|A. Powell Davies||
He prodded our consciences during the twentieth century.
His wisdom can guide us during the twenty-first.
Though born in England to Welsh parents, A. Powell Davies had a passion for America that far exceeded that of most native Americans; he strongly believed that the founding principles of American democracy offered not only the seeds of a true religion, but also the potential for saving our civilization. As a boy on the docks of Liverpool, he watched the great ships set sail and dreamed of the day when he, too, could venture forth to the New World.
After finishing secondary school, Davies worked for a time for a member of Parliament, with such success that many -- including George Bernard Shaw -- urged him to enter politics. But he had other ideas, and had set his mind on the ministry. He achieved a brilliant record at London University, receiving the highest theology prize and both his academic and theological degrees in the same year.
After three successful years as pastor of a Methodist church in a London suburb, he resisted all entreaties to stay in London, where a successful career was assured, and set sail for America with his wife of five months, Muriel.
His first pastorate was two small churches in rural Maine, and then a Methodist Church in Portland. Meanwhile, he found himself drawn from Methodism to Unitarianism, aided by a close friendship with a Unitarian minister in Portland. In 1933, as a new Unitarian minister and a U.S. citizen, he took over the pastorate of the Community Church of Summit, New Jersey. Eleven years later he accepted the call to All Souls Church in Washington.
Rev. Davies soon became the outspoken and goading conscience not only for his Congregation, but also for the country. He lashed out at evil and injustice wherever he found them: in his congregation, in city government, in Congress, in the nation. He used the pulpit to urge, inspire and shame his listeners into action. He used it to help the unemployed find food and shelter, to collect food for overseas relief efforts, and to help the young victims of the Hiroshima bombing. He used it to force restaurants to admit minority patrons through a city-wide boycott, and to denounce McCarthyism and Communism in the same breath. And he used the pulpit to help start the first integrated boys club in Washington after the church-housed Police Boys Club rejected his urgings to accept minority members.
Rev. Davies became Dr. Davies when he received the honorary degrees of Doctor of Divinity from Meadville Theological School and Doctor of Humane Letters from Howard University. He led the All Souls congregation for 13 years, a period of which Time magazine wrote, In Washington, D. C., where many talk but few listen, spare, sharp-profiled Rev. A. (Arthur) Powell Davies is a man who is a man who is heard his 35-minute sermons are protein-rich with wit, wisdom, sincerity and invective. His preaching has made Welsh-born Powell Davies one of America's outstanding clergy-men.
During his years at All Souls, Dr. Davies was increasingly burdened by phlebitis, but carefully concealed his problem and continued his unrelenting pace. He died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism while working in his home study.
As The Washington Post observed: All men, indeed -- all men who believe in human dignity and brotherhood -- are the poorer for the passing of this courageous, fiery and yet gentle spirit.
From the Souvenir Program of an A. Powell Davies Memorial Concert, featuring Cherry Rhodes, Organist, on November 14, 1999, at All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D. C.