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Henry David Gray Papers

Call Number: RG 52

Scope and Contents

In an autobiographical sketch written by Henry David Gray, he listed the major accomplishments of his life as follows:

  1. 1. Community service through leadership of youth and urban/regional/state planning
  2. 2. Founded two national church youth groups.... Convened 1st international Congregational youth assembly, 1949
  3. 3. Fifty+ men and women into full-time Christian service
  4. 4. Half million miles, 36 countries/cultures, leading 200+ teenagers, 9 Odysseys
  5. 5. Award-winning new-modern-classic church architecture in California and Connecticut
  6. 6. Only thorough report on Congregational polity, documents, usage ever made
  7. 7. Preparation/production over 100 multi-medium services: art, drama, music, literature, choral-reading, choreography...
  8. 8. Transformation of downtown City of Hartford through City Planning role.
  9. 9. New economic-agricultural-village life-base in Jordan through Rural Resources Development Program
  10. 10."Congregational Worshipbook" unique resource compendium for individual and/or group worship and rites, 1990 rev. ed., 788 pp.

All of these accomplishments are well documented by the Henry David Gray Papers except his work in the area of urban/regional/state planning and the activities of the Rural Resources Development Program. Gray's files relating to urban/regional/state planning have been deposited at the University of Connecticut, Portland State University, and the California Historical Society, though sufficient samples remain in this manuscript group to indicate the scope of his work.

The papers in this collection provide an extensive sampling of documentation of his many activities on the local, national and international levels. Used in conjunction with his autobiographical writings, these papers would lend themselves to a detailed biographical study of Gray. In addition, these papers provide unique and valuable documentation of the merger between Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ in 1957. Gray was the only former national executive of the Congregational Churches who chose to continue as a Congregationalist rather than join the new denomination. He wrote concerning the merger-related files in this manuscript group: "My 'merger' files are the sole complete repository of the 'Polity and Unity Committee' (1950-1954) and the 'Constitutional Commission' (1954-1956) of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches. The 'official' records are in The Congregational Library archives. My personal files...included the most extensive survey ever made of Congregational Polity (1954 A.D.) in the basic Documents, and in Practice... Additionally I have complete files on the efforts of the 'Mediators'--the 'middle group' in the CC/ER controversy--of which I was possibly the chief leader. My book The Mediators is the only account of those who tried to reconcile the proponents and opponents of the CC/ER merger." (Letter to Martha Lund Smalley, September 13, 1985, in Special Collections donor file.)

Series I, Personal Files/Correspondence, provides an overview of Henry David Gray's life and work. Mirroring Gray's personal system of filing, the series includes both subject files and letters to or from various individuals. Extensive correspondence with young people and church members with whom Gray worked over the years document the close and warm relationships he formed and the regard in which he was held. A series of bound volumes of letters and other documents in chronological sequence supplement and overlap with the alphabetical sequence of files. Letters from individuals listed in the alphabetical sequence may also appear in the bound volumes. The files of Series I are in many cases complemented by files in other series. The file for Jordan Wen, for example, is related to material available in Series VII under the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, Commission on Missions.

Series II, Churches Served, provides extensive documentation of the activities of the various congregations that Gray served. These files could be used as case studies of the operation of active Congregational churches in the middle years of this century.

Series III, The Christian Year, documents the method by which Gray organized his ministry in the churches he served. A summary of this method is available in Gray's Congregational Worshipbook, revised edition, 1990, p. 145 ff.

Series IV, Youth Files, documents Gray's long term and intensive involvement with Congregational youth on a local and national level. During the period when Gray served as National Secretary for youth in the Congregational fellowship, he traveled widely throughout the United States, conducting youth rallies, speaking at colleges and contributing to The Pilgrim Highroad, a monthly publication for Congregational youth. The files in Series IV are supplemented by Series V, Odyssey Files, and by Gray's writings for and about youth which are included in Series VI, Writings, Addresses, Sermons.

Series V, Odyssey Files, documents a particular facet of Gray's involvement with youth. Initiating a new form of youth work, Gray began a series of "youth odysseys" abroad in 1948. He wrote regarding the "odysseys": "The basic idea of these journeys is 'personalized internationalism.' Young people from a local community and local Church in the United States visit in the homes and institutions of young people like themselves in other lands. By personal contact with leaders, and by personal survey of economic, social, political, cultural and religious situations, the young folk come close to their numbers abroad. These Odysseys have taken youth groups to 37 different lands." This series also contains documentation relating to other church youth trips abroad that were offshoots of Gray's odyssey concept.

