The History of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church

Drexel Hill United Methodist Church had its official beginning on April 1, 1923 when two small congregations merged: Mount Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Church (1837-1924) and The Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church (1854-1923). The cornerstone for Mount Pleasant was laid on June 27, 1837. The church was located at Garrett Road near Burnley Lane in Drexel Hill and was on a high hill at the foot of Darby Creek. Many of the members were mill workers.

Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in South Philadelphia in 1854 on ground at Broad and Christian Streets which was mostly farmland, was being forced to close due to declining membership. These two congregations, brought together by people familiar with both churches, quickly developed a sense of fellowship and cooperation. They decided to use the money from the sale of the Broad Street church to purchase land in Drexel Hill. David McBurney, President of the Board of Trustees, purchased seven building lots at the corner of Burmont Road and Bliss Avenue (now School Lane) and soon plans were approved and construction of a new church, to be known as Broad Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church was underway. That building, consisting of what are now called McBurney Chapel and the Rainbow Room, was dedicated on October 24, 1954. The congregation rapidly grew to have the largest membership of any church in Drexel Hill.

By 1935, construction again occurred as the sections of the church called James Hall (named for Dr. Arthur C. James, pastor of the church from 1933-1951) and the Education Building were built. It was planned that James Hall which was used as the sanctuary from 1935-1951, would eventually serve as the ground floor for a new sanctuary which would rise above it, but as membership continued to grow, that idea became impractical. As a result, more land was purchased, and the beautiful sanctuary that we use today was constructed facing Burmont Road and was dedicated by Bishop Fred Corson on September 23, 1951. Among the many features of this building are the 28-rank, three-manual Moeller pipe organ, and the Sistine Madonna painting which adorns the altar and was obtained through Philadelphia department store magnate, John Wanamaker, by church member Emil Bohn, a Wanamaker buyer of leather goods.

In 1961, the ceiling in James Hall was lifted five feet for basketball and other activities, and a second floor was added for Sunday School purposes. The dedication ceremony was held October 21, 1962. In 1968, following the worldwide union of the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist churches, the church became known as Drexel Hill United Methodist Church as part of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference UMC.

Over the last 82 years, DHUMC has not only served its own membership and encouraged the development of Christianity throughout the world through its support of missionaries, but has also had a strong community outreach. Currently, groups meeting in our building include Boy and Girl Scout Troops, Sports leagues, AARP, Drexel Hill Players, and the PA Railroad Technical and Historical Society. Come join us!

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