The Most Historic Church in the United States with John Bright

The Most Historic Church in the United States with John Bright


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Christ Church is one of the most visited sites in Independence National Historical Park, along with Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but few people know the real depth of its history. It is architecturally unique. It is a unique site in Black history. It was a unique social location in the country’s de facto, then actual, the capital during and after the American Revolution, and was well-known to virtually all of the famous names of the time. It has a unique place in the religious history of the United States and intersects all of the major streams of modern Christianity in the U.S. almost from the point of their inception.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, actively worked to give his colony a unique level of religious freedom. This effort, combined with Philadelphia’s status as the largest city in British North America before the Revolution, made the city a unique point of interaction for early American religious traditions. This seminar will begin with the cultural and political history of the church, then, having established its uniqueness, take a deeper dive into the larger religious tradition that Christ Church represented and how it interacted with competing traditions. In those 18th century interactions, the different major streams of Christianity that still deeply affect modern U.S. politics and culture today are already visible. We will end in the present, with a consideration of what place these different streams occupy today.

John Bright has been a public historian at the Christ Church Preservation Trust for seven years, and wrote the most recent visitors guide to the church. As an employee of a nonprofit that runs historical programming at a national park site that still belongs to an active religious congregation, John has extensive experience navigating the complex relationships among American cultural, political, and religious history. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people at Christ Church and its related sites.

John Bright is a public historian who has worked for seven years at one of the most historic churches in the United States, which is part of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people about the intersection of American religious and political history and has experience addressing the thorny questions that arise in such a contested space. He has done doctoral work at Temple University in Philadelphia and General Theological Seminary in New York.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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