Early History of Our Church


Part One

Compiled from Histories Written by J. Terrell Scott, M.D., and James Bradford

Compiled by Jack Dobrin, Historian Presented at Sunday Service, December 3, 1989

Some of you may be surprised to see me up here. I am not Dr. Scott, the scheduled speaker for this day, I am Jack Dobrin, this Church's historian. It is because of my role as historian that I am here today. Why Dr. Scott is not here today will be made clear in just a moment.

This past week was a very special one for our Church and I wanted to take the opportunity to mark what I believe will be a turning point for us. This past week our former church building was restored to its original condition as a Jewish Synagogue. Along with your church programs today, we have passed out programs from the ceremony held by the County of San Diego in Heritage Park last Monday. On one side you will see our former church, on the other you will find a short history of the building and efforts to preserve it.

There were several church members and several Board members who attended the County's ceremony. It was a beautiful service, and the building has been magnificently restored at a cost of almost $300,000.00. Many individuals and organizations, the County of San Diego, and this Church, contributed to the restoration.

We all had the opportunity to walk thru the newly restored building and I think that we all agreed on one thing: it was a beautiful building which served our congregation well and there are wonderful memories to cherish, but a new era dawned and it is no longer ours.

I believe that we were presented with a profound lesson. As we well know, all things come in their own time and it is now time for us to build upon our past and go forward as a church, recognizing that we live in a new era and that the church has opportunities in 1989 that it did not have in 1939, or even 1979.

The Board of Directors recognizes that there are wonderful and exciting possibilities for the church and it is working actively to pursue these possibilities. Just yesterday we had a special all day session to discuss the Church's future. This was just the first of many discussions and we will be seeking input from the members at large, so please think about the future.

Today though, I would like to pay tribute to all those wonderful souls who have built this church into one of the finest spiritualist churches anywhere. And this is where Dr. Scott comes in. Dr. J. Terrell Scott was a church member in the 1930's and 1940's who wrote a history of this church's founder, Dr. H. Robert Moore. Dr. Scott was a personal friend of Dr. Moore's and he wrote a lengthy history, parts of which I would like to share with you.

But first, I must be sure not to omit another important contributor to what I am about to read. Our former President Emeritus, James Bradford, who led this church for twenty years also wrote a history which he read on this Church's 50 year Golden Anniversary in 1982. I have incorporated parts of his address into Dr. Scott's work. Since Dr. Scott supplied most of this material, I am speaking his words, so he is listed as today's speaker. What I'm about to read describes part of Dr. Moore's life and Mediumship and gives some interesting stories about the early church. Here I will begin with Dr. Scott's history:

I knew Dr. H. Robert Moore well during the last 16 years of his life and was his personal physician during the time up to the hour of his passing on December 13, 1944. During his life we had many confidential and intimate talks in which he gave me a synopsis of his life and related many unique and interesting experiences. There was a bond of sympathy between us and I consider him one of the most notable and outstanding personalities whom I have been privileged to know.

Dr. Moore was born in Dayton, Ohio, on December 25, 1865. He stated that his parents were poor, relatively unknown people, who were avowed atheists. He was a chubby little boy whom his playmates called "Butch." He told me that when he was nine years of age, peculiar psychic phenomena began to occur in his presence - such as rappings and jerking off of bedclothes when asleep in bed, and while others were present. These phenomena aroused a great deal of interest among people in his community, and a wealthy couple in his home town became interested in the boy, and offered to educate him. Not having the means to give him these advantages, his parents accepted the offer and from then on he was placed in the charge of his foster parents.

At this time the Modern Spiritualist Movement was given great impetus and was receiving wide publicity, especially in England. A few years later the British Society for Psychic Research was founded in London by a group of eminent scientists, and other notables, for the purpose of collecting and studying all phases of psychic phenomena on a scientific basis. The first publication of their proceedings was in 1889, and former president of the Society include many eminent names such as Professor Henry Sidgwick, the Earl of Balfour Professor William James of Harvard University, Sir William Crookes, co-discover of the x-ray, Sir Oliver Lodge, Arch Bishop Boyd Carpenter and Lord Royleigh, among others.

In 1878, when Dr. Moore was 13, his adopted parents took him to London at the invitation of leaders in the Society for Psychic Research where demonstrations were given before prominent people, including Professor Zellner, Sir Oliver Lodge, the eminent physicist, and Alfred Russell Wallace, co-founder with Darwin in the Theory of Evolution. From London, Dr. Moore was invited to Paris where he met Europe's most noted spiritualists and for six weeks was a guest in the home of the great Louis Pasteur.

Dr. Moore traveled extensively and made four trips around the world, also traveling in Australia and in South America. As a very young man, during his second trip around the world, he remained in India for several months and studied under an Eastern teacher. He stated he was in South America when Theodore Roosevelt made his expedition to discover the "River of Doubt," and was once lost in the jungle and had to subsist on roasted ant larvae given to him by the Indians.

