Nicholas Collin came to the Delaware Valley in 1770 and died here in 1831. He was both the last remaining priest of the Swedish mission and the first priest of the new American Gloria Dei. In his time the American colonies separated from great Britain, the Swedish mission came to an end, and a new Protestant Episcopal Church made up for the sundered relationship with the Church of England. The United states entered on its first great period of economic growth in the two decades after the War of 1812. Collin kept a detailed journal of his activities as a pastor at Trinity Church, Swedesboro, New Jersey (1770-1786), and we learn much about his daily activities, the problems he had keeping his no longer very Swedish congregation together, and the personal peril in which he found himself during the American Revolution.
During Collin’s Gloria Dei tenure (1786-1831), the church remained a sort of “independent” Swedish church, though Collin used the Episcopal prayer book in his services for many years. He also maintained a voluminous correspondence with Swedish scientists, churchmen, and other intellectuals throughout his life, and held a place in Philadelphia’s intellectual as well as its religious life. Probably as a result of his close friendship with Benjamin Franklin, the remains of an early lightening rod are visible on the church’s exterior. The extensive writings of this interesting figure are a part of Gloria Dei’s archives, and Nils Collin is buried under the floor of the church.