Series VI, Writings, Addresses, Sermons, documents in a thorough way Gray's many writings and sermons on a variety of subjects. The hundreds of sermons available in this series provide a significant sampling of the work of a Congregational minister over many years. Gray's writings related to the merger controversy in the Congregational churches were widely deseminated and very influential. Gray's writings on historical subjects, such as the Mayflower Pilgrims, are also significant.

Series VII, Congregational Records, contains some of the most interesting material in the collection. A chronological sequence of files related to Congregational polity and the merger that resulted in the formation of the United Church of Christ contains extensive and in some cases unique documentation of a turbulent period in Congregational history. These files are best used in conjunction with Gray's book The Mediators, which provides his commentary on the issues and events involved. The second section of Series VII includes documentation of a wide variety of Congregational organizations with which Gray was involved.


  • 1924-1981


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Henry David Gray


  1. I. Personal files/ correspondence
  2. II. Churches served
  3. III. The Christian year
  4. IV. Youth files
  5. V. Odyssey files
  6. VI. Writings, addresses, sermons
  7. VII. Congregational records


66 Linear Feet (104 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


These papers provide extensive biographical information about Gray as well as unique and valuable documentation of the merger between Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ in 1957. Henry David Gray (1908-1994) was a Congregational minister who served churches in South Hadley, Massachusetts, (1935-1939), South Pasadena, California (1942-1955), Hartford, Connecticut (1955-1970), and others. He was active in youth work, leading eight "odysseys" overseas and coordinating youth assemblies. He was one of the founders of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, the group of continuing Congregationalists formed following the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ in 1957.

Biographical / Historical

1908 January 18
Henry David Gray born in Antrim, Northern Ireland, son of Nathaniel and Margaret Lawther Gray.
Emigrated first to Canada, then in 1923 to the Los Angeles area
Director of Youth, Bethel Congregational Church, Ontario, California
Assistant minister, First Methodist Church, Pomona, California
B.A., Pomona College, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
Director of youth work, Center Congregational Church, Hartford, CT
Boston University School of Theology, religious education courses (summer)
Religious education director, Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Hartford
B.D., Hartford Theological Seminary, awarded William Thompson Fellowship
Minister, Hope Park and Buccleuch Congregational Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
Study at Tubingen University, Germany
Minister, First Congregational Church, South Hadley, Massachusetts
National Secretary for High School and Student Work of the Congregational Christian fellowship
Minister, Oneonta Congregational Church, South Pasadena, California
Member of team to investigate war damage in British Congregational Churches
First of eight "Youth Odysseys" led by Henry David Gray
Convened First International Congregational Youth Assembly
Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, Pomona College
Minister, South Congregational Church, Hartford, Connecticut
One of the founders of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
Editor, The Congregationalist
Interim minister, Hollywood Congregational Church
Interim minister, Congregational Church of the Valley
Established, served as dean of Hollywood Congregational Center for Study and Service (now known as American Congregational Center)
Editor, Congregational Journal
1985, 1989
Coordinated C-Way: Congregational World Youth Assembly (re-establishment of 1949 Congregational Youth Assembly)
1 September 1994
Dies in Ventura, California

Partial list of organizations served:

  1. General Council of Congregational Christian Churches
  2. National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
  3. Board of Home Missions, Congregational Christian Churches
  4. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
  5. Connecticut Congregational Fellowship
  6. Hartford City Planning Commission
  7. McCall Mission
  8. Corporation for Lady Doak College of Madurai, India
  9. Rural Resources Development Project in Jordan
  10. Ventura County Historical Association
  11. Santa Monica Mountains Commission


  1. Hampshire Association, MA
  2. Los Angeles Association, CA
  3. Connecticut Fellowship
  4. National Association (CCC/NA)

Founding member:

  1. National Council of Churches (November 1950)
  2. Pasadena Council of Churches

Board of Directors:

  1. Greater Hartford Council of Churches
  2. South Pasadena Council of Churches
  3. Church Federation of Los Angeles

Separated Materials

A significant number of pamphlets, books and reports related to Congregationalism that Gray had collected over the years have been added to RG 56, Congregational Church Records, or to the Library's general collection in order to insure the greatest possible access to these material by the public. The printed materials retained in Series VII of the Henry David Gray Papers are those which have biographical interest.

Guide to the Henry David Gray Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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