Open Minds Blog

Open Minds Blog

George F. Harding

This article was written by parishioner Alan Heavens.

George F. Harding didn’t think much of Abraham Lincoln when the renowned Philadelphia patent attorney first met the future president in 1856.

In fact, as quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book Team of Rivals, Harding said Lincoln was “tall, rawly boned, ungainly back woodsman, with coarse, ill-fitting clothing, his trousers hardly reaching his ankles, holding in his hands a blue cotton umbrella with a ball on the end of the handle.”

Lincoln was treated as a very junior member of the team led by Harding and his law partner, Edwin M. Stanton, that successfully represented John Manny, who had been accused by Cyrus McCormick of infringing on patents for McCormick’s reaping machine.

Lincoln did not hold a grudge. When Lincoln was president, he offered Harding a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, but the lawyer turned him down.

Harding (1827-1902) was a vestryman and lifelong St. Peter’s parishioner, as was his father, Jesper Harding (1799-1865), the largest publisher of Bibles in the United States and a founder of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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An Ending to Live For

Over the course of the next 10 days, we will walk the events of the last days and weeks of Jesus’ life. We will hear the story of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, then hear the crowd quickly change from cheering him to mocking him. We will wait with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, watch as he is betrayed by his friends, arrested, and tried before Pilate. We will walk with him as he is beaten, stripped, has a crown of thorns jammed on his head, and is made to carry his cross to Golgotha. And we will stand, with Mary and John, at the foot of the cross weeping as he breathes his last breath. Then we will take that final walk with him as he is laid in the tomb.

Why do we do this? Why do we, year after year, retell the story? Read more »

Fill the Empty Space…with God

On Wednesday, at our Ash Wednesday service, we began the 40-day-long season of Lent, a season that, from the early days of the church, Christians have observed as preparation for Easter.  Part of that preparation has been hearing about, praying and meditating on Jesus’ life and death. Part of it has been about examining our own lives, looking for those places we feel connected to God (have caught God’s wave) and those places where we are adrift. And part of the Lenten preparation is contemplating the reality that we each will die and therefore what we do with our lives is important—to us and to God. Read more »

Annual Spring Cleaning Drive

Spring is the time we shake off the winter, greet the sunshine, and tidy up the spaces we call home. We all experience a sense of satisfaction when chores are completed—a great feeling of pride of place.

Through the annual Episcopal Community Services Spring Cleaning Drive, we collect household supplies and create welcome baskets for the women and children transitioning out of St. Barnabas Mission and for the families in the ECS Permanent Housing program.

Please consider donating the following items: Dishwashing Detergent; Comet Cleanser; Sponges & Disinfecting Wipes; Toilet Cleaner & Brush; All-Purpose Cleanser; Window Cleaner; Rubber Gloves; Bucket, Mop, Broom & Dustpan; Laundry Detergent & Bleach; Paper Towels & Toilet Paper.

You can put them in a laundry basket in the front of the church. Please bring in all donations by Sunday, April 2.

God is in our Midst

Jesus immigrant web


The last week or so has been very hard—disorienting. As I said on Sunday, it feels like the world is upside down. I have watched in distress at the threats to the vulnerable among us, the callous disregard for the poor, the immigrant, and the refugee, the disregard for the Christ in our midst. I have watched in distress at the threats to our vulnerable planet which is itself an expression of God’s own life. I have watched in distress as lies become the norm and facts become “alternative.” It is hard to know what to protest from minute to minute—how to react and respond. And while I know many of us are engaging in acts of resistance, it is all exhausting. And it is easy to become despondent. Read more »

New Information Comes to Light about George Croghan

croghanWe have recently learned from Allan Hasbrouck, a Christ Church member and volunteer in their archives, that George Croghan (1718-1782), who is buried in our churchyard, was a friend and rival of George Washington from the time of the French and Indian War. According to the Mount Vernon website:

“George Croghan was a prominent trader, frontiersman, and Indian agent. Born in Ireland around 1718, Croghan emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1741. Within a few years, Croghan became a successful western fur trader. A quick-witted, and savvy negotiator, Croghan was a brilliant intermediary who fellow frontiersman Christopher Gist once labeled “King of the Traders.”1

From the 1740s forward the Ohio country was at the center of expansionist ambitions west of the Appalachians, and Croghan was a central player in those ambitions. A key to Croghan’s success was establishing trading posts in Native American villages—a method practiced by French traders— rather than wait for Indian customers to come to him, the common British practice. Croghan also learned at least two Native languages, Delaware and Mohawk, eventually becoming an Onondaga Council sachem. As a result of his pivotal role as a mediator, William Johnson appointed Croghan to the coveted position of Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, a position he held for fifteen years from 1756 until 1771. Read more »

The Christmas Miracle

ClairephotoOnce again we are approaching Christmas. Engaging in a final burst of activity before December 24:  shopping to be finished, cookies to be made, homes to be decorated, round after round of holiday parties to enjoy.

And finally we get to the stillness and quiet of Christmas Eve. Of the beautiful manger scene, with Mary looking serene, Joseph looking proud, and the baby fast asleep. Which looks nothing at all like any of the births I ever attended as a nurse-midwife. Each one of those births was beautiful, yes, but also gritty, sweaty, earthy, messy, and painful.
And in the most profound miracle ever—the miracle that is really hard to wrap our minds around—God chose to enter into that grit, sweat, mud, mess, and pain right along with us. God, Creator of the stars of night, found in 7 or so pounds of flesh, vulnerable and helpless. This particular miracle assures us that there is nowhere God will not go to reach us. Assures us that this world, our flesh, is shot through with holiness. Assures us that God is with us now and always. I am well aware that it is difficult sometimes to see that, to know that. But I also know that, if we are looking, God shows up in all sorts of surprising places and forms—even in us.

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Outdoor Nativity Light Show

Consider the true meaning of the season this year at “Lights of Christmas”—a new outdoor light show at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at Third and Pine Streets. The free 10-minute show, open to the public, will play every evening from December 18 through December 31.

Visitors can view the show from the sidewalk along Third Street, near the corner of Pine Street in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. The show will be staged in that corner of the St. Peter’s churchyard, along the side of the historic, brick church. The “Lights of Christmas” show will begin at 5 p.m. every evening and the show will run every 15 minutes through 7 p.m.

The centerpiece of the show is the nativity story, recited by Jen Childs, co-founder and artistic director of local theater company 1812 Productions. The show will also feature a 6-foot-tall multi-color LED-lit nativity, complete with the holy family, shepherd, wise men, angel, and animals.

lightsofchristmas Read more »

We Need a Little Advent

One of those (to me) annoying “Christmas” songs we hear on the radio a lot this time of year is “We all need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” To which I want to respond, what we all need is a little Advent. Not because I am channeling my inner Scrooge and am anti-Christmas, far from it. But because what we desperately need before we can greet the coming of the Christ into the world, into our hearts and lives, is a time of reflection and preparation. A time of waiting, examining our lives as individuals and our common life together, and making room within us for God to be born again.

The roots of Advent, as Gayle Boss writes in All Creation Waits, run deep under the Christian church. They are found in the earth and its seasons. In the northern hemisphere, Advent happened after the harvest had been brought in and after the people have heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that their labor had paid off and they had food for the winter. Feast! Was their cry. And yet, and yet, the days were getting shorter and shorter. Darkness seemed to settle in and the warmth of the sun faded from the land. They became anxious, their bodies asking whether the sun and warmth would return. They were reminded how little of life was in their control. Read more »