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Charity, Change, and Community: Frankford's Swedenborgians and Their Circle - Volume 1: 1817-1875
Gail Rodgers McCormick

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Spurred by a surprising family discovery, Gail McCormick embarked on an historical journey to uncover the story of a unique society of Swedenborgians, a Christian sect inspired by the works of eighteenth-century scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. Unlike most investigations of American Swedenborgianism that have emphasized Swedenborg’s influence on the elite, eccentric, and esoteric, McCormick focuses on the experience and impact of this community of faith in the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford. Independent until its consolidation within the city of Philadelphia in 1854, the neighborhood has maintained its own identity for generations, retaining a sense of its colonial past, industrial heritage, and the contributions of its diverse population. Frankford’s Swedenborgian congregation, officially the New Jerusalem Society of Frankford, was founded in 1817 as a “Free-Will Baptist” congregation by former Quakers, German Pietists, and English immigrants who had embraced religious Nonconformity in their homeland. They maintained strong family and faith connections to their “Bible Christian” neighbors, the English vegetarian and teetotaling Swedenborgians who arrived in Philadelphia about the same time. The congregation developed deep roots in its neighborhood but also was engaged, and often influential, in many city-wide and national issues. It made its mark not only on religious affairs but also on local business and industry; art, literature, and music; science and medicine; social and political reform; and even communication technology. McCormick uses a wide variety of primary and secondary resources to highlight a special community of faith, whose historic trajectory reflects that of the neighborhood it sought to influence and inspire.

All proceeds benefit the Historical Society of Frankford. Founded in 1905, the Society collects, preserves and presents the history of Frankford and vicinity and serves as an advocate for the preservation of the region’s historic resources. Through its collections and programs, the HSoF provides opportunities for its members, the surrounding community, and the general public to explore and appreciate the history of Frankford and its place in the world.

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