St. Stephen's Church, Tenth Below Market, Center City Philadelphia

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Conceived to be a landmark, with excellence in mind, and with its eminent leadership sparing nothing in its creation, St. Stephen's Church quickly rose to prominence after its founding in 1823. Erected on the site where Benjamin Franklin flew his famous kite, William Strickland, America's premiere colonial architect, designed a church building with a facade reminiscent of Mozart's St. Stephen's in Vienna, which endures as the first example of colonial gothic architecture, paving the way for the soon to come gothic revival. Philadelphia's first stained glass windows were made in England and installed at the church. As the Victorian age progressed, St. Stephen's proceeded to assemble a superb collection of ecclesiastical art created by world renowned masters.

The first rector, The Rev. Dr. James Montgomery, a nephew of Bishop William White and student of Bishop Hobart, set a spiritual tone which was a harbinger of a later catholic spiritualism in the Church. Subsequent leadership focused on St. Stephen's as an open center for spiritual renewal for all. A famous healing ministry, founded by The Rev. Dr. Alfred Price, led St. Stephen's through the post World War Two era. Dr. Price very much described the philosophy of this unique place when he said, "St. Stephen's Church has its roots deeply implanted in the complex streams of life which make our city a living organism of social power, for good and for evil. So, St. Stephen's is in this particular geographical spot by choice."

As the parish begins a new century, it faces new challenges and new ministries. The traditional membership base of this downtown parish was eroded decades ago so that the church stands in a largely retail nonresidential area. New constituencies and ministries have emerged from deep roots of the past. The unique architecture and art work has provided an inspiring backdrop for what has become, for many, a quiet spiritual counterpoise; a friendly sanctuary for those who seek a tranquil, stopping off place during their movement through urban Philadelphia. With the opening of the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the church's front yard, a new consciousness and ministry is evolving in the Market East neighborhood. The Church has been a venue for cultural programs and meetings ranging from quiet prayer days to Shakespeare and recitals. Our latest initiative is with Thomas Jefferson University where we are developing a mission to the students and staff there. St. Stephen's has continued with a strong tradition of creative leadership in music and liturgy which is both accessible and inspiring at the same time. St. Stephen's opens its arms to all as a place of witness, prayer, respite and inspiration.