- All Souls Church, Unitarian
All Souls Church, Unitarian is a
Unitarian Universalistchurch located at 1500 Harvard Street NW at the intersection of 16th Street in Washington, D.C., roughly where the Mt. Pleasant-Columbia Heights- Adams Morganneighborhoods of the city meet. The design of its current building, completed in 1923, is based on St. Martin's-in-the-Fieldsin London. All Souls, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Associationof Congregations, describes its theologyas having evolved from a liberal Christiantradition into a "rich pluralism."
All Souls was founded in 1821 as the First Unitarian Church of Washington; among the church's founding members were
John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, and Charles Bulfinch(who designed the original church building at 6th and D Streets NW). The All Souls bell was cast in 1822 by Joseph Revere, the son of Paul Revere; this bell, paid for with contributions by, among others, President James Monroe, originally served as a quasi-official town bell for Washington, DC. [http://www.all-souls.org/history All Souls Church, Unitarian, Washington, D.C., History] The church has a long tradition of promoting liberal religious views and social justice issues. In the first half of the 1800s it was known for its opposition to slavery, and counts among its past ministers the prominent abolitionist William Henry Channing. The Revere Bell was stripped of its status as Washington's "town bell" after the congregation tolled it to commemorate the death of John Brown; it was thereafter often called the "Abolition Bell."
In 1877 the congregation changed its name to All Souls Church, a reflection of the words of
William Ellery Channing, founding father of Unitarian Universalism (and uncle of Willam Henry Channing): "I am a member of the living family of all souls."
In 1943 All Souls called
A. Powell Daviesto be its minister. Davies became nationally prominent for his progressive views, advocating civil rights for African-Americans and women, desegregation, and for keeping control of nuclear weapons in civilian hands. It was during Davies' tenure that All Souls organized a large shipment of school supplies for the children survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshimaand Nagasaki. During this period, All Souls also founded the first desegregated boys' club in the city, in response to the Police Boys' Club's reluctance to desegregate. Davies' popular ministry caused explosive growth both at All Souls and also in the formation of new Unitarian churches in the DC area. James Reeb, a civil rights martyr, was Assistant Minister at All Souls prior to his murder at Selma, Alabamain 1965. All Souls' progressive vision continued through the 1970s and 1980s as well, under the Rev. David Eaton (minister), the church's first African-American senior minister. Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Actrevealed that J. Edgar Hooverwas so deeply distrustful of the direction in which Eaton was leading All Souls that he planted an undercover FBIagent in the church to monitor the congregation and undermine Eaton's ministry.
All Souls has been performing interracial and same-sex weddings for decades.
On the evening of
September 11, 2001, All Souls and its newly-called senior minister, Robert M. Hardies, held a memorial service which was covered by National Public Radio. Soon thereafter, All Souls hosted a public memorial service for Joseph Curseen Jr.and Thomas Morris Jr., two local postal workers who died from anthraxexposure. It was recently the site of a large conference of religious liberals and progressives, and on June 5, 2006, Rev. Hardies was shown speaking against the Federal Marriage Amendmentin a clip from a National Press Club news conference on CNN's " The Situation Room" .
Prominent members of All Souls have included
William Howard Taft, the Hon. Hilda Mason, former D.C. mayor Marion Barry, mezzosoprano Denyce Graves, and Sweet Honey in the Rockmember Ysaye Maria Barnwell.
* [http://www.all-souls.org All Souls Church, Unitarian Home Page]
* [http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/arthurpowelldavies.html Biography of A. Powell Davies]
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