New Church Day: Congregations of Swedenborg mark milestone

Did you know? Johnny Chapman “Appleseed” was a missionary to the United States for the New Church.

Shrubbery carved into "Alpha" and "Omega" symbols

Sculpted gardens indicate “Alpha and Omega” at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, a New Church in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19: The New Church marks its birthday today, commemorating the most significant day in June 1770, the day adherents believe the Lord called the Twelve Disciples to teach that He reigns over His Kingdom. The New Christian Church was born from this day, although that first year passed insignificantly. The divine date was revealed one year later, in 1771, when Emanuel Swedenborg wrote True Christian Religion.

Swedenborg never attempted to create an organization, but instead claimed to have received a revelation from Jesus Christ through a 25-year series of divine visions. (Wikipedia has details.) According to Swedenborg, God would create a “New Church” with a focus on Jesus Christ. Swedenborg died one year later, in 1772, but his writings lived on and a New Church was, indeed, established. The first New Church was built 20 years after the publication of Swedenborg’s writings, on June 19, 1791. Today, New Church members mark June 19 with religious services, pageants and picnics. In years past, the exchange of June Nineteenth cards was common. (Read more from Wikipedia.)

As of 2000, there were four branches of the New Church, and total membership numbers registered at just below 10,000. (Learn about the Swedenborgian Church of North America, or The New Church.) The New Church movement had continued to grow in the United States until the late 19th century, even claiming a New-Church Theology School in Cambridge, until splits began to occur. Numbers since have slowly begun to recede.

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