The Saint Andrew's Story
THE EARLY YEARS
The story of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church begins in November of 1832, when neighbors met at the house of Jacob Ludwig to discuss formation of a new church in the area. Some of those attending the meeting at Ludwig's house wanted to form a union church, bringing together Lutherans, Baptists, and other Christians in one congregation, others wanted an Episcopalian church, and under the influence of the Rev. Levi Bull - an Episcopalian evangelist and church builder - an Episcopal congregation formed.
In short order, the new congregation received a gift of land, raised sufficient funds to erect a building, called a rector, and - perhaps influenced by the name of an earlier church of unknown denomination that stood on the same land - opened the present St. Andrew's Church just a year after that first meeting. The first rector, the Rev. Cyrus Jacobs, was both a brother-in-law and evangelical ally of Levi Bull, and within one year baptized 37 adults and seven infants.
After Jacobs returned to Virginia in 1836, however, St. Andrew's began to decline. From time to time, St. Andrew's shared rectors with neighboring Episcopal churches; but finally, at the opening of the Civil War, the church was closed after the rector resigned to return to Virginia and serve with the Confederacy. Reopened in 1866, the church soon closed again, and was periodically reopened under the leadership of rectors from other churches. In 1920, the church was closed again, apparently forever. Shortly thereafter, the corporation was dissolved and the property turned over to the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
THE REBUILDING OF OUR CHURCH
Protected by its isolation and by a small endowment for its maintenance, the church building survived. Then, in 1950, a group of area residents petitioned the bishop to reopen the church. Even though only four of this early group were Episcopalians, 15 families pledged $100 apiece and with the help of The Reverend Croswell McBee, retired rector of St. David's Church in Radnor, and the support of Owen J. Roberts, retired Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court - St. Andrew's reopened, reincorporated, and restored. The windows, the box pews, the oil lamps, the Caribbean tray ceiling and theater-style sloping floor were intact, and soon the church was filled again with worship and fellowship.
In 1953, the Rev. Kenneth C. Werner began service that was to last more than 30 years. Under his care, St. Andrew's flourished, with membership rising from 1950's four communicants to 210 in 1956. In this period, the physical plant was expanded twice, a new rectory was built, and an active youth group was organized. When the Rev. Werner retired in 1984, the Rev. Dr. Joseph T. Rivers was chosen to replace him. Arriving in 1985, Father Rivers expanded use of the new prayer book, introduced the new hymnal to St. Andrew's, increased the frequency of Eucharistic celebration and added children’s sermons.
In November 1995, The Rev. Elsa Hale Mintz arrived after answering St. Andrew's call to become rector. As the population in Chester County began to grow in the mid-1990s, so did the congregation, outgrowing its sanctuary of 120 seats. After plans failed to build a new, stand-alone church, the congregation agreed to expand the original sanctuary. In June 2010 the first service was held in the new space. Adding onto the historic church meant ensuring the integrity of the Colonial Greek Revival architecture and the look and design of the existing 175 year old box pews. The new addition provides additional seating for 100, an expanded narthex, a large side hallway, an updated electrical and sound system and a tall illuminated lantern that, when lit, can be seen by the church’s neighbors.
In 2016, The Rev. Tommy Thompson came to St. Andrew's from St. Thomas Whitemarsh to serve as Rector. Father Tommy led the Church for four years and through the beginning months of the COVID-19 pandemic before leaving in late 2020.
Saint Andrew's Today
In summary, it appears that St. Andrew's has been something of a Phoenix among churches. It has strengthened and struggled, been shuttered and resurrected, and is today looking to a bright future built on a historic past.