Rev. A. Powell Davies was a minister, speaker, and author – and an activist whose work greatly affected the growth of the Unitarian movement during the 1950s.
Religion is not something separate and apart from ordinary life. It is life–life of every kind viewed from the standpoint of meaning and purpose: life lived in the fuller awareness of its human quality and spiritual significance. – A. Powell Davies
Previously a Methodist minister, Davies began his career as a Unitarian minister in 1933 in Summit, New Jersey. His career culminated at All Souls Church in Washington, DC, where he served from 1944 until his untimely death in 1957.
During his time at All Souls, Davies’ activism, spurred by religious conviction, included the following:
- He headed the committee that lobbied Congress to move nuclear power from military to civilian control.
- He helped lead the campaign for racial integration of public restaurants in Washington.
- He preached against anti-Semitism, not only in Nazi Germany but in the United States as well.
- He headed campaigns in post-war Washington to feed starving European refugees and to address the plight of Washington slums.
- He defended the right of atheists to teach, and proposed that every campus should have at least one on its faculty.
- During the postwar years, he attacked the left and the right, opposing McCarthy era threats to core democratic values.
Prior to the union of Universalism and Unitarianism, which occurred in 1961, Davies helped shape the Unitarian faith as it is practiced today. His success at All Souls led to the founding of “satellite” congregations around the beltway, including those of Cedar Lane, Paint Branch, Arlington, and Davies.
“…it simply is not true that one can believe anything and be a Unitarian. This is not what creedlessness means. One cannot be a racist and a Unitarian; be a Nazi and a Unitarian; a polygamist and a Unitarian; a bigot and a Unitarian. In our zeal for growth, we must not sacrifice the character of our movement as a rational, idealistic, ethical religion. Everybody is not, and cannot be a Unitarian regardless of their unethical behavior or prejudicial beliefs.” – A. Powell Davies
In the Washington Post, Davies was eulogized as being “…militantly in the forefront of every assault upon intolerance and racial discrimination and injustice. Convenience and convention never silenced him . . . He was, among all the members of his calling, the most resolute and indomitable champion of righteousness as he saw it.”