Emanuel United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"

Church History

The following brief history is excerpted from the congregation’s 100th anniversary history booklet.

Our forefathers, mainly of Germanic and Swiss origin, settled in the highly industrialized neighborhood of Bridesburg during the middle of the 19th century. Deeply rooted in the Reformed tradition, this pious and God-fearing group sought to organize and establish the identity of their own distinctive faith and practices.

A nucleus of 34 persons, under the guidance of a Rev. Mr. Hartman, began worship in Town Hall on Thompson Street in 1858. Services in the Reformed tradition, led by a Rev. J. G. Neuber, began in 1861. Our Sunday School was organized in 1862. In that year, the plot of ground on which our building resides was purchased for $1,300 from a Mr. Herbert Reynolds. The cornerstone for Emanuel's building was laid in 1863, and the edifice was dedicated in 1864. Our church bell was placed in the steeple in 1865.

In 1863, under the leadership of the Rev. Emanuel Boehringer, a home for children orphaned by the Civil War was founded under the name "Orphans Home of the Shepherd of the Lambs". Briefly located in South Philadelphia and then in Bridesburg, in 1870 the orphanage moved to Womelsdorf, PA, where it continues to serve at-risk youth under the name of Bethany Children's Home (

The first English services were introduced by the Rev. Felix Steinmann in the early 1920’s. A new pipe organ was installed in 1926 at a cost of $3,200. Many of our stained glass windows date from the pastorate of the Rev. Victor Steinberg in the 1940’s. Carillon bells were dedicated in 1956. Also in the 1950's, Emanuel Church became a founding member of the Bridesburg Council of Churches. The Bridesburg Council continues to serve the neighborhood by means of a food and clothing cupboard (located at Bridesburg Methodist, but staffed with volunteers from Emanuel as well as Bridesburg and Bethesda Methodist) and midweek Lenten services.

During the intervening years, Emanuel UCC has continued to be a vital part of the Bridesburg community. In October, 2007, the Rev. Dr. Eugene Grau retired at the age of 90 from the pastorate of Emanuel UCC, after 14 years of consecrated service. Since then, our church has expanded its evangelism and outreach, including an active Facebook group from which services are livestreamed and then cross-posted to Youtube. We eagerly seeks God's direction for the next phase of the "great and holy adventure" that is the continuing story of Emanuel United Church of Christ.

Emanuel United Church of Christ - Missionaries and Pastors

1858 - 1859 Rev. Hartman
1860 – Rev. Schmidt, Rev. Speidel, Mr. Kneiper
1861 – 1863 Rev. J. S. Neuber
1863 – 1864 Rev. Emanuel Boehringer
1865 – 1867 Rev. Gantenbein
1867 – 1869 Rev. John Beinhauser
1869 – 1872 Rev. J. Dahlman
1872 – 1883 Rev. Christian Keller
1883 – 1917 Rev. John B. Forster
1918 – 1923 Rev. Felix Steinmann
1923 – 1929 Rev. Henry Bram
1929 – 1937 Rev. George C. Meischner
1937 – 1949 Rev. Victor Steinberg
1950 – 1954 Rev. Vernon E. Firme
1954 – Rev. Arthur Ohl
1954 – 1959 Rev. Ronald Keller
1959 – 1964 Rev. Fred R. Manthey, Jr.
1964 – Dr. Ralph Hartman
1964 – 1966 Rev. William Borch
1966 – 1968 Rev. Arthur E. K. Brenner
1969 – Rev. Philip Senft
1969 – 1971 Rev. John Charles Heater
1971 – 1975 Rev. Robert Larson
1975 – Rev. Peter Ainsle
1976 – 1981 Rev. Lois M. Ostermayer (seminarian, ordained 1977)
1981 – 1987 Rev. Robert N. Bowser
Various periods – Rev. Dr. Philip Weiss (Interim)
1987 – 1992 Rev. Frank Sapp (seminarian, ordained 1992)
1993 – 1994 Rev. Richard Hammond Price
1994 – 2007 Rev. Dr. Eugene Grau
2008 – present Rev. David Reppert (seminarian, ordained November 2, 2014)

Contact Info                 Email Us                 Home Page                 Conference Website                 UCC Website