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The New Day

The New Day. Philadelphia: New Day Pub. Co. 1937-1973; Vol. III, No. 50 December 14, 1939 pp. 50-51

In his sermons, Father Divine often followed winding and illogical paths to his various theological lessons, sometimes inventing words (such as “compositionic,” here) and often delivering prophecies.

The facing page contains advertisements for some of the many businesses and services started by the Peace Mission. Establishments like the Peace Tailor Shop, the Peace Restaurant and the Cooperative Peace Grocery Store provided those followers without income or employment to survive and even prosper in the later years of the Depression. Operating on a cooperative system, these businesses were established with Peace Mission capital and spread throughout the country as the Peace Mission grew.

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FATHER DIVINE AND THE PEACE MISSION
The Peace Mission movement, led by the charismatic and controversial black preacher Father Divine, stands out among the communal utopias of America as an example of what might be called the “satellite utopia” phenomenon.

From 1919 to 1929, Father Divine quietly instructed a handful of disciples in a religion that blended Eastern mysticism, Christianity and communal ideals. Then in 1929 the widespread economic collapse stimulated wider interest in Divine’s communalism as a shield against both emotional and economic distress. The minister gained renown for presenting free Sunday banquets to all visitors and for helping needy guests find jobs. Crowds came regularly from Harlem and Newark, venerating this mysterious provider as a heaven-sent deliverer. Divine supported this notion; he insisted that he was God.

The Peace Mission was one of the earliest effective supporters of integration, stressing that black and white followers alike were loved by the Savior, Father Divine.

At its peak in the mid-30s, the movement had perhaps 10,000 hard-core followers who believed fervently in Father Divine’s deity, devoted all of their possessions to the Peace Mission, and lived in one of the more than 150 movement centers. A rapidly expanding bureaucracy oversaw a successful transition from a modest commune to a far-flung network that reportedly handled over $15 million in business annually by 1938.

 

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