The Rev. Samuel Bowman had long desired to establish a church in which the seats were free to all and not just the preserve of the wealthy. Saint John’s Free Church was the first free church in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Bowman personally donated $1,000 to the project which equaled a 10th of the building costs. He was its first rector. In 1857 when there were 47 families in the congregation and Saint John’s was free of debt, he resigned as its rector and the church became independent of Saint James.