The nineteenth day of June, 1770, is the most significant date in the history of the New Church. It was on this day that the Lord called together the twelve disciples who had followed Him on earth, instructed them in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, and sent them out to teach that “the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages.” This was the beginning of the New Christian Church. It is often referred to as the “birthday” of the New Church, or simply “New Church Day.”
This date was originally revealed in 1771, with the publication of the book True Christian Religion, by Emanuel Swedenborg. The importance of the date has been recognized since the origin of New Church groups. The first church built as a New Church place of worship, in Birmingham, England, was opened on the nineteenth of June, 1791. (The date was not chosen consciously at the time, but was happily noted afterwards.) Urbana University in Ohio, established as a New Church center of higher learning, held a cornerstone laying ceremony on June 19th, 1851.
Annual celebrations of New Church Day are common in New Church congregations and schools. The day is variously celebrated with religious services, pageants, banquets, and picnics. The Academy of the New Church Archives in Bryn Athyn, PA, has many examples of June Nineteenth cards (see the handmade example above from 1891, and the printed card below from 1889).
An early New Church calendar system used June 19th, 1770, as year one. According to this system, the year 239 for the New Church begins today, on June 19th, 2008. (On the card, left, mailed in 1889, the date is listed as “June 19th, 1889=120.”)
New Church Day has also inspired works of art. Glencairn Museum’s chapel features a stained glass window depicting the 19th of June, with the Lord sending out His twelve disciples. The original design for this window was drawn by Winfred Hyatt (see also his pencil sketch, top).
True Christian Religion 791:
“After this work was finished the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages, according to the prediction in Daniel (vii. 13, 14), and in the Apocalypse (xi. 15).
‘Also that blessed are those that come to the marriage supper of the Lamb’ (Apoc. xix. 9).
This took place on the nineteenth day of June, 1770. This is what is meant by these words of the Lord:
‘He shall send His angels and they shall gather together His elect, from the end of the heavens to the end thereof’ (Matt. xxiv. 31)” (TCR 791).
Photos: The pencil drawing of Christ’s head was done on cardboard by Winfred Hyatt as part of the design for Glencairn’s chapel window (07.DR.308). The drawing is in the collection of the Glencairn Museum Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA. The handmade card from 1891 is signed on the inside: “Mr. and Mrs. Schreck, With Second Advent Greetings, From, Mr. and Mrs. McQueen.” It is almost certain that the card was sent to Rev. and Mrs. Eugene Schreck from Mr. and Mrs. G.A. McQueen, from Colchester, England. The 1889 card was printed by the Colchester Society and has G.A. McQueen’s initials at the bottom. Both cards are in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. The photograph of Glencairn’s chapel is by Christopher Smith, TDI Productions.
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