One word will meet the challenges we face at our 205th year.
I take this word from the visionary work of Francis Bailey, who in small and large ways instigated the formation of the new religious movement in the American colonies. The Founding Fathers turned to this young printer in Philadelphia known for publishing the best articles and thinking about political freedom to publish the Articles of Confederation (the first American Constitution in 1777). Yet, Bailey promoted another kind revolutionary cause, a spiritual vision of freedom from the pen of Swedenborg whose books had recently landed in his city’s harbor and in his heart and soul.
For this revolution he again turned to his presses and began issuing the first Swedenborgian literature in America—pamphlets, broadsides, and even books that included True Christian Religion (in American English, of course), which Benjamin Franklin and two other signers of the Declaration of Independence purchased by subscription.
Yet he was not done being revolutionary as he instigated the first American “Swedenborg Reading Circle” in North America. Soon replicated in many places, these cells evolved into bodies that became the Swedenborgian Church.
A quarter-millennium later, we are today working toward another revolution in how our church communicates and how it gathers. The denomination has been helping fund technology for our churches and summer camps to have the equipment to reach audiences beyond old geographic boundaries. And the denomination just this fall has approved funding to help a new-start virtual program explore innovative ways of gathering entirely online to learn and live a spirituality you can never outgrow. We have people from five time zones away participating in some of our local ministries on Sunday morning. Building and supporting this new way of participating in our ministries is the New World, and we need everyone’s help.
The times call for Revolution. Help us to carry Francis Bailey’s spirit forward.
Meet Jim Lawrence
Rev. Dr. Jim Lawrence is the president of the Swedenborgian Church of North America. He was the dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies for 21 years prior to being elected President in 2022.