All Souls Church - Hiroshima Children's Drawings

By Eric Cherry


On Sunday, April 5, All Souls Church (Unitarian) in Washington DC celebrated an important chapter in its history. In 1948, inspired by the sermons of the Rev. A. Powell Davies, children at All Souls collected school supplies to send to children in Hiroshima, Japan. In appreciation, the school children in Hiroshima created original works of art in crayon, water color, pen, and calligraphic brush, which they sent back to All Souls as gifts. Sixty years on, the church has had these precious creations restored. The April 5th Service marked the opening of an exhibit about them at All Souls.

During the service the congregation was joined by the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki as well as The Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe, Kyoko Okamoto (Koto player), and the All Souls Tulsa Youth Choir.

The Art Work will be on display at All Souls Church for two months. During the UUA General Assembly in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Art Work will also be on display in the International Organizations Booth in the Exhibit Hall on Thursday, June 25, 2009.

From The History of the Drawings

The story began on November 10, 1946, when A. Powell Davies, the Minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian, of Washington, D. C., denounced the obscenity of featuring an angel-food cake in the shape of an atomic-bomb explosion at a celebration honoring the atom-bomb task force. The day before, the newspapers had carried "an utterly loathsome" photograph of two smiling admirals in full regalia and a fancily-dressed wife cutting a three-foot mushroom-shaped cake made of angel-food puffs.

The sermon received publicity around the world and was seen in a Japanese newspaper by Dr. Howard Bell, an official with General Douglas MacArthur's provisional government. Bell wrote Davies that his invective was not quite forceful enough but he understood that Davies "had to make some concessions to the proprieties of pulpit utterance."

And he described the plight of the Japanese children, like those of the Honkawa Elementary School of Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945, although most of its children had earlier been evacuated to the country, 400 remaining students had come to school at eight o'clock in the morning, clutching their little tins of rice. "They had just got down to work when the blast baked them to sleep."

The writer went on to say that, in spite of the horror of the devastation, a year later the children of the Honkawa School were eagerly trying "to learn democracy" in the skeleton of a reinforced concrete building, six of them huddled to each 10-foot bench, with no heat to warm their blue cheeks and purple hands, and most with no school supplies, not even pencil stubs. He had used all the money he had available to get them benches and a table, but his efforts to persuade the American authorities to provide school supplies and athletic equipment had been fruitless. He wished that the children of America would clean out their desks and send pencils and spare notebooks to the Japanese children.

So it was that on February 13, 1947, Dr. Davies presented the request in his sermon, "In Reply to a Letter from Japan." In the weeks following, the children of the church collected over half a ton of pencils, crayons, paper, erasers, paste, paper clips -- and shipped them off to Japan. They arrived shortly before Christmas of 1947 and were distributed to the children of two schools and an orphanage.

In appreciation, the Japanese children sent gifts of their own artwork -- watercolors, crayon drawings, rag dolls, and colored comic song books from the children of the Honkawa Elementary School; 75 letters of appreciation written by the children of the Fukuromachi School of Hiroshima; and a letter from the Ninoshima Orphanage. Every letter was answered by an All Souls child and the gifts were displayed not only at the church but throughout the country by the U. S. Government. (from the All Souls Church website)

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


For more information contact .