Swedenborgians played an impressive role in the organization and building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair which showcased so many new inventions and ushered America into the a new century. Charles C. Bonney, a lawyer,  was President of the World Congresses and architect, Daniel Burnham, designed the buldings. The following articles are excerpted from writings of Rev. Wilma Wake, about what inspired Bonney and Burnham and of the experiences of the participants who attended and spoke.  A book, New Jerusalem in the  World’s Religious Congresses, edited by Rev. L. P. Mercer, which includes the speeches given by Swedenborgian man and women (at a time when women rarely spoke in public).


Swedenborgians and 1893 Parliament of World Religions

Excerpted from a service, Swedenborgians at the Fair, by Rev. Wilma Wake, April 2, 2017

On February 24, 1890, Chicago received the electrifying news that their city was selected – over New York – to host the 1892 World’s Fair. [Which was delayed until 1893.] A flurry of plans and proposals had proliferated through the city. One enthusiastic proposal was different from all the others. It was put forth by Swedenborgian lawyer Charles C. Bonney. He wrote:

“The crowning glory of the 1892 World’s Fair should not be the exhibits then to be made of material triumphs, industrial achievements and mechanical victories of man, however magnificent that display may be. Something higher and nobler is demanded by the enlightened spirit of the present age. “Statesmen, jurists, financiers, scientists, literati, teachers, and theologians” would meet in conjunction with the proposed world’s fair to discuss everything from religion to international law to “the practicability of a common language.”



The Architecture of Daniel Burnham

Excerpted from services by Rev. Wilma Wake


Daniel Burnham was an architect, living in Chicago. His father was the older brother of Nathan Clark Burnham, the father of Al-Anon co-founder, Lois Burnham Wilson.  Lois and Daniel were first cousins, grandchildren of Rev. Nathan Clark Burnham.

…Burnham said that his plan for Chicago was inspired by Swedenborg’s concept of “uses.” He believed that a city or a building should exist for improving the quality of life of people. In Chicago, he saw that the property along the shore of Lake Michigan was being purchased for private enjoyment or by business for industrial gain. He believed that the water and the land belonged to everyone. He fought tirelessly to get the shores into the hands of a commission that made it all into beautiful parks for the enjoyment of all. One can now drive for miles along Lake Shore drive with an unobstructed view of the water, and enjoy beautiful public parks. Burnham knew that many people experienced the divine in nature, and he believed that a city — and a building – should have a lot of open space and light.



The New Jerusalem in the World’s Religious Congresses

Edited by Rev. L. P. Mercer, 1893


The Columbian Exposition was itself a manifestation of the New Age. Divine purposes work long unseen, and divine principles are embodied often long before their source and portent are acknowledged.

It is explained in this volume that by the New Jerusalem is meant a new dispensation of the Church and of Religion…