I am what is loosely referred to as a "Swedenborgian." In short, I believe that the Writings <32 volumes of revelation as given by the Lord through Emanuel Swedenborg> are the 2nd coming of the Lord. Like traditional Christians, I celebrate Christmas and Easter. In addition, I celebrate the 19th of June.
I believe that the 2nd Coming happened - or its potential was made full - when the final volume of the Writings was completed. When "True Christian Religion" was completed, on June 19th, 1770, the Lord called together in the other world the 12 disciples who followed Him in this world and sent them forth throughout the heavens to proclaim that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, Whose kingdom shall be forever & ever.
It is very interesting, being a Swedenborgian. First of all, a lot of people insist on believing it is a Swedish church, sort of an offshoot of Lutherians. Then, when they hear that we believe that the 2nd Coming has happened and that it was in the guise of a written revelation rather than a Christ-like figure coming to Earth, they often start cautiously inching away. As Elsa likes to say, our's is a religion so small, we are known only to God and ourselves. I love my faith, especially today.
For as long as I can remember, people in Bryn Athyn have celebrated the 19th of June with special church services and a picnic on the cathedral lawn. Decades and decades ago, the Bryn Athyn Society switched gift giving from Christmas to "New Church Day." It is very festive - the children get presents, families spread out picnics and unload picnic hampers, and there's ice cream. Children have rolled down the long church hill for what seems eons - today's little ones and their parents and their parents and their parents and so on.
To the Lockharts, it would have been unthinkable to stay at home. After the picnic, when the sun set and dusk came on, the cathedral was bathed in lights and beautiful music played and Pete and myself and the children walked around the church and basked in its beauty. The light through the stained glass windows could move me to tears. I loved to walk down the hill and look up to soak in the sheer majesty of building, light and sound.
It has been many years since I went to a 19th of June church service,although Elsa will always drive me past the cathedral, down Cairncrest drive and up Quarry Road so I can have some sense of my beloved "New Church Day" traditions.
Today was different. I just knew that I would be going to the pageant.
I cannot even remember how long ago it was that I saw my first and only New Church Day pageant. It was a disappointment and I came away thinking it is impossible to effectively present the visions seen by John on the Isle of Patmos as described in Revelation, which we believe foretells the 2nd Coming of the Lord.
You can imagine Elsa's surprise when I mentioned around lunchtime that I wanted to go to this year's pageant. It just was something I knew was supposed to be.
I was not excited, I was not nervous, I was just sure I was meant to go. I got up from my nap at 4:40 p.m. and by 5:10 p.m. the two of us were on our way. I felt unusually calm and at the same time expectant.
It is impossible to describe the feelings I had as Elsa swung onto College Drive and we swung around and up to the Pike. I looked briefly at the church as we drove past it, but was too preoccupied with getting ready to decamp to take anything in.
Elsa drove through the portecochere and back up to Cathedral Road to let me out. Wonder of wonders, Brenda was strolling toward us at just the right moment. I was turned over to her and Tiffany Keal was handled my chair and Elsa took off to park the car. Brenda and Tiffany got me settled and sat next to me. I was finally able to look up and around.
The sight I saw left me feeling a sense of awe. It was seeing - being part of - a living, breathing Memorable Relation. A crowd of all ages arched in a semi-circle on the East Lawn, facing the church. Everyone seemed happy and looking forward to something wonderful.
A bank of dark thunder clouds formed a dramatic backdrop for the soft grey stone and soaring pinnacles of the cathedral. It felt like we were part of a higher, more ethereal reality. As Elsa came up and touched my shoulder, I felt a sense of such blessing.
Jeremy Simons came out, dressed in his robes, and announced that pageant would go on, but might ultimately be called on account of rain (not really his words, but they catch the situation).
Oh my, what came next was so powerful.
It made a tremendous difference, I think, having it on the East Lawn, rather than on the West Lawn, where it took place the year I saw it.
Jeremy read from Revelation (the last book of the New Testament) and someone representing John came forward. Then, Jeremy read from Revelation, "After this, I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice I heard was as it were of a trumpet, talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter."
Well, it never occurred to me that this was being actually portrayed - I thought we were to imagine it in our minds. Elsa touched my shoulder and pointed up; there, way high up in the cathedral tower, was someone portraying an angel, with a brilliant outfit with golden sleeves. It was a wonderful, powerful sight.
A 2nd "angel" appeared, with a scroll with 7 seals, again way high up in the tower.
Off in the distance, between the central tower and a lower tower to the left, a great slash of lightning cut across the dark grey clouds. It was other-worldly. I had tears in my eyes.
Jeremy continued reading from the Book of Revelation and spoke of someone "speaking with the voice of thunder." Well, no sooner had he said the last word than a great rumble of thunder shook all around us. I get chills just remembering.
Everyone stayed put - with lightning in the distance and thunder close at hand, everyone stayed put.
Jeremy read of the four horsemen, the first on a white horse, the second on a red, the third on a black and the final - Death - on a pale horse. Each time Jeremy described a horse and rider, one appeared ~ on real horses. What a moment, to see each enter, then finally all four circling together. What power.
We managed to get to the release of the souls under the altar before the heavens opened up and the threatening storm became reality. Elsa hightailed if off for the car, Brenda & Tiffany helped me in, and off we went.
Even abbreviated, it was one of the most powerful things I have experienced. The obvious power of nature had something to do with it, but even without it, I am sure that I would have been deeply moved by what I saw and experienced.
As we drove away through the rain drops and dodging people making bee-lines for their cars - I understood why it was a given in my heart that this was one service I would not miss. I told Elsa that I thanked the Lord for the experience and (typically) she reminded me that the Lord had created the opportunity but that * I * was the one who got myself there.
It was an experience that I doubt any of the people who shared in it will forget. It is still with me and will be blessing me as I drop off to sleep.
It is not always easy to be a "Swedenborgian," to be different and to experience skepticism, even from friends, when they hear the bit about the 2nd Coming. But it is right for this Ancient One.
Peace to you all. Love - the Ancient One