SATURDAY, JUNE 19: The name “Swedenborg” still isn’t as familiar as names like Calvin Coolidge, Helen Keller, Carl Jung or Ralph Waldo Emerson—but all hailed the man who founded the New Church, and today is New Church Day. Read about more more well-known figures who were influenced by Swedenborg at NewChuch.org.
In 1688, Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He became a prominent Swedish scientist and, many years later, a philosopher, Christian mystic and theologian. His passionate pursuit of a union of science and religion appealed to many. (Find out more from Swedenborg.org.) June 19 remains the most important day of the year for devotees, since New Church Day is the anniversary of the publishing of Swedenborg’s “True Christian Religion.” Today marks the “birthday” of the New Church and is also New Year’s Day in the church’s religious calendar. (If you begin exploring various histories of the Church, you’ll find a number of names for this community throughout its history, including Swedenborgians, New Christians, Neo-Christians, Church of the New Jerusalem and The Lord’s New Church.)
Swedenborg began having inspirational dreams and visions at age 53, and for the rest of his life Swedenborg made it his mission to teach the world of the “new Christian Church” that God had made known to him. Swedenborg never formally established a Church nor did he deviate far from Christian teachings; rather, the Swedish mystic wrote 35 volumes on his interpretations of the inner meaning of the Bible. (Wikipedia has details.) Followers of the New Church, such as early missionary John Chapman, or “Johnny Appleseed,” based their beliefs on the biblical interpretations of Swedenborg.
Swedenborg taught, for example, that the Divine Trinity exists solely in One Person—something taught in some ancient Christian movements and some non-Western branches of the Christian Church to this day. He also taught that both faith and charity are necessary for salvation with Jesus Christ. New Church followers also hold that all who do good in the name of their religion will be accepted in heaven, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Membership in the New Church has always been fairly low. Thousands of members live in the U.S., Asia, Africa and South America although the group is virtually unknown in many countries. Church leaders have been focusing on India recently, where independent readers of Swedenborg are being found. (Read a related article here.) Several conferences have served to educate Indians on the New Church.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)