The Brotherhood Church of Howard Colby Ives 1
“IT WAS AN IMPRESSIVE, even to me a thrilling sight,” Howard Colby Ives later wrote, “when the majestic figure of the Master strode up the aisle of the Brotherhood Church.” It was Sunday, May 19, 1912.
Although Ives was employed as a Unitarian pastor in Summit, New Jersey, he had started the Brotherhood Church on his own. Every Sunday evening he held a service in the large hall at the Masonic Temple at Bergen and Fairview Avenues in Jersey City. On this evening, 500 people were waiting to hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Ives seated ‘Abdu’l-Bahá directly behind the pulpit and began an introduction. “You know something of his life probably,” Ives told the congregation. “He has spent over forty years in prison. . . . He comes out of this prison and steps into the great societies of Paris, London and America. He finds the world open to receive him. He comes with nothing to back him. He has no great letters of credit; he does not even speak our language.”
Five weeks before, Ives had stood amid 300 people wedged into a crowded home on West End Avenue in the Upper West Side, just a few hours after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had arrived in America. All he could get that day were a few glimpses of the visitor. He peered over a shoulder and saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seated, wearing a cream-colored turban and a white oriental robe, and accepting a cup of tea. But what impressed him the most was the silence in the room.
It was something he often noticed around this visiting Persian. “I looked at this stillness, this quietude, this immeasurable calm in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and it filled me with a restless longing akin to despair.” The pattern runs throughout his autobiography: the middle-aged clergyman thrown into turmoil as he contemplates the inscrutable serenity of the former prisoner.
He felt it again at the Brotherhood Church on May 19. After Ives’s introduction, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the pulpit. “Because this is called the Church of Brotherhood,” the Master began, “I wish to speak upon the brotherhood of mankind.”
Talk at Brotherhood Church , Bergen and Fairview Avenues, Jersey City, New Jersey 2
Because this is called the Church of Brotherhood, I wish to speak upon the brotherhood of mankind. There is perfect brotherhood underlying humanity, for all are servants of one God and belong to one family under the protection of divine providence. The bond of fraternity exists in humanity because all are intelligent beings created in the realm of evolutionary growth. There is brotherhood potential in humanity because all inhabit this earthly globe under the one canopy of heaven. There is brotherhood natal in mankind because all are elements of one human society subject to the necessity of agreement and cooperation. There is brotherhood intended in humanity because all are waves of one sea, leaves and fruit of one tree. This is physical fellowship which ensures material happiness in the human world. The stronger it becomes, the more will mankind advance and the circle of materiality be enlarged.
The real brotherhood is spiritual, for physical brotherhood is subject to separation. The wars of the outer world of existence separate humankind, but in the eternal world of spiritual brotherhood separation is unknown. Material or physical association is based upon earthly interests, but divine fellowship owes its existence to the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual brotherhood may be likened to the light, while the souls of humankind are as lanterns. The incandescent lamps here are many, yet the light is one.
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 3
‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on Sunday morning, May 19, at the Church of the Divine Paternity 4, where Dr. Frank Hall, the minister, noted in his introduction that “this teaching has the power to bring together men of all classes … to the Jew it sounds like Judaism; to the Christian, Christianity; to the Buddhist, Buddhism.” 5
Sunday, 19 May, 1912 6
The landlord [of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] house had complained about the excessive comings and goings of the visitors, therefore the Master chose the house of Mr and Mrs Kinney for the gatherings of the friends. Among the new people visiting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were some Jewish rabbis.
That evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the Brotherhood Church in New Jersey. At the opening of the service, Dr [Howard Colby] Ives, who was greatly respected and sincere, highly praised ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He stated that this great teacher and proclaimer of the Cause of God, since His arrival in America, had stayed at the Hotel Ansonia and had not accepted any assistance from anyone, bearing all of His expenses personally. Indeed, He had even liberally contributed to institutions and churches serving the poor. When Dr Ives finished speaking on the bounties of the Cause of God and the majesty of God’s Covenant, the Master rose and delivered an address on spiritual brotherhood and the unity of the world of humanity. His talk increased the interest and yearning in the hearts of the listeners. Although all came to Him, one by one, to shake hands and depart, afterwards when He went into an inner room of the church, a crowd of people, after receiving permission, came to see Him and were delighted to hear the Master’s explanations in response to their questions. All offered Him thanks and praise.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Sockett, Robert. “The Brotherhood Church of Howard Colby Ives.” 239 Days in America, May 19, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/19/the-truth-part-2/. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 129-130. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/9#458657664. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 70. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 126-129. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/9#195141807. ↩
- “Addresses Delivered by Abdu’l-Baha in New York City and Vicinity,” Star of the West, 3, no. 9 (Aug. 20 1912), 10. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section56. ↩