Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: bMS 178

Williams, Rhys. Papers, 1951-2003.


This collection consists of material related to Rhys Williams' ministerial appointments at the Unitarian Curch in Charleston, South Carolina and First Church in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as services in other congregations and biographical information. The records span 1951-2003.


  • 1951-2003.


There are no restrictions on access to this collection.


4 linear feet (4 boxes)
This collection consists primarily of material from Williams' ministry at the First Church in Boston. It includes sermons and orders of service, as well as extensive records that document the effort to rebuild the church after a fire destroyed it in 1968. These building records deal with subjects such as fundraising, the architectural selection process, and attempts that were made to halt the rebuilding. The collection also includes records from Williams' ministry in Charleston, biographical material, sermons and services performed in other congregations, personnel material, committee reports, meeting minutes, and newspaper clippings.

Biographical / Historical

Rhys Williams (1929-2003) was born in San Francisco, California. Influenced by his uncle, David Rhys Williams, minister of the Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York, he decided to pursue a ministerial career. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1951 and received his B.D. from the Theological School there in 1953. He received an honorary doctorate in 1962 from Emerson College, and another from St. Lawrence University in 1966. He served as a student minister from 1951 to 1953 at the Universalist Church in Edwards, New York. In 1954, he was ordained a Unitarian minister at the Unitarian Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He served as minister there until 1960, when he became the minister of the First Church in Boston. He served as minister of the First Church in Boston until his retirement in 2000.

In 1969 he was appointed field education supervisor at Harvard Divinity School, and over the course of his career more than sixty future ministers interned with him at First Church. Williams was president of the Unitarian Historical Society from 1960 to 1975; president of the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry/Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian Churches from 1991 to 1999; president of the Ministerial Association from 1968 to 1970; and president of the Society for Ministerial Relief from 1975 to 2003. He was president and then vice president of the Evangelical Missionary Society from 1965 until 2003. From 1975 to 2003 he was vice president and president of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among Indians and Others in North America. His book Triumphant Living: Sermons from Five Decades Celebrating the Liberal Gospel was published in 2003.


Organized into the following series:
  1. Series I. Biographical material
  2. Series II. Unitarian Church in Charleston, South Carolina
  3. Series III. First Church in Boston, Massachusetts
  4. Series IV. Services in other congregations

Acquisition Information

Gift of Eleanor Williams, 2008.
Williams, Rhys. Papers, 1951-2003: A Finding Aid.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Divinity School Library, Harvard University Repository

Special Collections at Andover-Harvard Theological Library preserves and makes accessible primary source materials documenting the history of religion and theology, with particular historical emphasis on American liberal religious traditions. Though the historical strengths of the collections have been in the field of Christianity, other religious traditions are increasingly reflected, in step with Harvard Divinity School's evolving focus on global religious studies.

45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge MA 02138-1911 USA
(617) 384-7904
617-496-4111 (Fax)