A pillar of faith

Churchgoers and historians cherish the long lifespan of Trinity Oxford Church, and continue to make new discoveries.

Centuries of spirituality: Trinity Oxford Church, 601 Longshore Ave. in Lawndale, has been used as a place of worship for 320 years. The church recently hosted a Trinity Sunday picnic to celebrate the milestone. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Church of England services were held on this site, A.D. 1698, in a log cabin built by the Oxford Society and friends.

This church was erected 1711.

These words are engraved above a doorway at Trinity Oxford Church, located at 601 Longshore Ave. in Lawndale. As of this year, the church has been used as a place of worship for 320 years.

Back when it first opened, there was no squishy red carpeting in the church. The building’s current cruciform structure began as a rectangular room built in the 1690s. That original section now accounts for the back few rows of pews in the building’s expansion.

“This is a church that grows,” said Ginny McCracken, co-chair of the church’s historical committee. “It bends and changes. It’s been a progressive church, responsive and growing.”

The church hosted a Trinity Sunday picnic a few weeks ago to celebrate the milestone. McCracken and Kyle Sammin, the other co-chair, are working to preserve the church’s extensive history.

The spirit of Trinity: Trinity Oxford Church in Lawndale was erected 1711. Ginny McCracken, co-chair of the church’s historical committee, and Kyle Sammin, other co-chair, are working to preserve the church’s extensive history. Pictured are (from left) Debbie Klak, a local historian, McCracken, Sammin and his daughter, Paige. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

And for how old it is, they are constantly making new discoveries.

“We’ve found so much new history that it’s just amazing,” McCracken said. “In the information age, we’re able to reference and find out more that they wouldn’t have known 100 years ago.”

McCracken and Sammin have created the Facebook group Friends of Trinity to share their plentiful discoveries.

For all its growth, the church still honors its roots. Inside the structure, there are still low doors that allow access to each pew. These doors were installed because, before heating was installed, churchgoers would warm the building by keeping hot coals in the center aisle. The doors were to prevent the heat from getting too prevalent.

Along the church’s property on Disston Street, there remains a three-step elevated platform that may perplex some, because it leads to nowhere. Back in the days of horses and carriages, women would step down the platform so that their dresses would not get muddy.

The graveyard outside the church contains some of its most impressive history. The oldest known marker, a large stone that represents the final resting place for a Native American and his horse, dates to 1686, but some unknown graves could date even older.

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

People buried in the graveyard have left their mark on history on both a local and national level. The graves mark many war veterans and Frank Rushmore Watson, a famous architect specializing in church structures. He was born and raised in Frankford.

“It’s funny that this church doesn’t get as much recognition,” said Debbie Klak, a local historian who studies graveyards. “But I think we’re going to change that.”

The church also saw the baptism of Founding Father Benjamin Rush, who was a prominent leader of the American Enlightenment.

“Everything is just locked up in a closet, all these documents and things,” McCracken said. “I open it up and I can’t believe I’m holding it in my hands.”

Minister Gerald “Jay” Collins is currently filling in after Richard Robÿn stepped down last year.

People like McCracken and Sammin will continue to make new discoveries about the building that welcomes people by reminding them it’s been holding services since 1698.

“You wonder how many people walked through that door after they read that,” Klak said. “What number are you?” ••

To learn more, visit the website at tcophilly.org or the Facebook group at facebook.com/tcofriends