“Perhaps the deepest impression made upon us by this Service of Dedication was through the perception that the long years of spiritual depression and anxiety – states induced both by the greatest war in history and by the pangs of transition from one generation to another in the Church – that these desolate and searching years of trial had failed to destroy our faith. The prison of the years was at last broken. The famine of despair no longer weakened our energies. A sense of happiness and satisfaction flowed into all our minds, as it seemed from Heaven” (William Whitehead, “Impressions of the Dedication Service,” New Church Life 1919, 748).
The dedication of Bryn Athyn Cathedral took place on Sunday, October 5th, 1919, during the Tenth Assembly of the General Church of the New Jerusalem. Three separate services were held throughout the day—A morning Dedication Service (attendance 900), an afternoon Holy Supper Service (attendance 500), and an evening Service of Praise (attendance 720) (see photo, left).
“It was the wish of the Bryn Athyn Church to provide, if possible, for all persons desiring to attend the Dedication Service. To ensure order, reservation cards of admission [see photo, left] were issued. All seats were occupied, with the exception of a few in the chapel” (New Church Life 1919, 833).
Programs were printed for the elaborate eight-part Dedication Service (see photo, left), and a preparation meeting conducted by Bishop N.D. Pendleton took place the evening before. The Sunday morning service began with a large processional:
“The Dedication Service was commenced with twenty-five of the clergy proceeding from the vestry, along outside on the south, and the choir proceeding from the choir rooms, along on the north, and uniting at the west door in a Processional up the nave to the chancel.
The order of the Processional was as follows: The Rev. George de Charms, Assistant Pastor, bearing the Word; Choir; Board of Finance of the Bryn Athyn Church; Clergy of the General Church—the Ministers, the Pastors with the Consistory, and the Bishop [N.D. Pendleton] and Bishop Emeritus [W.F. Pendleton]” (Richard Morse, “The Dedication: A Description by the Rev. Richard Morse,” New Church Life 1919, 742-743).
Rev. Gilbert H. Smith, Rev. Homer Synnestvedt, Rev. Alfred Acton, and Rev. George de Charms read the lessons. W.F. Pendleton delivered the sermon, which was followed by an introduction to the dedication portion of the service by N.D. Pendleton. Raymond Pitcairn, in his capacity as donor, gave an address and presented the Bishop with the key to the west door.
The impressions and events of the Dedication Service were well recorded in the pages of New Church Life during the last months of 1919, and it is clear from reading the accounts that those who attended were deeply moved, and came away with a renewed sense of optimism and hope for the future of the New Church.
Top photo: Bishop Emeritus W.F. Pendleton with his brother Bishop N.D. Pendleton on October 5th, 1919. Photo above: Procession of the clergy outside the west door of Bryn Athyn Cathedral. The photo most likely shows the procession coming out of the church at the end of the service. Both photos are in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. The Service of Praise card, reservation card, and Dedication Service program were recently donated to the Bryn Athyn Cathedral collection at the Glencairn Museum Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA.
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