Mar 26, 2024 | John W. Coleman

Recovering from an electrical fire that damaged part of its building, 162-year-old  Arch Street United Methodist Church, just blocks away from Philadelphia’s City Hall, is holding Holy Week and Easter Sunday services. While Good Friday worship will be held online, the church will celebrate Easter Sunday, as it did Palm Sunday, in its chapel.

The fire did substantial damage in and around a mechanical room where the church’s electrical service enters the building. Fortunately, the building was vacant, and no one was hurt. Water from the sprinkler system and the fire department’s hoses flooded the church basement, leaving the interior covered in smoke and soot.

Rev. Robin Hynicka

Temporary power was supplied, water in the basement was pumped out, drying and air purifying equipment was put in place, and a cleaning crew began scrubbing ceilings and walls of the church’s kitchen, offices and program space.

While full recovery will take months, the congregation and its nonprofit, The Center-Philadelphia, have continued their outreach ministries, especially among unhoused/unsheltered neighbors. The Rev. Robin Hynicka, pastor, explained that the church was saved from devastation because of water from a tiny sprinkler head (right) that was installed 10 years ago to create a safe drop-in center for unhoused neighbors on its premises.

The Grace Cafe Sunday night community meal and the weekday drop-in center, which serves about 75 people daily, continue to operate. “We are faithfully resilient with an incredible capacity to creatively adapt and focus on doing justice and loving mercy,” said Deaconess Darlene DiDomineck, who leads that work.

‘Out of the fire and into faithful service we go‘

Members and friends attending worship on Palm Sunday heard Hynicka preach about Jesus stirring up the people he came to save on his entry into Jerusalem. Attendees included the Revs. Dawn Taylor-Storm and Andrew Foster III, Eastern PA’s Connectional Ministries Director and East District Superintendent, respectively.

In crisis, Jesus teaches and leads with liberating love, said Hynicka. “We will follow Jesus. Out of the fire and into faithful service we go, and you are invited to come along.” 

“Both Arch Street and The Center continue operations, prioritizing their service among unhoused neighbors, even as the church recovers,” observed Taylor-Storm. “On Palm Sunday a packed congregation of worshippers testified to that commitment to continue to shine the light of Christ brightly in the Center Square neighborhood of Philly and beyond.”

There is a long, though brightly lit, road ahead for Arch Street UMC’s recovery from the fire, among its other structural needs. The church also seeks financial contributions to renovate its beleaguered church steeple. Visit  to make online donations. Checks can be sent to Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

In addition, Philadelphia’s famed Masonic Temple Library and Museum will host a major fundraising event for the church, titled “Arch Street UMC InSpires” on Wednesday, April 17, at 5 to 8 p.m.

Learn more about the event and register to attend.