Bryn Mawr Assembly, Philadelphia, USA
The saints meeting at Bryn Mawr recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the assembly at a dinner in a local hotel attended by over 80 past and present members of the fellowship. Bryn Mawr lies on the outskirts of the large city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, USA. Assembly work in the city itself commenced in the mid 1800’s In 1880 a young girl named Mary Smith, not yet 16 years old, was saved in Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland. She had professed salvation at meetings conducted by James Campbell and William Matthews in a local school-house. She was baptized and received into fellowship in Kings Mills assembly, near Cookstown. In 1881 she sailed to America to seek work in Philadelphia. Once there she associated with the ‘Old Meeting’ at 18th and Fairmount Avenues. Later, on her own initiative she wrote and invited brethren Campbell and Matthews to come to Philadelphia to preach the gospel which eventually they did and conducted tent meetings in the city. As a result of souls being saved an assembly was formed downtown and grew so that in 1906 a daughter assembly was formed in Bryn Mawr.
Initially, these believers met in rented premises in the Ardmore district but subsequently found more suitable accommodation on the second floor of The Reading Room, a building in Bryn Mawr Park, and there they continued until 1924. The Reading Room became the birthplace of many souls and the assembly regularly expanded. The brethren desired to establish a permanent building for the convenience of the assembly and managed to obtain 20,000 sq. ft. of ground on North Summit Grove Avenue to do so. An appropriate building was erected and was then expanded in 1972 and yet again in 1992. Over the years regular series of special gospel meetings were conducted and the Lord often blessed in salvation. The Bryn Mawr conferences started in the 1930s and was at that time a three-day conference held over the Thanksgiving weekend. In 1999 the timing was changed to the first weekend of November. The assembly had always been active in Sunday School work and in open-air preaching and all these activities in the gospel and in Bible teaching have been blessed of the Lord. Over the years many assembly members have been exercised to serve the Lord in a full-time capacity both in the USA and abroad. Among the earliest brethren to be commended were Frank Crook, Cesar Patrizio and Oswald McLeod. In 1945 Alice Martin was commended to Chile and in 1960 Gilbert Stewart was commended to the work in Ireland where he still labours for the Lord. In 1952 George Baldwin was commended and he laboured first in North Carolina. In 1953 Ray Zander was commended. Again, in 1974, David Oliver was commended and more recently, in 2006, John and Rebekah Nesbitt went to serve the Lord in Mexico. Other preachers who fellowshipped in Bryn Mawr included Gordon Reager, Robert Crawford and William Ferguson. Of course while the preachers are important it is acknowledged that the assembly owes most to those ordinary members who faithfully laboured in the assembly and maintained the testimony in their day and generation.
Currently there are around 35 in fellowship at Bryn Mawr Gospel Hall and it is the desire of the elders that the testimony will continue in scriptural order. They look to the Lord to continue to bless in salvation and enable them to maintain the scriptural teaching and practice of a New Testament church. It is their hope that amid the influences designed to blend Christians with the world a separation from all that is not glorifying to the Lord will be maintained. Visitors who identify with and share these aims finding themselves in the Bryn Mawr area with a letter of commendation will be warmly welcomed by the assembly.