Celebration on Van Kirk Street: 100th Anniversary of Wissinoming Bible Fellowship Church of Philadelphia


I got a call one day in my new office on Van Kirk St., Philadelphia. It was Wayne Clapier, longestserving past pastor of Wissinoming BFC. He brought it to my attention that in 2022 the church would have its 100th anniversary. In conversation with Wayne, it was decided to prepare for a good celebration with Homecoming Sundays. We had five years to get the word out – lost one to Covid; I missed one for back surgery. It was all worth it.

Miracles are not new on Van Kirk. The church celebrated in the same building that opened here for worship 100 years ago. In the 1920’s, the Lord was busy in Wissinoming. That decade saw at least five new churches in one decade. In North Philadelphia, Salem Mennonite Brethren in Christ was overflowing and landlocked. It was decided to commission 20 Salem members to join the new believers further north. In a year, 1922, there was a new “basement” church on Van Kirk – worship began and outreach continued.

City churches in general have periods of increase and decrease, often tied to shifting population demographics. Another miracle in my opinion, was the coming of G. Wayne Clapier to the pulpit. His commitment to God and to the urban need was instrumental again and again in keeping WBFC going in its mission. Wayne had suggested an “anniversary project” to inspire interest. At the time, the proposed, delayed maintenance project and the cost of hosting our guests were beyond our resources. By the time Nov. 2022 and the 100th rolled around, 50% more was spent and the church finances were in great shape.

The worship service was all joy. Among the returnees on Nov. 6, was one women who had not been “home” in 50 years. Many, in the service and later, testified to the grace of God in their lives as a result of WBFC’s ministry over the years. There were emissaries from a good number of BF churches – including our mother church Salem MBC, now Welsh Road Church. The sermon was shared by myself, Wayne Clapier, and David Allen, BFC Executive Director. We had visitors from the other 1922 churches, now under “new (evangelical) management.”

The catered meal was delicious and served by a Christian business woman who brought palpable servanthood to her work. The fellowship around the tables will long be remembered. Current members were encouraged to labor on and our family from the past expressed their ongoing partnership in prayer. WBFC invites you to visit with us; we need your prayers, too. Here God is discipling those some would deem un-teachable. Visitors are again coming to services. Some writers have claimed that people no longer come just because there is a building there. I doubt that they ever did just for a building. However, five of our visitors in the new year came for that reason. The Lord of the Church has kept this lighthouse here for a reason.

If you would like to be kept informed about what He is doing on Van Kirk St., contact Pastor Ralph Ritter at rer.wbfc@gmail.com.


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