Bryn Athyn Cathedral: The Building of a Church

E. Bruce Glenn

The Dedication Ceremony

The key of the Cathedral presented in the service of dedication, October 5, 1919.

The key of the Cathedral presented in the service of dedication, October 5, 1919. Click on image for a larger version.

The Dedication Service in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral on October 5, 1919, concluded with a ceremony of which the following were the essential words.


In order that the uses of the Church may take ultimate form and actually exist among men, it is necessary that buildings be erected, set apart, and formally consecrated for administration of the Divine law and worship.

This cathedral has been erected in order that the members of the Bryn Athyn Church may have a place of assembly for the celebration of Divine worship in accordance with the doctrine and ritual of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and for the purposes of giving and receiving instruction in the truth revealed from God out of heaven, for the founding of that Church which according to the testimony of its own Revelation is to be the crown of all the Churches that have hitherto been in the world.

The unique merit of this New Church is that it approaches directly and worships the one and only living God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who, when on earth, glorified the Human which He assumed by birth into the world, and thereby overcame the assaulting hells, and redeemed mankind from everlasting death; and who in this, the day of His Second Advent, has manifested Himself anew in the revealed glories of the internal sense of the Word, which sense, drawn from the letter of scripture by Divine inspiration, is none other than the Human of our Glorified Lord, manifesting itself in forms of Divine Truth. By this revelation of the interior content of the Word, rational approach is given to the Lord as He is in His Human made Divine, the worship of which makes the very essence of the Church of the New Jerusalem.

For the sake of the worship of our Lord so revealed, this building has been erected, and is now to be set apart and consecrated to the Holy Name of "Him who is and who was" and who is now come, even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Deep in the hearts of the people of Bryn Athyn, since its founding thirty years ago, has dwelt the hope that one day they might rear a temple to the one and only God, wherein they would adore the Lord our Savior, Jesus Christ, and worship Him alone. Young and old of this and of the passing generation made their offerings to this end.

Howbeit, the little village of Bryn Athyn was first devoted to the cause of New Church education, first in time of the great uses for which the Academy was founded; and in the mercy of the Lord that cause has prospered. Children and children's children of that first generation now look to yonder college as their Alma Mater, and her sons and daughters come from far and near; and bearing seeds of heavenly doctrine of the New Church now revealed, go forth in many lands to many centers, where'er a few are gathered in His name.

Even as years of preparation passed before the schools received their heritage of land and buildings that gave them permanent abode, so too the Church, whose growth was ever first in end in all the undertaking of the people, had first to grow within the mind and heart, ere it could manifest its inward glory. . . .

For the General Church a form of order, based upon the Revelation, was established by the Bishop who also gave a book of worship. Then one—through whom the Heavenly Father had provided things needful for the earlier generation—made an offering wherewith to build this church; and the mind and heart of all the people turned toward the building of the House of God within their midst. And I was chosen by the donor and the Bishop to direct the building.

And the Bishop laid down principles of ritual and worship. He declared that there should be a three-fold chancel with twelve steps leading to the altar, where the Word of God should be enshrined with in a sanctuary in the east—this inmost place to be the dwelling of the Lord; the middle chancel for the Holy Supper, thus for worship; and the outer chancel for the reading of the Word and preaching, and for singing and the choir. And he proposed a Gothic structure like an English country church.

Then began the work of planning and erection, which grew from month to month and year to year. Our hearts were glad, and in the work there was delight, and in the service was its own reward. In thought we saw the building finished—a cathedral church made part and parcel of the life of all the people—her tower an ever-present symbol of the Kingdom of the Lord on earth. . . . Within, babes would be brought to be baptized, and youths and maidens would confess their faith, and be betrothed, and wed. In sorrow and in joy, in life and death, the Church would minister to childhood, youth and age, of generations yet unborn.

Builders, craftsmen, architects, and artists, with one accord have worked here on the building—worked earnestly and with devotion; and besides these, others, priests and laymen, rendered service and gave counsel. And you, who for a long while past have followed all the work, with daily visits heartened all the workers.

Six years of labor have gone by since ground was broken and foundations started. . . .

Hardly was the superstructure started when war arose. At length all the great nations fought in mighty struggle, and many left their work with us to join the service of their country. But through all, the building of the church continued, till in the sixth year of the building the awful conflict ended.

These past years of building witnessed many changes. When half the time of building was accomplished, he who made the gift and saw the building well begun, in the evening of his life of service to the Church, being well past man's allotted three-score years and ten, was gathered to his own. Long had he presided over the council of the laity, and long had been the Church's counselor and leading layman. And at the close of the same year in which he died, the elder Bishop, who a year before resigned as head and leader of the Church, because of failing strength of body retired from his pastoral office also. Thus closed an epoch.

The dedication for which we are assembled will crown that passing period of history in which the General Church was founded. Viewed presently, this dedication and commencement mark the era of the Church that has begun.

The hour has come. The church is ready, in its seventh year of building, to be hallowed as the Lord's House and dedicated to His holy service.

We who have wrought upon the building know full well that all that which is good comes from the Lord alone. We have been happy and had honor in His service, and see therein His doing and fulfillment of His will.


By virtue of the trust imposed upon me by my father and by the members of this Church, I declare, in the ears of this Assembly and before the Lord, that this building and the land whereon it stands belong henceforth to the Bryn Athyn Church of the New Jerusalem, and they are subject to its sole control. This document is the written declaration of my trust. And with affection that fills the hearts of all whose love and labor were bestowed upon this work, and for my father, who is here in spirit, I give to you as Pastor of the Church this key, and with the key possession of this house, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.


In the name of the Lord, and for the Bryn Athyn Church, I receive at your hand this building and the ground upon which it stands, to be now dedicated to the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the doctrine and ritual of the Church of the New Jerusalem. We, in deep humility, pray for the protection of the Lord and His guidance, in order that we may herein administer the sacred uses of Divine worship with clean hands and a spirit free from selfish ambition. Only so shall we please God and be justified of men. Only so shall we meet with equal spirit the large generosity, the service of distinguished talents, and the years of earnest labor which have made this building possible. We verily believe that it will stand for ages, notable among the buildings of the world dedicated to the worship of God, a beautiful symbol of the faith and worship of the Church of the New Jerusalem. May the Lord's blessing be upon it now and ever more.

In the mercy of the Lord the time of formal dedication has arrived. Let all who are assembled open their minds and hearts to the Lord that He may enter and move them with one accord to pray for His presence and blessing upon this building and all that is in it. The Sanctuary and the great altar for the open Word; the Chancel and the altars for the sacramental Supper and the rite of Baptism; the reading desk and the pulpit,, the stalls for the choir and the organ—all vessels of sacred worship. The nave containing the seats for the congregation and the Chapel for private ceremonies.

Here may the pastor and his assistants administer all the uses of Divine law and worship, here may they teach the people truths Divine from the Word of God and the Writings of the Second Advent, in order that their lives may be led in the way of heaven.

At The Altar

And now in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of heaven and earth, the Founder and Builder of the Church, and in obedience to the laws of His Divine order, and in the presence of this Assembly, I do declare this building set apart and dedicated to the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only living and true God, according to the doctrine and ritual of the Church of the New Jerusalem.

May the Lord's blessing be upon this Church; may He be ever present and conjoin Himself with all who assemble here and bow before Him as the sole object of their love and worship, to the glory of His holy name forever and ever.

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