hastings organ was built and dedicated.
The carved angels and open Bible that hang below the organ loft in the rear of the Church were carbon dated in 2000 to determine if they were from Sweden or carved here by a local shipbuilder. It was determined it was of yellow pine common to both Sweden and the United States at that time.