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Part Two

Several incidents in Dr. Moore's life may be of interest. In the 1890's he was in Sydney, Australia, where he met Bailey, a famous "Apport" medium and for two weeks attended séances in Bailey's home. People from all over the world attended these séances, including the well known American financier, Leland Stanford. Dr. Moore stated that Bailey was chained hand and foot, seated in a small cubicle enclosed in heavy wire netting and securely locked. On one occasion Bailey's control requested a large tub to be placed in the center of the room and filled with water. At the conclusion of the séance when the lights were turned up, the tub was found to be filled with rare specimens of live fish from the four quarters of the globe. On another occasion rare flowers from the Artic, the tropics, the Sahara Desert and other distant parts of the world were apparently dropped from the ceiling.

Also, he stated that he saw for himself the trunks of large trees uprooted and brought into the circle with damp earth still clinging to their roots. He affirmed that a competent group of investigators had thoroughly satisfied themselves on he solidity of the walls, floors, and ceilings and had stood guard at the only exit, which was securely bolted during the demonstrations so that such objects would not have been brought in by human means.

Dr. Moore affirmed that this psychic had lived and died in comparative poverty, never being allowed or willing to accept such "Apported" articles, but of the many rare vases, urns, jewelry and other antiques which had appeared in these circles, a great number were given to Leland Stanford. In his will, or in remarks to others, Mr. Stanford had requested that a room in the museum of the University (which bears his name) be set aside for the display of these articles.

Once in El Paso, Texas, Dr. Moore was thrown into jail on a complaint that he was a charlatan. The judge was a stern jurist, very skeptical on the reality of the "so-called" phenomena and was inclined to administer a fine. Whereupon, Dr. Moore invited the judge to attend a materialization séance that night, which invitation was accepted and sentence suspended pending further evidence. Much to the judge's surprise, an old Chinaman whom he had sentenced and condemned for the murder of his wife, appeared during the séance and conversed with the judge, who was so thoroughly convinced and amazed that the case was dismissed.

Dr. Moore lived in New York City for several years and for many years resided in Philadelphia, the last two decades of his life being spent on the Pacific Coast, chiefly in San Diego.

I first became acquainted with Dr Moore by "chance" when I was on leave of absence from a mid-western university and on vacation. At that time, in January, 1930, he was minister of the First Spiritualist Church of San Diego, and I "dropped in" one Sunday morning partly from curiosity I must confess. To my surprise, I heard a very inspiring sermon and spiritual message from a dynamic speaker who gave a concluding demonstration in "Psychography" and who announced that on the following Thursday evening a materializing séance would be held in the home of Mrs. Rockwell, a refined lady and member of his congregation, and only a limited number would be admitted by appointment.

Having been a member of the American Society for Psychic Research - an offspring of the British Society, under the guidance of President James Ryslop, Professor of Logic and Ethics of Columbia University, I was interested in such phenomena from a scientific point of view, and I applied for admission to the séance and was accepted. Subsequently, I witnessed 8 or 10 such séances all of which were quite impressive. On one occasion two other psychics were entranced and three forms appeared with the circle simultaneously.

These meetings were all conducted in a spirit of reverence - opened with the Lord's Prayer and a sacred hymn. The doors were locked and Dr. Moore would take his seat beside a box-like frame in one corner of the room, open above and with heavy curtains in front. In the opposing corner was placed a photographer's ruby lantern containing an electric bulb with a shutter which could be raised or lowered at will by Dr. Moore or some member present.

His séances were unique in that he retained control of his faculties whereas those manifestations cannot occur with most mediums except in trance state.

With all these materialized forms the light would be brighter around the head, and usually a slight diffusion of light could be seen immediately above the head which is called the "aura" or crown, brightest in those of high intellect and attainment. It is my thought that the customary practice of medieval masters in placing a ring of halo above the heads of the saints is in some way connected with the "aura."

After leaving the First Spiritualist Church, Dr. Moore incorporated the Fraternal Spiritualist Church in May, 1932. It was not long before he had a large following, consisting of many outstanding citizens in all professions. Meetings and séances were held in various halls, but the congregation wanted its own church so spirit was asked for help in finding a church.

At a séance in May of 1938, in the El Cajon home of church members Mr. And Mrs. Harry Matthews, Dr. Moore's guide, known as Doctor Holliday, told the people assembled how the could get a grand church for a very reasonable price. Dr. Holliday instructed five men who were then present and whose names he gave, on what they should do. The men were to appear at the First National Bank in downtown San Diego at Fifth Avenue and Broadway the following Monday at 8:30 A.M. sharp and were to block the entrance to the bank until the doors opened at 9:30 A.M. They were not to let anyone by them except bank employees. When the bank opened the men were to go directly to the person in charge of the real estate department.

The men followed the directions exactly. Upon the bank's opening the man in charge of real estate brought the five men into his office. After introductions were made Mr. Brace, a church member, inquired if the Second Avenue and Beech property was for sale. The answer was yes. The bank officer said that the price was $7,500.00 and a down payment of $500.00 was required. This amount was not in the possession of the group. Each of the five offered all he had, however that totaled only 50% of the sum required. Fortunately, Mr. Bragg, a church member, wrote a check for the remainder. Mr. Bragg was to come to the rescue of the church many times.

After the necessary forms were prepared and signed and the money paid over, a hard knock was heard and two gentleman walked in and were very disturbed to find that the church they had wanted to purchase was sold. They said that they had come to offer a larger cash deal. So you see, all things are possible with the guidance of spirit.

Even more to come soon with Part Three, The Final Chapter...

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