The Journey of the Vestry Chair

This article was written by Judy Van Hoy.

One day, 5-10 years ago (I really don’t remember when), I was walking home from my job at Germantown Friends School. As I was walking, either on Greene Street or School House Lane, I saw this beautiful old chair out on the sidewalk. It was out by the curb as if it were trash. The chair looked in good condition, but there was no one around for me to ask about it. Rain started to fall, and at that point I decided to stop thinking about it and just take the chair home. I carried it on my head the four blocks or so to my house.

When I got home, I was surprised to see that the chair was really sturdy as well as beautiful. I just couldn’t believe my luck at having such a pretty chair fall into my lap like that. I’ve found other nice things in the trash, but this chair was really special. However, because the people in my household like to lean back in their chairs when they sit down, I decided this chair needed protection, so I put it upstairs on the third floor so that it would not get damaged.

After a number of years, I came to realize that I was coveting a chair that was not practical for me to have. It was very beautiful, but I was afraid to use it. I knew I needed to let the chair go, but I wanted to be sure it went to a good home. I wondered if I should offer it to the Germantown Historical Society or to my Quaker meeting? (I belong to Green Street Friends Meeting.) Hmmm. I couldn’t decide. I took a soft cloth and started dusting off the legs. When I turned the chair upside down, I saw the little label on the bottom and read it. Ah-ha! Obviously, it should go back to St. Peter’s! I did not know how to contact the nice people at the church, but I was getting closer.

I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to new immigrants, and as part of the class, students are required to volunteer one time. This gives students a chance to give back to the community while getting an opportunity to meet new people and practice their English. Some of our students volunteer at St. Peter’s Church, either with food bank or gardening. One of my students, a nice lady from China named Lucia, had volunteered with St. Peter’s gardening this summer and had reported back to the class that she’d really enjoyed it, and everyone there was really nice. She hoped to volunteer there again and a lady there, Jill Minick, had even given Lucia her phone number. It was then that I realized that this was the same St. Peter’s I was looking for! Now I had a name! My husband made the phone call, Jill put us in touch with Nancy and Marcia, we had tea, and the chair in now back in its original home.

I feel lucky to have had this beautiful chair in my house for a short time during its remarkable journey, and my husband and I are delighted that it is back where it should be. We look forward to seeing it in its new/old home.