The Spiritualist Church grewout of the Spiritualist movement which began in the 1840s in America. Spiritualist Churches are found around the world, but are more common in English-speaking countries. In North America the churches are primarily affiliated with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, and in the UK with the Spiritualists National Union. A large number of Christians refute that the Spiritualist Church is part of Christianity, claiming it is contrary to Scripture: we will not join that debate. It is for each of us to decide which denomination is best for us. Anyhow there have been serious disagreements about religion since the beginning of time.
The origin of
mediumship is associated to the Fox sisters at New York in 1848,
but the unofficial beginning of spiritualism is claimed to be much
earlier. By 1853 the movement had reached San Francisco and London, and
by 1860 was worldwide. The Fox family remained very active in
Spiritualism for many years. Other notable Spiritualists were Mercy
Cadwallader, who became a sort of missionary for the movement, and Emma
Hardinge Britten, who wrote many books on mediumship and its place in
American popular and religious culture. In 1853 the first Spiritualist
Church in the British Isles was established by David Richmond at
Keighley in Yorkshire. In 1855 the first Spiritualist newspaper in
Britain, The Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, was published, and by the
1870s there were numerous Spiritualist societies and churches
throughout the US and Britain. However there was no national
organisation of mediums in Britain or the USA even though some regions
of Britain had organised Federations. National Federation of Spiritualists (NFS)
was founded in 1891 and grew rapidly. It changed its name change to the
Spiritualists' National Union (SNU) in 1902. British spiritualists of
this time were often adherents of temperance and anti-capital
punishment groups, often held radical political views and were
frequently vegetarians. A few campaigned for Women's Rights and a tiny
minority Free Love: the popular perception of Spiritualists in the
Victorian age was that they were radicals.
'Two Worlds was the
major British magazine of spiritualism and had a fairly large
circulation, and it advertised the existence of local circles. Trance
mediumship flourished and table turning was a popular craze. D.D.Hume
one of the greatest physical mediums made spiritualism fashionable by
his high profile activities, and it was common among everyone from the
aristocracy down. There were many fake mediums practising in the
period, exposed by both the Spiritualists, and the fledgling Society
for Psychical Research, founded in 1882, whose members spent much time
investigating the phenomena. By 1924 there were 309 Churches who were
affiliated to the SNU and many more belonged to other organisations. A
new magazine, Psychic News, had joined Two Worlds on the newsstands of
Britain. American spiritualism was individualistic and more
anti-organisation than its British counterpart. From 1920 to 1938 there
was the British College of Psychic Studies led by Mr and Mrs Mackenzie
in London. The College of Psychic Studies at Stansted grew after
this and continues to this day.
In 1957 there was a major schism
and Spiritualist Churches in Britain divided into the Spiritualist's
National Union, holding spiritualism to be a religion, and the
circles of Christian Spiritualism, who hold it to be a denomination of
Christianity. The two groups hold very different theological beliefs.
National Spiritualist churches form the majority and are affiliated to
The Spiritualists' National Union (S.N.U.), including the Spiritualist
Association of Great Britain. The SNU also has some member churches in
other English speaking countries. Christian Spiritualist Churches are
mainly affiliated to The Greater World Christian Spiritualist
Association. There are Spiritualist churches in Australia, New Zealand,
Canada, The Republic of South Africa and groups in many countries
including Japan, all Scandinavian countries, Korea, Italy, Germany,
Austria, Hungary, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and
Iceland. Many such groups and also individuals, are members of The
International Spiritualist Federation (ISF) which was founded in
Belgium in 1923 and is an umbrella organisation for all spiritualists.
They hold Congress every two years in different parts of the world.
Other Spiritualist groups in the UK include The White Eagle Lodge,
founded by the medium Grace Cooke, The Institute of Spiritualist
Mediums and the Noah's Ark Society, that focuses on physical phenomena
Styles of Worship
Spiritualist churches are places
of worship for the practitioners of Spiritualism. The Spiritualist
service is conducted by a 'medium'. There is an opening prayer, an
address, hymns and finally a demonstration of mediumship: they
attempt to contact the spirits of the dead. This is known as 'opening
up'. In Britain especially, mediums are required to produce clear
evidence that the spirit contacted is the person they claim it to be
before going on to give any "message" from the spirit. Such evidence
can be details of where they lived, like addresses, and particulars of
illnesses suffered, notable events in their lives, etc, often known
only to the person in the audience being given the information. The
standard of mediumship varies greatly but the best do produce
startlingly accurate information about the spirit with whom they are in
Spiritualists believe that all
die physically; and that some aspect of the personality or mind
survives and continues to exist on the spiritual plane. Spiritualists
use the word 'Spirit' as plural to describe all minds and entities who
have entered into the spirit world. The purpose of the medium is to
provide some evidence that a human has survived by describing the
person to their surviving relatives. The degree of accuracy with which
the deceased are described goes some way to convincing the living
relatives and friends that the medium has some contact with the spirit.
Spiritualists call this 'Survival Evidence'.
Healing is a form of mediumship which involves a technique of directing
healing energy to the patient from a higher source. The healer uses his
or her hands to affect repair of damaged or diseased tissue.
have been some outstanding and famous practitioners of spirit
communication connected to Spiritualist churches. One of the principal
advocates of Spiritualism was the 20th century British writer Arthur
Findlay. Findlay was a magistrate, farmer and businessman who left his
mansion house as place for the study and advancement of psychic
science. This has now become The Psychic College in Stansted, England
and is run by the S.N.U.
Mediums develop their ability by
sitting regularly with other psychics. Meditation plays a large
role in Spiritualist practice and often includes controlled breathing.
It may also include chakras. The Spiritualist may also focus on aspects of a holy nature
to help them attain a higher existence. These may include standard
prayers (Hail Mary, Sanctus etc.), focusing on the name of God (Jesus,
YHWH or Lord etc.) Imaging (intensely imagining a place or situation)
is used. There are specific imagings used to "meet" one's guide,
connect with those who have died, receive protection or support from
God or simply calming the mind.
Spiritual Church accepts the Seven Principles of Spiritualism, of which
principles, full individual liberty of interpretation is allowed:
The Divine Eternal Parenthood (sometimes called "the Fatherhood of God")
The Family of Humankind (sometimes called "the Brotherhood of Man")
The Interconnectedness of all Creation.
The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels
The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul
and Social Responsibility, including compensation and/or retribution
hereafter for the good and evil deeds done "on Earth"
Eternal progress open to every Human Soul
long-used Spiritualist Creed, drawn from the writings of clairvoyant
Bishop Charles W. Leadbeater (see Liberal Catholic Church), is:
We believe that God is Love and Power and Truth and Light; that, ultimately, Perfect Justice rules the World; that all God's children will one day reach God's feet, however far they stray. We hold: the Parenthood of God; the Family of Humankind; the Interconnectedness of all Creation. We know that we serve God best when best we serve our neighbors. So may God's blessing rest upon us, and Peace for evermore. Amen.
National Spiritualist Association of churches (US)
Spiritualist Churches in the UK
First Spiritualist Church of Brockton (typical US Spiritualist Church)