“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.” (Ps. 84:3)
The Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia is a remarkable architectural achievement that is largely the product of a vision by Moses Drury Hoge, its first pastor.
His nephew and biographer, Peyton Harrson Hoge, references a letter written by Moses to Mrs. Mary Parson Greenleaf in 1846, in which he laid out his dream of a new church building:
“I go in for a stone Gothic, rubble walls, crevices for moss and ivy; holes where old Time may stick in his memorials; cozy loop-holes of retreat, where the sparrow may find a house for herself … and the swallow a nest for her young.”
The reader will note Peyton’s historical reference to the arrival of English (House) Sparrows to America from Europe in the 1850’s, which became perhaps the first introduction of an invasive species in the United States. Construction of the Second Presbyterian Church was completed in 1848.
Julius Melton, citing Wyndham B. Blanton, The Making of a Downtown Church, p. 79, adds to our understanding of Moses as a romantic visionary:
Even after getting such a building in 1848, Hoge’s romanticism was not abated. Some years later, after preaching before Queen Victoria, he declined her gift of a handsome Bible, requesting instead a slip of ivy from Westminster Abbey, which he carried home and planted at the base of his Gothic church (Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns Since 1787, p. 68).