From the Archives: The Writings of Rev. Samuel O. Weems
This month’s “From the Archives” celebrates Black History Month with the writings of Rev. Samuel O. Weems, ordained into the Swedenborgian church in 1917. Rev. Weems (1891-1975) founded the North Cambridge Community Church out of his home in north Cambridge, Massachusetts. For a time it was a thriving center of neighborhood activity, where children could join a boy scout troop or campfire girls club, and adults could get job training and community support. Rev. Weems believed in hard work and self-cultivation through gardening, physical fitness, and science education. He was a vegetarian and animal rights advocate, public activist, preacher and educator. Among other things, his community church was aimed at helping Black families coming from the south settle and find jobs. Rev. Weems published tract on The Virgin Birth with extensive excerpts from Swedenborg’s writings, in which he makes the fascinating claim that “All creation was produced by a series of virgin births…” His ideas impacted the thought of later Swedenborgian theologians, such as the Rev. Dr. George Dole, who sought expansive, spiritual-sense interpretations of Christ’s conception.
The archives of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies hold seven boxes of Rev. Weems’s hand-written notebooks and typed manuscripts, including essays, sermons, and lesson plans. The essay pictured here reflects on the contributions of Emanuel Swedenborg, John Brown, and Mahatma Gandhi, three men whose ideas, he argued, can be used to counter the flawed teachings of our nation’s founders, which are marked by the opinions of slaveholders.
The second picture shows part of his notes for a lesson on “Religion without Regeneration” in which he is concerned with the cultivation of one’s angel nature and with confronting the two deadly evils of war in the name of Christ and white supremacy.
With the help of a generous grant from the Boston Society of the New Jerusalem, CSS will begin scanning the Weems collection later this year. Future historians will be able to access the collection via a digital archive.