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The Lutheran Years

Controversy, the Revolution, and the End of the Mission, 1730-1789

The 1730's through the 1780's was an era dominated by controversy and efforts to maintain the congregation in the face of strong competition from other denominations. The pastorship was vacant from 1733 to 1737, and the beloved Johan Dylander had to rebuild the congregation. He was largely successful in this before his untimely death in 1741. Like Rudman, he is buried in the church. Dylander was succeeded by Gabriel Nasman, whose time at Gloria Dei was marked by competition from Moravian missionaties that reduced the size of the congregation, and a debate within the congregation about cooperating with the newly powerful and numerous German Lutherans, who were led by the energetic and capable Reverend Henry Melchior Muhlenberg.

Carl Magnus Wrangel (pastor 1759-68) restored the fortunes of the congregation by his popular preaching style and his relationships with Philadelphia's intellectual and political elite. He also formed a close friendship with his missionary colleagues, especially Anders Gorell at Wilmington and Johan Wicksell at Swedesboro. Nils Collin, the last Swedish pastor to serve Gloria Dei, lived through much of the revolution's conflict in Swedesboro, New Jersey, sometimes accused by the English of working with the Revolutionaries, and sometimes by the Revolutionaries of working with the English, while both sides took for themselves whatever they thought useful. Collin remonstrated to both sides, insisting that his loyalties were exclusively to the King of Sweden (noting in his diary that he couldn't really understand how people could not be loyal to their king). Church records from the revolutionary period are mysteriously missing.

Eventually, the Swedish mission ended, the victim of the progressive Americanization of the congregations. The Swedish congregations in the colonies wrote a letter to the bishop of Uppsala requesting the right to elect their own clergy. And in 1789 (2 years later) the request was granted in a lovely and loving letter wishing A God Speed and asking that Pastor Collin be permitted to remain at the Wicaco charge until he might return to the old country. He never did, and died here in 1831 in his 87th year. In 1845, the congregation joined the Episcopal Church.

© 2019 Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Episcopal Church