the Rev. Harry R. Butman planned Sunday, Sept. 11th
BY VINCE ECHAVARIA
A memorial service for the Rev. Harry R. Butman, former pastor of the Congregational Church of the Messiah in Westchester, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, September 11th, at the church, 7300 Manchester Ave., Westchester.
Butman, who was the senior minister of the Church of the Messiah in Westchester for 25 years until his retirement in 1978, died Friday, July 29th, at his home in Acton. He was 101.
A reception in the church patio is scheduled to follow the September 11th memorial service for Butman.
Butman served as a Congregational church minister for 72 years. He was a prolific writer, with a primary emphasis on missions and prayer, and was the author of over 35 books and publications, as well as hundreds of magazine articles.
“He had a tremendous imagination and an incredible use of words,” said Dr. David L. Gray, minister of the Church of the Messiah in Westchester. “He had a creative inventiveness.
“His incredible storytelling could have you in tears.”
Butman was born in 1904 in Beverly, Massachusetts, and he graduated from the Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine in 1928.
In 1932, Butman was ordained at the Federated Church of Edgartown, Massachusetts, where he served as pastor for five years. Butman served as pastor at several other churches in Massachusetts before he moved to California and became senior minister of the Church of the Messiah in 1953.
After moving to California, Butman first served as minister of the Church of the Messiah in Arlington Heights before the current Church of the Messiah was built in Westchester in 1954, Gray said.
The Oratorium at the Westchester church for daily meditation and prayer was designed and built during Butman’s pastorate at the Westchester Church of the Messiah.
Members of the church renamed the Oratorium the Harry R. Butman Oratorium at Butman’s 100th birthday celebration in March 2004.
Following his retirement from the Westchester Church of the Messiah, Butman served as interim senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles from 1978 to 1981, and had continued to serve as consulting minister until his death.
He received an honorary doctorate in Divinity from Piedmont College, a Congregational college in Demorest, Georgia, in 1955.
An endowed Chair in Religion and Philosophy was established in Butman’s name at Piedmont College.
Butman was one of the founders of the Cal-West Association of Congregational Churches, the International Congregational Fellowship and the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, which includes about 440 churches.
Gray, who has been minister of the Church of the Messiah in Westchester since 1996, said Butman coined the phrase, “Messiah is the thinking man’s church.”
Butman was also the editor of The Congregationalist magazine. Some of his books include The Desert Face of God and Serve With Gladness, which Butman said was his favorite book.
“He was always active,” Gray said of Butman. “He loved to go on safaris and take treks into the desert.”
Butman was an avid sailor for nearly 70 years and was also a member of the Los Angeles Industrial Basketball League in Westchester at the age of 57.
Those who knew Butman say he was a humble man, who once said, “All I ever truly wanted was to be a good minister of a local church, which I hold to be the best of callings.”
Butman is survived by four children, ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
All contributions in Butman’s memory, unless otherwise designated, may be directed to the Harry R. Butman Chair of Religious Studies, Department of Religion and Philosophy, Piedmont College, P.O. Box 10, Demorest, GA 30535.