“The new building which has been erected for the use of the Academy School in London is situated in Brixton, a part of London adjoining Camberwell, about three miles from the ‘City.’ The building faces the west. It is small and compact-looking, built of white brick, and is in a very pleasant neighborhood, with plenty of open space at the back. The basement, which, owing to the nature of the foundation, had to be built half underground, contains two class-rooms, behind which are the janitors apartments. On the upper floor is a large hall, at the east end of which are recesses for the Chancel and Repository. This hall is used for the morning worship and also as a class-room. In addition to this the members of the General Church [of the Advent] worship there every Sunday.
Great attention has been paid to the furnishing of the building, every convenience being afforded to the teachers and scholars. The church furniture is particularly beautiful, having been designed and executed entirely according to correspondence. In fact, London can now be said to have the finest church furniture in the General Church. It is constructed of the best oak.
Above the Repository is the inscription, ‘Adventus Domini,’ on either side of which are representations of the grape and olive. On the Repository, which is surmounted by a crown representing the New Church as the crown of all Churches, are painted in gold letters [alpha] and [omega].
In the Chancel, before the Repository, are, also in gold letters, the words, [Hebrew] (Holiness to the LORD). The lectern deserves to be particularly noticed. It has a revolving desk. By this arrangement while the priest is reading the second lesson, the Book from which the first lesson has been read, lies open before the people” (New Church Life 1892, 171).
The newly constructed Academy of the New Church school building (known today as Michael Church), was dedicated on Sunday, September 4th, 1892. Morning and evening services were conducted by Rev. Edward C. Bostock and Rev. Robert J. Tilson. A feast of charity was held in the evening on Monday the 5th, and on Tuesday the school was officially opened (see New Church Life 1892, 171). It is interesting to note that the London school and the one in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario, Canada, were built in the same year. The “old Carmel Church” building in Kitchener no longer exists, due to a move to the country in the 1960s, but Michael Church has remained an active center of worship for one hundred and sixteen years.
The London school was located on Burton Road, and the group worshipping there was initially known simply as the Burton Road Society. C. J. Whittington, a member of the Academy of the New Church, had financed the cost of construction. He retained ownership of the building until 1917, when he sold it to the group worshipping under Rev. Tilson. A split had occurred in the congregation in 1898 when some of the members had decided to join the newly formed General Church of the New Jerusalem, centered in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. Tilson refused to join at that time, and retained use of the building, while those joining the General Church found other places of worship.
In 1921 a reconciliation occurred, and the congregation, including Tilson, agreed to formally join the General Church. At that time the name Michael Society was adopted, which soon became Michael Church. Within the next few years, the group that had split off in 1898 gradually rejoined the members of Michael Church. The building continued to house a school until 1927, when a lack of students forced it to close (see Dawson, Nancy. Michael Church: The First One Hundred Years, 1992). Its function as a place of worship has continued uninterrupted to the present.
Photos: The photograph of the front of Michael Church is undated, but the “Michael Church” sign indicates a date no earlier than 1921, when the name was adopted, and possibly much later. The photograph of the school children and faculty is from 1892. Rev. Robert J. Tilson (center, right) and Rev. Edward C. Bostock (center, left) are seated together in front. The photograph of Tilson (left) and Bostock (right) on the chancel is also from 1892. The close-up of the repository is from the same photograph. The photographs are all in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA.
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