New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 73

     from the Academy’s earliest establishment did its founders believe that a museum was a vital part of the Academy?” After the legal charter was granted on November 3, 1877, a Theological School was established in Philadelphia, then a college the next year. But within two years of its founding – even before the Boys School (1181) and Girls School (1883) – the Academy had a museum. But when the Academy officially opened in 1877, William Henry Benade and John Pitcairn – two men who had played such a significant role in its founding – were not there to witness it. They had already left on their grand tour, anxious to spread the word about the New Church and the Academy and to see for themselves the land of the Bible. They returned home with more than 1,000 artifacts from the ancient world. Benade said he hoped “all our friends will bear in mind that we shall need a Museum, and will collect whatever they can find that may be of use for such a purpose.” Of their trip along the Nile, Benade wrote glowingly about the pictures on the walls of some of the temples, “with profound reverence for the Divine Being, coupled with a deep, confiding love.” Most Christians then focused on the differences between ancient religion and Christianity as the one true faith. They would have found it odd that a 19 th century minister would express such interest in and admiration for the religion of ancient Egypt. But Benade was speaking from a knowledge of the Five Churches. The Writings teach that the Ancient Church was located in Egypt and extended throughout the ancient world. So The museum seeks to encourage reflection and a sense of wonder about religious traditions around the world, past and present, through an exploration of the cultural expressions of faith. We hope to engage visitors in the ongoing dialogue about the contemporary relevance of spiritual belief and practice, leading to understanding, empathy and, ultimately, compassion and tolerance for one another in our common human endeavor to find meaning and purpose in our lives. 139