|Cave of Kelpius (image courtesy USHistory.org)|
Known colloquially as the "Hermits of the Wissahickon," the sect spent their time:
hosting public services, bloodletting Germantown residents, studying religion, observing the stars and planets, and practicing alchemy and numerology. One of the focal points of their worshipping practices was music, and most of the sect's members were musicians, including Kelpius, who some consider the first Pennsylvania composer.4Of course, the end of the world didn't arrive in 1694. It didn't come in 1700. It didn't even arrive in 1708 when Johannes Kelpius passed away. The remaining members stayed for some time, but after a decade, the sect had disbanded entirely. Today, there is nothing left of the sect or their structures. However, the cave still remains, which you can visit if you can locate it within Fairmont Park in Philadelphia.
I bring up this sliver of history because I see so many Christians acting in a way similar to the hermits of Wissahickon. I don't mean that people go out to the wilderness and build monasteries. But we Christians do cut ourselves off intellectually from the wider world. Sure, we work for secular companies, attend state schools, and entertain ourselves with movies and television like anyone else, but how often do we interact with or challenge the worldview that powers our culture today? How many churches are equipping their parishioners to engage with others about their beliefs?
Many Christians today are content to listen to Christian radio, attend weekly services that focus on worship music and talk of how we are living in the end times. That's all well and fine, but the church was never called to live in a bubble. We are commissioned to make disciples of all people, and that means doing the hard work of understanding the beliefs of others while also being able to share Christianity as the solution to the world's problems. We need to be able to explain to our friends and families why same-sex marriage is wrong or why the threat to religious liberty is a fundamental threat to our culture. We need to be able to offer reasons why God exists or how the foundation of Christianity is the fact of the resurrection. How many churches equip their congregations in this way? Far too few.
Christianity has been a world-changing faith ever since the disciples began following Jesus's command to make disciples. We've saved lives, improved nations, civilized barbarous peoples, stopped infanticides, advanced science, stood for equality, and comforted those everyone else rejected. We need to continue that legacy. We need to break out of our holy huddles and begin to be faithful to the call that our Lord gave us. Otherwise, we might end up just as forgotten as the Hermits of Wissahickon.
2. Dicciani, Kevin. "The 'rapture' That Never Came: The Story of 'The Hermits of the Wissahickon'" Chestnut Hill Local. Chestnut Hill Local, 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. http://www.chestnuthilllocal.com/2015/04/22/the-rapture-that-never-came-the-story-of-the-hermits-of-the-wissahickon/.
3. Avery, Ron. "Cave of Kelpius." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 1999. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. http://www.ushistory.org/oddities/kelpius.htm.
4. Dicciani, 2015.
Picture courtesy of ushistory.org