Edna Rose Ritchings

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Edna Rose Ritchings (c. 1925 – ) is the symbolic maintainer of the International Peace Mission movement. She is also known as Sweet Angel in the movement, or as Mrs. S. A. Divine or Mother Divine because she is the widow of the movement's leader, Father Divine.[1] She assisted Father Divine, who claimed to be God, in his declining years. She and her husband lived in a manor home,which doubled as a Peace Mission headquarters and church known as the Woodmont manor & estate from 1953. It is located at Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. Father Divine died in 1965 and was later interred in a crypt and mausoleum on the premises. The Woodmont estate continues to be the home of Mrs. Divine.

A Canadian convert from Vancouver, Ritchings was drawn to the movement in its decline in the early 1940s while she was still in high school.[2] As did many adherents of Father Divine, she broke ties with her parents, and adopted a new name, "Sweet Angel". Moving to the then-headquarters of the movement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she became one of Father Divine's personal secretaries. She proposed to him one day in the office by saying, "I want to marry you because I know you are God."[3]

They were married in secret on April 29, 1946 in Washington, D.C. Ritchings was 21, and Father Divine about 65.[2] The marriage was secret from most followers until Ritchings's visa expired in the summer of 1946, and Father Divine had to disclose it. The wedding date, April 29, thereafter became a celebrated anniversary in the movement.

Father Divine claimed to his flock that Ritchings was the spirit of his first wife reborn.[2] His first wife, Peninniah (d. 1943), was also commonly called "Mother Divine". Reincarnation had not previously been part of Father Divine's doctrine, indeed he had said that the notion of an afterlife was absurd.[4] To prove that it was a chaste marriage in accordance with his teachings, Father Divine assigned a female disciple to be Ritchings's constant companion.

Due to Father Divine's declining health, she presided over an increasing number of Peace Mission banquets. Upon his death in 1965, she became the official leader of the movement, a position she continues to hold. The Movement has nearly dwindled to extinction because few new converts have joined and Peace Mission doctrine forbids sex.

Notably, Mother S. A. Divine fought an attempt by cult leader Jim Jones to take over the movement in 1971.[1] Jones based some of his doctrines on the International Peace Mission movement, and claimed to be the reincarnation of Father Divine. The two battled for years, with Divine sending spies into Jones' Peoples Temple and Jones doing the same to the Peace Mission.[1] Converts to the Peoples Temple wrote Mother Divine trying to convince her that Jones was Father Divine until the infamous mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Black, E. "The Three Virtual Intentional Communities Of God In A Body In Real Time (1868-2008)". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. San Diego State University. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "Made in Heaven". Time. 19 August 1946. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "Concept of Marriage". Libertynet.org. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  4. ^ "Father Divine Papers, 1932-1977". MARBL Finding Aids. Emory Libraries. Retrieved 11 December 2008. [dead link]

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