Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, Church and Cemetery

churchoct09.jpg“On this site stood 1830 to 1913, the House of Worship of the Delaware County Society of the New Jerusalem Church, instituted in 1828. This tablet is set up as a memorial of the Society and its faithful members. To acknowledge a God and not to do evil because it is against God, are the two things by virtue of which religion is religion. Divine Providence No. 326. NEW JERUSALEM TEMPLE.”

These words were written on a stone monument erected in 1915, in memory of the Upper Darby church building that had been demolished a few years previously. The church (see photo, top) had been vacant since the late 1800s when the congregation worshipping there became inactive. The historic cemetery surrounding the church remained intact until the late 1960s and 70s, at which time the effects of years of vandalism could no longer be ignored, and it was decided to remove the bodily remains and try to resolve the issue of headstones. Many of the headstones had been irreparably damaged, so a decision was made to bury the ones that could not be saved, and offer the undamaged ones to their descendants (Communication from Philip Alden to David B. Glenn, 8/31/1978). The bodily remains were transferred to an unmarked grave in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Delaware County (http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/delaware/cemeteries/newjerus.txt).

baileyoct09.jpgThe Upper Darby cemetery was the original resting place of some of the most notable individuals in the history of the New Church in America: Francis Bailey (d. 1817), Rev. Richard De Charms, Sr. (d. 1864), Rev. David Powell (d. 1855), and Rev. James P. Stuart (d. 1882). The headstone of Francis Bailey still exists and is currently located at the Swedenborgian Church at Temenos in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Francis Bailey was one of the individuals present at Bells Book Store, Philadelphia, in 1784, when James Glen of Scotland delivered his historic lectures on Emanuel Swedenborg. Bailey became convinced of the truth of Swedenborg’s teachings and is generally credited with being the first New Churchman in America. A printer by profession, he produced the first publication of a New Church work in America, A Summary View of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Church, which he distributed free of charge. He went on to publish True Christian Religion serially; Benjamin Franklin, a fellow Philadelphia printer, was one of the subscribers. (See William Whitehead, “Forgotten Pages of New Church History: I. Francis Bailey,” New Church Life 1951, 1-4). Francis Bailey’s headstone reads as follows:

The First
American New Churchman
The First
American Publisher
of the Writings of
A bright example of active love
and of doing good to others” (see photograph).

It is interesting to note that Bailey died in 1817, a number of years before the church was built in 1830. A footstone accompanying his headstone provides something of an explanation: “F.B., Ter sepultum, Requiescat in pace. J.H.J., 1863″ (F.B. Thrice buried, rest in peace. J.H.J., 1863).

decharmsoct09.jpgdecharmsmarkeroct09.jpg Richard de Charms, Sr., whose headstone was also in this cemetery (see photo), is remembered for his pioneering work in the formulation and application of New Church Doctrine, and is considered a spiritual forebear of the Academy of the New Church movement. Rev. James P. Stuart, one of the founding members of the Academy, was buried in the churchyard in 1882, requesting that he be placed beside the Rev. David Powell (New Church Life 1882, 96). Powell had at one time been pastor of the Upper Darby congregation, and was instrumental in the growth of the New Church in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The photographs of the church and headstones included in this New Church History Fun Fact, as well as additional materials related to the Upper Darby church and cemetery, are available on the Swedenborg Library Digital Collections Website in the Archives section. To access the collection go to http://www.brynathyn.edu/academics/swedenborg-library. Click on Digital Collections, “Archives,” “New Church History,” “Early New Church Groups” and then click on the folder titled “Upper Darby New Jerusalem Church and Cemetery.” The easiest way to use the collection is by entering keywords into the “Search For” field.

The editors of NewChurchHistory.org would like to thank Marvin B. Clymer, Academy of the New Church Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA, for suggesting this New Church History Fun Fact and for providing access to the photographs. 

Photos: The photograph of the Upper Darby church was taken in 1903 and is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA. The two photographs of headstones were taken by Michael Pitcairn in the 1970s and are also in the collection of the Academy Archives. The photograph of Richard de Charms, Sr., is from the book Bryn Athyn and the Academy of the New Church, published in 1904. 

Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at info@newchurchhistory.org

October 31, 2009 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact