Rev. Eric Hoffman
Rev. Eric Hoffman in front of the church he serves in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Swedenborgians from across the United States and Canada were in St. Paul, Minnesota last week for their annual convention. We’ve long been interested in the Swedenborgian Church, ever since Mehmet Oz referenced this tradition in our show “Heart and Soul.” With this gathering unfolding in our backyard, we contacted Rev. Eric Hoffman who presides over a local Swedenborgian church to learn more.

Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th-century Swedish scientist and theologian, never set out to found a church movement. The first Swedenborgian church was established in London 15 years after he died.

There have been many famous Swedenborgians throughout history, including Johnny Appleseed, Helen Keller, and the poet William Blake. Al-Anon co-founder Lois Wilson grew up in a Swedenborgian family.

Interior of Virginia Street ChurchOur audio interview with Rev. Hoffman introduces a few core theological ideas that are important to Swedenborgians. He also debunked common misconceptions about this Protestant denomination including the idea that they have a special relationship to Sweden (they don’t) or conduct their church services in Swedish (they don’t do that either).

If you have personal experience with the Swedenborgian Church, we’d love to hear your stories so we can continue to deepen our understanding of this tradition.

(photos: Nancy Rosenbaum)


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fascinating... Swedenborg was an early (but brief) influence in my spiritual development... I read sections of his book, Heaven and Hell, as I commuted on the subway to Manhattan from Brooklyn in the early 70s... later, in the late 80s, after I moved from NYC to Bucks County, PA, I visited the nearby Bryn Athyn cathedral and Swedenborg library to learn a little more... I continue to be fascinated...

In Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania is the largest group of followers of Emanuel Swedenborg. The "New Church", as they call it, have a Cathedral there. Their biggest supporter was industrialist, John Pitcarin. More info can be found at http://www.brynathynchurch.org...

As a Swedenborgian, I am pleased to share this conversation with friends. Eric Hoffman does a fine job of bringing Swedenborg into our times, as do the publications of the Swedenborg Foundation, www.swedenborg.com.

Great interview! Rev. Hoffman briefly mentioned the influence of Swedenborg on Thomas Jefferson. I gave a talk related to this subject at the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church. A transcript is available at that church's website: http://www.sfswedenborgian.org...

Okay, you should know that there are three different Swedenborgian denominations with some significant differences. The one with the cathedral in Bryn Athyn, PA is only one of them.

As president of the board of trustees of the Virginia Street Church, I would like to thank Speaking of Faith for covering this. Although we may be a smaller denomination, Swedenborgians have made a large difference in the lives of many. Our theology invites questions and discussion. http://www.virginiastreetchurc... & http://www.facebook.com/pages/...

The numbers cited for the Judaean People's Front and the People's Front of Judaea, oops, I mean the different New Church bodies seem to vary wildly according to source. Considering how few of ALL of us there are, it hardly seems to matter.

Excellent interview with Eric Hoffman. I enjoyed your perspective on Swedenborg's writings and influence in the World today. I am from the New Church of Concord www.newchurchconcord.org which is a group in Concord, MA affiliated with the General Church of the New Jerusalem or New Church of Bryn Athyn, PA. Much of what Eric had to say speaks to me personally and reflects the New Church point of view. I particularly liked his description of the human body as an expression of one's soul or spirt and his articulation of Swedenborg's view on Heaven and Hell. I would add that another distinction of new church thinking is very much about finding the harmony between one's "head space" (rational thinking) and "heart space" (one's love and will). This is often referred to as the Heavenly Marriage of truth and good or faith and Charity. The offspring of this heavenly marriage is USE . . . when one knows what is true and wills that it be so, their corresponding action to put it to use in service to their neighbor is the simple formula of the Heavenly state mentioned by Mr. Hoffman. Thanks for sharing this . . . we have a blog called Internalsense.com for just this sort of expression. Please feel free to share more.

Thank you for the kudos. I'll forward on to Nancy, whom I assigned to this story.

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