The Society for Faith and Charity (1796-1830)

book.JPGThe minutes of the Society for Faith and Charity (a Swedish organization active from 1796 to 1830) are “a perfect gold mine, a big package of New Church History . . . The Society received money from England for the publication of the Writings, and there was for a time a lively correspondence which will produce bibliographical information of much interest. The matrikel (catalogue of members), handsomely bound in now faded silk, contains not only the names of members, in many cases in autograph, but also many dates and shows precisely how the movement was spreading” (Alfred H. Stroh. Letter quoted in New Church Life 1911, 404).

odhnertombstone.jpgpehrodhner.jpgThe Societas Pro Fide et Charitate was organized in 1796, chiefly for the purpose of publishing Swedenborg’s works in Sweden. The existence of the Society was kept secret because of Swedish persecution against New Church ideas during that period. The very public collapse of the earlier Exegetic and Philanthropic Society had only served to exacerbate the situation. The latter Society had moved away from Swedenborg’s core teachings to dabble in spiritism and animal magnetism, eventually attracting a great deal of unfavorable public attention. (See this article about the Exegetic and Philanthropic Society in pdf format.)

leonardg.jpgStockholm members of the Society for Faith and Charity held occasional meetings (recorded in the minutes), and kept up communication with members in other districts through their journal, Forsamlings Tidning (Society Newsletter). “Among the more active members . . . we find the names of Major Leonard Gyllenhaal [see photo above], Councillor Schonherr, Prof. C. J. Knos, Prof. Adam Afzelius, Assessor Bergklint, the Rev. Johan Tybeck, the Rev. Jonas Pehrson Odhner [see tombstone above]and his son, the Rev. Pehr Hemming Odhner [see photo beside tombstone]” (New Church Life 1911, 404).

namesthumb.jpgIn 1911, the grandson of the Society’s president, G.J. Billberg, presented the Minutes and other papers to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Alfred H. Stroh, who was in Sweden researching Swedenborgiana, received funding from John Pitcairn to have three copies made. Cyriel Lj. Odhner made the copies during 1911 and 1912, and they were revised by Hjalmar Kylen (see Alfred H. Stroh. Preface. Minutes of the Societas Pro Fide et Charitate, 1912). One of the copies is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA (see photo, top). Alfred H. Stroh only had time to take a quick look at the Minutes, in 1911, when he described them as a “gold mine.” It does not appear that the Minutes have ever been translated from Swedish into English.

Photos: The photograph of Rev. Jonas P. Odhner’s tombstone in Lyrestad, Sweden, was taken by Ed Gyllenhaal during the Bryn Athyn College/Glencairn Museum “Swedenborg’s Sweden” trip in 1998. Pictured are three “Odhners”: Jane Williams-Hogan and Devin Zuber (both Odhner descendants) and Susan (Mrs. Greg) Odhner. The engraving of Pehr Hemming Odhner is courtesy of Justin Odhner. The engraving of Leonard Gyllenhaal is courtesy of Carl-Gunnar von Delwig, Habo, Sweden. The copy of the Minutes of the Societas Pro Fide et Charitate is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA.

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May 16, 2008 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact