Universal Hagar's Spiritual Church (UHSC)

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Universal Hagar's Spiritual Church (UHSC)

The Universal Hagar's Spiritual Church (UHSC), a Spiritualist church operating primarily among African Americans, was founded in 1923 in Detroit, Michigan, by George Willie Hurley (1884-1943). Hurley moved to Detroit from Georgia in 1891 and affiliated with Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ and rose to become the leader of the church in Michigan. A short time later he became involved with the esoteric, left his position in 1920 to join a Spiritualist church, and three years later founded his own church. In 1924 he established the School of Mediumship and Psychology, and as new congregations developed, each also had a school attached to it. Hurley conceived of the school as a branch of the Great School of the Prophets, which he believed to be the school Jesus attended during the 18 years between his appearance in the temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of his public ministry at the age of 30.

UHSC was one of the main bodies spreading Spiritualism through the African American community in the twentieth century. Like other spiritual churches, (spiritual was the name adopted by Spiritualism in the black community), UHSC altered traditional Spiritualism by blending Catholic ritual, Holiness preaching, and elements of the folk magic culture or voudou. Hurley also drew upon Ethiopianism, a belief that identified black people (Ethiopians) with the ancient Israelites; astrology; and insights from The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, a channeled book that purports to tell of Jesus' lost years. Unlike many spiritual leaders, Hurley took a strong stand on social issues and was an early supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The church planted congregations across the Northeast and Midwest during Hurley's lifetime. As the church expanded, Hurley acquired an increasingly grandiose self-understanding. He told his followers that his carnal flesh had been transformed into the flesh of Christ and that he had become the "God" of this Aquarian Age, just as Jesus had been the God of the previous Piscean Age. Since Hurley's death, the UHSC has been led by Prince Thomas Surbacher, Mother Mary Hatchett, Prince Alfred Bailey, and Rev. G. Latimer, Hurley's daughter. Hurley welcomed women to the ministry, and they have always been well represented on the Wiseman's Board, the church's ruling structure. State directors are called princes, a term taken over from Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ. In recent years the church has spread into the Southwest and California.

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Baer, Hans A. The Black Spiritual Movement: A Religious Response to Racism. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press,1984.

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Universal Hagar's Spiritual Church (UHSC)

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