The Father Divine Project

An American story of race, religion and intentional communal living.


Sayville, Long Island (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.”