On September 4, 1854, a cornerstone containing a “time capsule” was ceremoniously laid for The First New Jerusalem Society of Philadelphia’s temple at the corner of Broad and Brandywine. The time capsule, set in the hollow center of the cornerstone, was a tin box – nine inches long, six inches wide, and four inches deep. The elders of the society, in the presence of the building committee, deposited a number of documents in the box. However, the acting minister of the society, Rev. William Henry Benade, was conspicuously absent from the ceremony, having refused to take part. On October 15, Benade resigned his pastorate over disagreements with the church’s building committee, and preached a farewell sermon based on the text from Psalm 127: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”
Today the cornerstone is in the collection of Glencairn Museum, and the materials in the tin box “time capsule” reside in the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. Included among the papers were a handwritten copy of the “Articles of Faith” of the New Church (see photo below) and a short document describing the history and organization of the society (Eldric S. Klein, “Report of the Archivist,” The Academy Journal, 1971-72, 25). The papers were somewhat damaged during their 118-year stay in the tin box, perhaps due to seepage from groundwater.
A number of issues were involved in Benade’s disagreement with the building committee: several of the representative features that Benade had advocated for the temple had been eliminated; plans for the inclusion of space for a day school were removed; and arrangements were made for the cornerstone to be placed in the northwest corner rather than the southeast. According to the New Church doctrine of correspondences, “There are four states to which the four quarters in the world – east, west, south, and north – correspond. East corresponds to a state in which good is on the rise, and west to a state in which good is on the decline; south corresponds to a state in which truth dwells in light, but north to a state in which truth dwells in shade” (Arcana Coelestia n. 9648). Perhaps at the core of the entire controversy was the issue of priestly leadership. Twelve members of the society resigned together with Benade to form The Philadelphia Society of the New Jerusalem, which would go on to construct a church and school building on Cherry Street two years later.
In 1881 The First New Jerusalem Society of Philadelphia (the congregation that Benade had resigned from in 1854) was in the process of moving to a new location at 22nd and Chestnut. A report in New Church Life described the cornerstone laying ceremony for this building, which took place on Thanksgiving Day. The report mentions the dispute of 1854 and notes that the new cornerstone was being placed in the southeast corner. This building was dedicated on March 11, 1883 (see New Church Life 1881, 103; 1882, 174; 1883, 48).
Spring Garden College purchased the old temple at Broad and Brandywine in 1883. In 1972 the college relocated to Chestnut Hill, resulting in the demolition of the Broad and Brandywine Street building. The wreckers were asked to save the cornerstone, and arrangements were made for the cornerstone and its contents to be given to the Academy of the New Church (see Eldric S. Klein, “Report of the Archivist,” The Academy Journal, 1971-72, 25).
List of materials in the tin box “time capsule”:
“The Word; the “Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem”; the Articles of Faith of the New Church (copied from the Book of Worship); a memorandum of the Society, the names of its ministers and places of worship; the names of the persons who signed the Constitution when adopted, and the names of the present members, officers, etc.; a tract on The True Object of Worship; the Constitution of the Society as amended; the New Jerusalem Magazine, the New Church Repository, the Herald of the New Church, the Dew-Drop, and the Crisis, all being numbers of the said periodicals then current; also Arthur’s Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer of September 4; and a declaration of dedication” (Eldric S. Klein, “Report of the Archivist,” The Academy Journal, 1971-72, 25).
Further reading: Benade, William H. Sermon to The First New Jerusalem Society of Philadelphia, Preached on Resigning His Ministerial Office in Connection with That Society. Philadelphia: Boericke and Tafel, 1854.
Photos: Stewart Farmer, Ed Gyllenhaal
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the friendly and dedicated staff at the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA, for their invaluable support and ongoing assistance with this and many other “New Church History Fun Facts.”