The First Celebration of Charter Day (1917)

charterdaysm.jpgTomorrow’s “Charter Day” celebration will mark the 89th anniversary of this event at the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA. (Before the inception of Charter Day, the Academy had celebrated “Founders Day” each January.) The descriptions below of early Charter Day celebrations will be familiar to modern participants in this event, as many of the activities have remained much the same. 

Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, 1917 (the first “Charter Day”): 

“Saturday, Nov. 3rd, was ‘Charter Day,’ a newly instituted annual celebration of the anniversary of the granting of a Charter to the Academy, in the year 1877. The preceding Friday was a holiday wherein the pupils of the Academy Schools did their Saturday work. On Saturday morning, as a fitting beginning to the day, opening services were held in the Chapel in the usual manner, the President giving an address on the significance of Charter Day. Following this there was a parade of the Faculties, the Schools, and the Alumni, ending with a Flag-raising. For this occasion a service flag had been prepared and was presented, by the Academy daughters. The fact that there are forty-six stars on this service flag of the Academy of the New Church speaks for itself. [Editor's note: Apparently there were forty-six members of the Academy of the New Church serving in World War I at this time.] At noon the Schools had a picnic lunch in the Gymnasium, and in the afternoon, field sports, followed by an entertainment in the Auditorium. An enjoyable dance was held in the evening. The whole program was in the hands of the students, who were thus given an opportunity to plan and carry out the order of the day for the sake of their own experience, as well as for the enjoyment of others” (New Church Life 1917, p. 759). 

Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, 1921:

“The program of this year’s Charter Day Celebration included events on that day, November 3d, and on the two days following. It was, accordingly, a more elaborate observance of this important date in our annals than any of the previous commemorations since the custom was inaugurated in 1917. The opening service on Thursday at 11 a.m. was held in the Cathedral, to which the Academy officials, students, and graduates marched in procession from the school buildings on the campus. Led by the little ones of the first grade, the stately line filled the intervening distance. The student body and the ex-students of many past years carried their class banners and sang appropriate songs as they went. Lastly came the Members of the Faculty, the Board of Directors, the Consistory, the Bishop, and the Bishop Emeritus, all suitably robed, and the clergy wearing birettas made especially for this occasion, those for the Bishops being red, the others dark blue. The service was conducted by the Bishop, assisted by the Rev. C. E. Doering, who read the lessons; and the address was delivered by the Bishop Emeritus, his subject being ‘The Founding of the Academy,’ in which he spoke of the vision of the Lord in the Writings that was vouchsafed the founders of the Academy, as the real beginning of the movement. The recitation of the Ten Commandments in Hebrew, and the singing of a chant and anthem in the same language, were features of the worship. The congregation, consisting almost entirely of the students and graduates of the Academy, filled most of the pews, while the members of the Faculty and Board of Directors occupied choir seats in the first chancel.

“On Thursday evening, the Alumni Association tendered a banquet to the members of the Faculty, their wives, and other guests. The tables were gay with chrysanthemums, the menu delicious, and the eloquence brilliant, weighty and long continued. The dominating note, sounded by Mr. Geoffrey Childs, as toastmaster, was: ‘What Can I Do For the Academy Schools?’

“Various phases of this theme were dealt with by the speakers,-Bishop W. F. Pendleton, the Revs. George de Charms and Enoch S. Price, Messrs. R. W. Childs and Hubert Hyatt, in the order named, with a general discussion prolonging the proceedings until midnight.

“Friday afternoon contributed its full share of enthusiasm when the Academy football team registered a victory over its favorite annual opponents at Radnor, Pa., a triumph especially gratifying after five years fruitless efforts. The same evening witnessed another gathering in the auditorium, this time the regular Friday Supper, but given under the auspices of Theta Alpha and The Sons of the Academy, with many a song and sparkling speech. For a description of this occasion, we must refer our readers to The Bulletin. 

“As the closing event of the Charter Day program, Saturday evening found a crowded assemblage at the Presidents Reception in the auditorium, with an animated social time and dancing until midnight” (New Church Life 1921, pp. 714-715). 

Kitchener, Ontario, 1923:

“The Kitchener Chapter of the Sons of the Academy invited all the men of the Society to a banquet on November 3rd, to observe Charter Day. Mr. Harold Kuhl of the Executive Committee was toastmaster, and a series of speeches on the subject of ‘New Church Education’ had been arranged. The toastmaster read from an ancient copy of New Church Tidings an address given by the Rev. F. E. Waelchli at the time of his coming to Berlin to open the first New Church school in Canada. We were greatly impressed with the freshness and applicability at this time, 35 years later, of the fundamentals of our educational work. In the speeches that followed, the subject of education was carried through a series of Home, School, and Church. Mr. A. H. Scott pointed out that the foundation of all later work must be securely laid in the influences and activities of the home and family; Mr. Ed. Hill spoke of the work of the school, and its primary aim in the development of character and individuality; Mr. Nathaniel Stroh urged the continuance of the effort to learn in the years after we leave school, showing that the church provides many educative uses, while the Writings themselves are a field of study for a lifetime. After this, many others spoke on the various phases of the subject, an unusually active state being evident. There is hope that observance of this day will be continued in the years to come” (New Church Life 1923, p. 778). 

Photo from: The Academy of the New Church 1879-1926: An Anniversary Record. Bryn Athyn, PA: Academy of the New Church, 1926.

October 19, 2006 | Posted by: Ed Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact