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December 9 Today in OPC History

Thomas Birch

 

When J. Gresham Machen founded the Presbyterian Guardian in October 1935, he turned to Thomas Birch to provide the expertise in producing a bi-monthly publication. As Circulation Manager for the first nine months, and then as Managing Editor for the next decade, Birch gave himself endlessly to the publication of the magazine from overseeing the layout to the copy editing to the proof reading to the raising of funds. Leslie Sloat said of Birch's role, "He carried it courageously through the inevitable conflicts of its early and uncertain years, which were also years of difficulty for the infant Orthodox Presbyterian denomination and even for Westminster Theological Seminary. His wisdom and determination in large measure kept it from becoming another non-descript religious periodical in a mass of such periodicals."

Born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 15, 1906, Birch attended the University of Pennsylvania as a English and Journalism major. He and his mother, Alice, were present at the First General Assembly of the OPC on June 11, 1936 and had their names enrolled as founding members. He married Constance Covell and they were blessed with a daughter, Joan.

As a charter member of Calvary OPC, Germantown, and then Glenside, Birch served as the organist for many years and was known for his love of music. He would annually lead a carol sing in Jenkintown with members of the Calvary Choir during the Christmas season, and he conducted a Sunday evening radio program, "Great Sacred Music" on radio station WIBF. In 1958 with his health declining, Birch stepped down as organist at Calvary Church, but he continued to write music. In 1960 when the Calvary Choir produced the recording, A Festival of Sacred Music, Birch accompanied the choir on his own composition, "Out of the Depths," which was based upon Psalm 130.

On this date in 1963, Birch suffered a fatal heart attack and went to be with the Lord in glory.

 

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