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Wider City Parish Records

Call Number: RG 87

Scope and Contents

The records provide valuable documentation of a locally operated and supported nondenominational Christian social service agency during a period of rapid urban change and upheaval in New Haven. Urban problems of housing, education, crime, racism, and immigration were addressed by the Parish, led by Yale Divinity School graduate Robert Forsberg.

Series I, Legal Documents, traces the formation of the Oak Street Christian Parish and its change of name to the Wider City Parish. The reports and minutes of Series II, provide documentation of the development of the organization, its operations, and its changing program emphases. The Files of Robert Forsberg, Executive Director, in Series III complement the more systematic records of Series II, and illustrate the processes of networking and support-gathering that sustained the Wider City Parish.

The Programs and Projects of Series IV are those sponsored by the Wider City Parish, or in which they were partners with other organizations. Most substantial of these programs were summer programs for children, including the Friendly Town program that paired inner-city children with suburban families, and community support programs, including a library, at the Elm Haven housing project. Documentation of the organization in New Haven for the 1963 March on Washington, and interactions with the New Haven grassroots group, the Union of Indigent People, provide vivid illustration of the role of a Christian service agency in the struggle to improve urban conditions.

The Publications of Series V include Wider City Parish newsletters dating from 1952 to 1987, which provide an excellent overview of the program emphases of the Parish and its efforts to garner support from city and suburban congregations in the New Haven area. Many of the photographs in Series VI were used in its publications. Series VII, Collected Material and Related Organizations, documents the Wider City Parish's place in the wider network of social service agencies and programs. There is some overlap between this series and Series III and IV, but, in general, the documentation of Series VII is of programs in which the Wider City Parish was not a direct participant. The Financial Records of Series VIII, include financial records of the Wider City Parish's three decades of service in New Haven.


  • 1950-1987


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Wider City Parish


  1. I. Legal Documents, 1952-1975
  2. II. Committees and Reports, 1952-1986, undated
  3. III. Files of Robert Forsberg, Executive Director, 1964-1980
  4. IV. Programs and Projects, 1951-1980, undated
  5. V. Publications, 1952-1987
  6. VI. Photographs, undated
  7. VII. Collected Material and Related Organizations, 1959-1986, undated
  8. VIII. Financial Records, 1954-1985, undated


5 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


These archives document the work of a nondenominational Christian social ministry agency during three decades of rapid urban change and upheaval in New Haven. The Wider City Parish was an inner-city Christian social ministry organization in New Haven, Connecticut, which existed from the early 1950s to the mid 1980s. Its executive director was Robert Forsberg, a graduate of the Yale Divinity School.

Biographical / Historical

The Wider City Parish began in 1952 as the Oak Street Christian Parish, located in the Oak Street area of New Haven. When urban renewal brought a highway through this area, the Parish relocated to Ashmun Street, changed its name, and refocused its activities on projects and projects in various areas of New Haven, including the Rockview-Brookside housing project, the Elm Haven and other downtown housing projects, the Howard Avenue and Grand Avenue areas, as well as the margins of the Oak Street area. Supported by the New Haven Council of Churches, the Wider City Parish sought to inform the congregations of New Haven about inner city problems, and to coordinate support for a variety of programs. The staff of the Parish was always small, and usually included a number of part-time Yale Divinity School students. Programs and projects included summer programs for children, family counseling, work among Puerto Rican immigrants, and advocate work in the areas of housing, young offenders in court, adult education, etc.

Guide to the Wider City Parish Records
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley and Carl L. Beckwith
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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