Archive for the ‘Ozora Stearns Davis’ Tag

Feast of A. J. Muste (January 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  A. J. Muste

Image in the Public Domain



Dutch-American Minister, Labor Activist, and Pacifist


Only the nonviolent can apply therapy to the violent.

–A. J. Muste


A. J. Muste comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber,  A Year with American Saints (2006).

Muste changed his mind on major points more than once, each time sending his life in a different direction.

Our saint, born in Zierkzee, The Netherlands, on January 8, 1885, to Martin and Adriana Muste, came from a Dutch Reformed family.  He, his parents, and his siblings, seeking economic opportunity, emigrated in 1891.  They settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, joined the Dutch Reformed Church there, and naturalized in 1896.  The working-class congregation that shaped Muste was quite conservative–diehard Republican and puritanical.  Dancing, attending plays, and listening to secular music were allegedly sinful.

Muste, intelligent, was a fine student.  He, the valedictorian of Hope College in 1905, taught Greek and Latin at Northwestern Classical Academy (now called Northwestern College), Orange City, Iowa.  Then our saint studied at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1909.  After ordination into the ministry of the Reformed Church in America (1909), Muste married Anna Huizenga before the end of the year.  The couple raised three children.

Muste liberalized significantly during 1909-1914, his tenure as pastor of Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Washington Heights, New York, New York.  He questioned the religious strictness of his youth, accepted the Social Gospel, and earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary.  Muste had changed so much in 1912 that he cast his vote for Eugene Victor Debs, nominee of the Socialist Party, in the presidential election of 1912.

Muste was theologically honest.  By 1914 he no longer accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, so he resigned his pastorate.  Our saint served as the pastor of Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Massachusetts, for about three years.  (Muste succeeded Jay Thomas Stocking in that role.  Stocking’s immediate predecessor was Ozora Stearns Davis, who served in 1900-1904.)  Muste, a pacifist, founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915.  In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Muste resigned his pastorate under pressure.  Our saint volunteered for the Civil Liberties Bureau (a precursor of the American Civil Liberties Union) in Boston, in 1918.  He defended draft resisters.  Later that year, in Providence, Rhode Island, our saint joined the Quakers.

Muste became a labor union activist in 1919 and remained active in the cause for the rest of his life.  For sixteen weeks that year, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, workers went on strike.  They had a just cause; they worked 54-hour-long work weeks for $0.20 an hour.  (That amount, adjusted to inflation and keyed to the Consumer Price Index for 2018, the most recent year I can adjust amounts for inflation, is $2.90.)  Police spies tried to goad workers into committing violence, but Muste encouraged striking workers not to resort to violence.  Police beat him and incarcerated our saint for a week, though.  Later that year, Muste helped to found the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America.  He served as the secretary until 1921.

Muste became a radical–a Marxist-Leninist, even, for a time.  He, the president (1921-1933) of Brookwood Labor College, Katonah, New York, left the American Federation of Labor in 1929.  Our saint helped to found the Conference for Progressive Labor Action.  He also worked to build a labor third party, culminating in the Workers Party of the United States (1934-1936).

Muste changed direction again in 1936.  He left Marxism-Leninism behind and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A..  Our saint’s writings, starting in 1936, were clear; the proper revolutionary force was Christianity.  From 1937 to 1940, he was the director of the (Presbyterian) Labor Temple, a mission of the Presbytery of New York to working men of New York City.  Our saint, the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1940 to 1953), mentored Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), who taught nonviolent resistance tactics to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  Muste’s obvious opposition to Marxism-Leninism, starting in 1936, did not spare him from allegations during the 1950s of being a communist.  He was certainly a consistent pacifist, opposing wars, whether declared or “police actions.”  Muste also spoke out against racism at home and abroad.  Furthermore, he insisted that good housing and proper, affordable health care were human rights.  Those views were sufficient to prompt much criticism of him.

Muste died in New York, New York, on February 11, 1967.  He was 82 years old.





O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of Ozora Stearns Davis (March 15)   1 comment


Above:  Ozora Stearns Davis in 1925

Image Source = Library of Congress

Image Creator = Chicago Daily News, Inc.

DN-0079535, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum



U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer

Ozora Stearns Davis, born at Wheelock, Vermont, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1889 then from Hartford Theological Seminary then from the University of Leipzig.  He, ordained in 1896, served the following churches:

  1. First Congregational Church, Springfield, Vermont, founded in 1832 (1896-1900);
  2. Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Newton, Massachusetts (founded in 1868) (1900-1904); and
  3. South Congregational Church, New Britain, Connecticut, founded in 1842 (1904-1909).

Davis left parish ministry to become the President of Chicago Theological Seminary (1909-1920).  And, from 1927 to 1929, he served as the moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches.  Failing health forced Davis to resign.  As the Handbook to The Hymnal (1935), page 195, states:

Preceding his death on March 15, 1931, Dr. Davis gave to the world a noble example of a Christian’s approaching the end of life in his prime.  Under a time schedule set by the usual progress of his disease he continually challenged the world with his calm spirit and cheering view of the future as death was about to disclose it.

Davis died near Kansas City, Missouri, while traveling with Grace, his wife, from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Our saint’s theological works included the following:

  1. The Gospel in the Light of the Great War (1919);
  2. International Aspects of Christianity (1919); and
  3. Preaching the Social Gospel (1922).

Our saint wrote at least two hymns for the National Congregational Brotherhood convention of 1909.  (I have found two.)  One follows:

We bear the strain of earthly care,

But bear it not alone;

Beside us walks our Brother Christ

And makes our task His own.


Through din of market, whirl of wheels,

And thrust of driving trade,

We follow where our Master leads,

Serene and unafraid.


The common hopes that make us men

Were His in Galilee;

The tasks He gives are those He gave

Beside the restless sea.


Our brotherhood still rests in Him,

The Brother of us all,

And o’er the centuries still we hear

The Master’s winsome call.

And here is the other one:

At length there dawns the glorious day

By prophets long foretold;

At length the chorus clearer grows

That shepherds heard of old.

The day of dawning Brotherhood

Breaks on our eager eyes,

And human hatreds flee before

The radiant eastern skies.


For what are sundering strains of blood,

Or ancient caste and creed?

One claim unites all men in God

To serve each human need.

Then here together, brother men,

We pledge the Lord anew

Our loyal love, our stalwart faith,

Our service, strong and true.


One common faith unites us all,

We seek one common goal,

One tender comfort broods upon

The struggling human soul.

To this clear call of brotherhood

Our hearts responsive ring;

We join the glorious new crusade

Of our great Lord and King.

Our saint’s papers are available at the Congregational Library, the Congregational Christian Historical Society.

Ozora Stearns Davis sought to love God actively in his social context.  As far as I can tell, he succeeded.



First Congregational Church, Springfield, Vermont, is an active congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 2013.

Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Newton, Massachusetts, hit hard by urban demographic changes, disbanded in 2003, dispersing its members to other UCC congregations in the area.

South Congregational Church and First Baptist Church, New Britain, Connecticut, on the same downtown street and both affected adversely by urban demographic changes, merged in 1974.  In 2013 the South Congregational-First Baptist Church (UCC and American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.) ministers in its city in an exercise of Christian Brotherhood.







O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom,

to others the word of knowledge,

and to others the word of faith:

We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Ozora Stearns Davis,

and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. 

Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16

John 17:18-23

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 720


Revised on December 23, 2016