Episcopal Church of the Advent History

Episcopal Church of the Advent

3010 Pioneer Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15226 * Phone 412-561-4520

The Episcopal Church of the Advent emerged from a Sunday School begun in a home during the summer of 1904. Today, over 100 years later, the church is still serving it's congregation of parishioners from Brookline and the surrounding South Hills neighborhoods.

The church was formed in large part because of the spirit and enthusiasm of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Fleming, a landowner of some stature in the early days of the Brookline community. The Flemings were one of the early farming families, and they owned much of the land along the southern stretch of Pioneer Avenue.

Mrs. Fleming was anxious to have a church in West Liberty (Brookline was officially known as West Liberty Borough at the time). Through Mrs. Annie Johnston, she got in touch with Colonel James K. Blackwell of the Church Army and made arrangements for the Army to undertake the work.

The first Sunday School Service was held in the home of Mrs. Johnston, and conducted by Mr. James W. Seymour, Lay Reader. This Sunday School and Service was started by the Church Army. Mrs. Johnston, Mrs. Fleming, and Miss Lydia Fleming were the teachers. Attendance at the first session was twenty-two.

On August 7, 1904, six children were baptised by the Reverend Joseph Eames, Priest-in-charge of the Church of the Incarnation in Knoxville. The following year, on June 4, the first service under the auspices of the Laymen's Missionary League was conducted by Archdeacon Flint and confirmed by Bishop Whitehead.

Mrs. Elizabeth A. Fleming
Mrs. Elizabeth A. Fleming

In 1906, on October 7, the first confirmation was held. The class consisted of nine persons and was conducted by Archdeacon Flint, Chaplain of the League. Most importantly, Mrs. Fleming offered a site valued at $5000 for the erection of a Church, providing the Chapel be constructed within a year. The new site had a frontage of 120 feet on Pioneer Avenue and was 140 feet deep.

It took a little longer than a year to get the new chapel built, but by June of 1909, the first services were being held in the new schoolroom. The first service was held June 9, 1909, and was conducted by Mr. Harry G. Tomer, a member of the Laymen's Missionary League. By December, services were being held in the upper part of the building. In July of 1909, the Reverend Charles E. McCoy, vicar of St. Mary's Church in Pittsburgh, assumed charge and continued for one year.

On November 1, 1910, the Reverend Harvey B. Marks assumed charge and led for the next 3 1/2 years. The following April, the Reverend and Mrs. H.B. Marks took up their residence on Illinois Avenue. Mr. Marks became the first resident clergyman.

In June of 1914, the Reverend Clarence D. Frankel took over the Parish. Reverend Frankel was the first clergyman to donate his entire time to this work. He remained with the Parish for thirteen years.

For several years the Church thrived. In 1909, there were 160 confirmed members and 52 baptized. By 1919 there were 380 confirmed members and 163 baptized. Ten years later that number had grown to 419 confirmed and 228 baptized. In 1919, a fund was created to be used to provide a rectory. Half of the Easter Offerings were appropriated for this purpose.

The Episcopal Church of the Advent in 1960
The Church of the Advent, shown in 1960.

In 1924, ground was broken for the enlarging and improving of the Church building. It was finished in November as a cost of $18,000. The Reverend Thomas J. Bigham Assumed charge in November of 1927, and the following February the house at 515 Fordham Avenue was purchased for $13,000. This home became the new rectory. The Episcopal Church of the Advent celebrated it's 25th anniversary in 1929, with Rev. Bigham conducting.

Reverend Thomas J. Bigham served the Parish until his retirement in 1943. His many years of faithful service helped to establish Advent as a center of community worship and activity. Next, the Reverend Mr. Boyce officiated until 1945.

The Church in the 1970s
 new Schlicker pipe organ.
The Episcopal Church of the Advent, shown in 1970s.

In 1946, Dr. Oliver Floyd, a distinguished educator, came to Advent as a lay reader and preacher. Ordained to the priesthood in 1947, he served until retirement in 1970. Under his leadership, the Church became self-supporting in 1949 and continued to grow spiritually and numerically. A new rectory was built in 1952 and major improvements (the addition of the narthex and classrooms) were made to the church building in the early 1960s. The Church of the Advent was known as an altar-centered church for its daily celebrations of the Eucharist.

The Reverend James Shields became Rector in 1970, with preaching and the music program as the main emphases of his nine-year tenure. A Schlicker pipe organ was designed and built for the Church in 1975. Other renovations made at the time included sanctuary redesign for a free-standing altar.

In 1980, the Reverend John Van Siclen began a six-year term as Rector. His ministry emphasized adult Christian education, community action and outreach involvement, and a healing ministry.

Bishop Rt. Reverend Robert Duncan
 and Reverend Katherine Brall
Bishop Rt. Reverend Robert Duncan
and Reverend Katherine Brall.

The Reverend F. Graham Cliff assumed charge in 1987, serving for seven years and focusing on preaching, teaching, healing, prayer, and pastoral care of the elderly and those preparing for marriage. The Reverend Katherine Brall began service with the Church in July, 1995. Her ministry emphasized teaching, prayer, pastoral care and education for children and families.

With Reverend Brall's departure, the Church entered a transition period. The Reverend Dick Pollard became Deacon-in-charge, and under his leadership the Church of the Advent celebrated it's 100th Anniversary in the summer of 2004. If the past is any indication of what lies in store for the future, the Episcopal Church of the Advent will continue to be a leader in the Community of Brookline and of the spiritual well-being of it's many parishioners.

Thanks to Meg Kaufman for providing this information on the Epicopal Church of the Advent.
* Last Modified - May 15, 2004 *

The old sanctuary with the new
Schlicker pipe organ in 2004.

<Local Churches> <> <Historical Facts> <> Brookline History