Someone once said of Old Pine, “If these walls could speak, what stories they would tell of courage, devotion, and of a people’s love and service to God.”
The walls of Old Pine’s sanctuary do speak if we will but listen.
They speak of a journey of faith from the remote past through the present into eternity. Beginning in the rear, hand painted stencils tell the story of faith as they guide us through time to focus on the means of grace: the Word, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the water of the Sacrament of Baptism.
The hand-stenciled symbols gracing the walls and ceiling of the sanctuary reflect the rich religious heritage of Old Pine Street Church. The congregation at Old Pine Street draws upon that heritage as we bear witness to Jesus Christ today.
Our Official name is Third, Scots and Mariners Presbyterian Church. The large thistle and wave motifs relate specifically to Scots and Mariners Churches and have contextual overlays that reach back to the beginnings of our faith (see, for example, Genesis 4:18 and Psalm 107:23-32). The waves also remind us of the waters of baptism.
These symbols were developed in cooperation by architect David Slovic and the Church’s Construction Control Committee, chaired by Thomas S. Rittenhouse. The skillful painting was accomplished by the firm of Adolph Frel & Son who employed the same stenciling technique as that used in the 1886 decoration that may be seen through “The Window into History” in the northeast corner of the room.
The intent of the symbols is to lead people on a journey of faith from the remote past into the present and on into eternity. The symbolic progression begins on the rear walls and moves forward to focus on the liturgical center of the sanctuary, the Word and Sacrament.
The four back wall symbols are derived from the Old Testament and witness to our ancient Jewish past. Then beginning on the rear west wall, there is a set of three symbols representative of the Life of Christ as recorded in the New Testament. Across the room on the rear east wall are symbols of early Christianity, including the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church. Moving again to the west wall, the central symbols mark the great Protestant Reformation. Their counterparts on the central east wall highlight aspects of Christian development in America through the Civil War. The single front most symbols on the east and west walls represent specifically Old Pine Street Church. On the front wall are symbols for the sacraments that admit believers into eternal life with Christ.
Each medallion symbol is repeated on the main floor and above in the gallery. In the guilloches, the interlaced curvilinear motifs that ride just above the waves, the entire progression of symbols appears randomly again.
The following are brief notes on each of the twenty symbols. The notes are intended to serve merely as helps or centering points for the symbols to which each person is invited to bring individual interpretation while pausing to reflect on the journey of faith.