September 20, 2007

The Bible Institute (Part 2)

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Filed under: Banquet | Food | Song |

The Bible Institute (Part 1)

Two episodes documenting the 50th anniversary banquets held at The Bible Institute in north Philadelphia on April 29th and 30th, 1996. These are a little longer than previous posts - 6-7 minutes each.

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Filed under: Banquet | Food | Song |

June 14, 2007

Divine Tracy Hotel Banquet (Part 2)

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Filed under: Banquet | Food |

Divine Tracy Hotel Banquet (Part 1)

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Filed under: Banquet | Food | Marriage |

May 3, 2007

Heaven on Earth

"There's no point in seeking to go somewhere else that you don't know about. Enjoy this good earth God gave us." - Miss Kingdom

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Filed under: Father Divine | Heaven |

January 21, 2007

Mother Divine

Here is the first part of a 1997 interview with Mother Divine held in Sayville, Long Island. She talks about her marriage to Father Divine as "a supernatural experience."

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Filed under: Marriage | Mother Divine |

June 25, 2006


Sayville, Long Island (about 40 miles East of New York City) is where Father Divine's ministry was transformed nearly overnight. In 1931, Father and Mother Divine (Peninniah) had purchased a house in the small white suburb of Sayville and there they held their Holy Communion banquet services where everyone was served "more than wine and a wafer." In the middle of the depression, these multi-course feasts must have been miraculous. Visitors from all over, black and white, began arriving at 71 Macon Street, "the Home of the Soul," to be fed and healed. The dancing and singing would often continue late into the evening. One night in 1932, there was a police raid on the house during a particulary spirited service. Father Divine and several followers were arrested. They were charged with disturbing the peace, but the case became about the white community's fear of racial commingling. The events that followed turned Father Divine into a nationally known figure and brought tens of thousands to the belief that he was "God, condescended in a body."

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Filed under: Banquet | Mother Divine |

February 7, 2006

Personal Presence/Personal Absence

When Father Divine died at his Woodmont estate on September 10th 1965, Mother Divine became the spiritual leader of the movement. She took on the enormous responsibility of maintaining the properties and businesses that housed and employed thousands of followers. She also carried on the spiritual teachings both within the movement and in public.

Mother Divine and the followers continue to recognize the "personal presence" of Father Divine everywhere and at all times. In conversation, he is refered to in the present tense. Everyday, a new suit and tie are layed out for him on his bed. At Banquet services, a place is kept for him at the head of the table. His plate is served from the many platters of food (a follower working in the kitchen will be "blessed" to eat this food after the service). There are photographs of Father Divine in all rooms and recordings of his sermons played at all meals. And yet, "The Shrine to Life" was built at the Woodmount estate in 1968 to house his body, a recognition of his absence. Considering that followers believe only in "heaven on earth," Father Divine is both personally present and personally absent.

These interviews were held in 1996.

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Filed under: Father Divine | Reincarnation |

January 19, 2006

"There was a child born unto me..."

Reincarnation is not central to Father Divine's doctrine of "Heaven on Earth", but it did become an important aspect of his marriage to "Sweet Angel" (Edna Rose Ritchings) in 1946. He claimed she was the reincanation of his first wife Peninniah, the first Mother Divine, who died in 1943. Peninnah was a devoted follower of Father Divine in the early days of his Peace Mission and became his "spiritual wife" in 1914 or 1917. Though Peninnah was "dark complected" and Sweet Angel is "light complected", many followers speak of the resemblances of the two "Mother Divines."

In this video, Miss Meekness Love tells a personal story about her past, before she became a follower of Father Divine. The story sheds light on Father Divine's conception of reincarnation. Rather than seeing reincarnation as part of rigid cosmology, it is brought out as a willful, creative and compassionate act.

This interview was held in March of 1996.

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Filed under: Reincarnation |

January 10, 2006

Spirit and Rhythm

The Peace Mission banquet service always ends with spontaneous song and dance. During dessert (when four or five diffrent sweet dishes are passed around), followers and guests will stand and give testimonials of faith, praise Father Divine or simply give thanks. Between these testimonials (as dishes are collectively cleared from the table), someone will be inspired to sing. The Peace Mission has their own treasury of songs that span their history and draw on many musical traditions. There will be shouts of joy, clapping, dancing and sometimes a follower will be "moved by the spirit." Miss Roma Graveur, a follower from Australia, talks about first connecting to Father Divine's sense of ryhthm and then we see a lively night at The Circle Mission Church on Broad Street in Philadelphia - one of many 50th Anniverssary banquet services.

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Filed under: Banquet |

December 20, 2005

March of Time Newsreel

This newsreel was provided by Mother Divine from the Father Divine archives. The Peace Mission has cut certain parts that show the "raciness" of a nightclub in Harlem and the references to Father Divine as "black" or "negro." They don't believe in or use these terms. Father Divine asked his followers to distinguish skin color only by such terms as "dark complected" or "light complected." This was how they were thinking in the 1930s!

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Filed under: Father Divine |

December 19, 2005

Miss Heddy's Conviction

Each follower of the Peace Mission Movement has a story about his or her conviction that Father Divine is the living incarnation of God. Miss Heddy's conviction occured before the Swiss alps in 1940. At the time, she didn't speak English and had not visited the United States. She had met a small group of Peace Mission followers in Basil and heard all about Father Divine, but her logic told her that God could not possibly be walking around in Harlem, New York.

In 1949, nine years after her conviction, she found her way to New York City to work with children. She met Father Divine and her faith was confirmed. She moved permanantly to the United States in 1956.

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Filed under: The Conviction |

December 14, 2005

The Marriage of Father and Mother Divine

In the spring of 1996, Dr. Leonard Primiano (my college Folklore professor) called me with an event he wanted to record on video; did I have any time? The event was the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Father and Mother Divine. Who? Over the next two years, I would learn a lot about Father and Mother Divine. Leonard and I gathered over 70 digital video hours of interviews, banquet services, tours, song and dance with Mother Divine and the remaining members of the Peace Mission Movement. Conceived as a feature-length documentary, we soon realized that to make a traditional and linear documentary we would have to concentrate on one main story and consequently diminish all the others. But there are too many potent strands in this little-known story of Father Divine and his followers - race, faith, gender, electronic media, religious freedom, the elderly, reincarnation, food, political activism, Americanism. To do justice to the subject, we would need to make a "database documentary" made up of short videos, photo galleries, audio recordings and text, all searchable and open to comments from anyone who came by for a visit. The Father Divine Project has found its ideal form - a vlog with an RSS Feed. This is an ongoing project with zero funding, so please be patient with how things look for now. If you are interested or just curious, please consider subscribing to the video feed. To view the videos, you will need the latest version of apple's free quicktime player. LINKS: The International Peace Mission Movement Wikipedia: Father Divine Lev Manovich on Database Narratives The Labyrinth Project on Interactive Narrative

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Filed under: Father Divine | Marriage | Mother Divine |


The Father Divine Project is a multimedia documentary and video podcast about The Peace Mission Movement. Serial short videos will present a complex story of race, religion and communal living as experienced by the followers of one of the most unsual expressions of faith in American religious history.

The project is produced and funded by Will Luers and Dr. Leonard Norman Primiano.



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