A. Powell Davies
Davies, A(rthur) Powell (5 June 1902 - 26 September 1957)
Davies, whose Welsh parents lived in a suburb of Liverpool, was born in Birkenhead, England, and was raised a Methodist. In 1922 he began studying at Richmond Theological College, a Methodist school affiliated with the University of London.
While in the seminary he dated and eventually married Muriel Hannah, marrying her in 1927.
Upon graduating and receiving the seminary's prestigious Theological Prize, he announced that he should perhaps discontinue his career in the ministry because he disbelieved much of Methodist theology. From 1925 to 1928, however, he was minister of the Becontree Methodist Central Hall in Illford, a London suburb.
Emigrating with his wife in May 1928 to America, he served two Methodist churches in Maine, took classes at Boston University, and upon using the Apostle's Creed in his services, he became a Unitarian, serving at the Community Church of Summit, New Jersey. He explained,
- Creeds have no place in the world today because they transgress the free domain of the mind.
Upon becoming the Unitarian minister of All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., Davies was an eloquent speaker, sometimes described as “the greatest preacher of the twentieth century.” Justice William O. Douglas summarized Davies’s outlook:
- America . . . must take the leadership in a world which has become a single, vast, reluctant community.
Davies had a part in founding Americans for Democratic Action, and he opposed the witch-hunting of the Joseph McCarthy era. Under his leadership, restaurants in the area of Washington, D.C., were desegregated. He favored the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission, which put nuclear matters out of military and into civilian hands.
“There is no God in the sky,” he preached. “God is in the heart that loves the sky’s blueness.” When a parishioner told him her son had, thanks to God, survived a catastrophe, Davies was shocked and replied, “What sort of God is that, playing favorites in this fantastic fashion!” As for hell, he wrote, “The hell that we must try to avoid is the one that will rain down upon us from the skies if we are not wise enough to win the struggle for freedom, justice, and brotherhood.”
Davies died of a blood clot that had traveled to his lung where it caused fatal hemorrhaging. At his memorial service, three sitting Supreme Court Justices - Hugo Black, Harold Burton, and William O. Douglas - honored him by attending the service.
(Manish Mishra, for the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography, wrote a detailed biography of Davies, including where archival materials can be found.