Worcester, Elwood (1862-1940)

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Worcester, Elwood (1862-1940)

Episcopal clergyman, psychical researcher, and founder of the Emmanuel movement, which pioneered medicine and psychotherapy in conjunction with spiritual guidance for individuals with physical, mental, and nervous problems. Through James H. Hyslop he became interested in psychical research, and he was a founder of the Boston Society for Psychic Research, of which he was president from 1925 until his death.

Worcester was born on May 16, 1862, in Massillon, Ohio. He studied at Columbia College, New York (B.A., 1886), General Theological Seminary, New York (1887), and Leipzig University (Ph.D., 1889). He was ordained in 1891. He served as rector at St. Stephen's Church, Philadelphia (1896-1904) prior to his quarter of a century at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston (1904-29). While at Emmanuel he began to work with a group of pioneering psychotherapists, including Joseph H. Pratt, Richard C. Cabot, and Isador H. Ciriat. Out of their collaboration emerged the Emmanuel movement, one of the early spiritual healing movements in mainline Protestantism (later superseded by the Order of St. Luke).

In the mid 1920s, Worcester became associated with the group within the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) that believed that medium Mina Crandon was a fake. They left the organization and founded the Boston Society for Psychic Research in 1925. Worcester retired a few years later but continued to serve as the society's president almost until the time it was reincorporated into the ASPR.

Worcester wrote a number of books, including several titles with Samuel McComb, who was for many years the associate rector at Emmanuel. He died July 19, 1940, at Kennebunkport, Maine.


Melton, J. Gordon. Religious Leaders of America. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991.

Worcester, Elwood. Allies of Religion. Boston: Marshall Jones, 1929.

. The Christian Religion as a Healing Power. New York: Moffat, Yard, 1909.

. Life's Adventure. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932.

Worcester, Elwood, and Samuel McComb. Body, Mind and Spirit. Boston: Marshall Jones, 1931.

Worcester, Elwood, Samuel McComb, and Isador Ciriat. Religion and Medicine. New York: Moffat, Yard, 1908.

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Worcester, Elwood (1862-1940)

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