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Robert Collyer

Robert Collyer (1823-1912), American Unitarian clergyman, was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, England, on the 8th of December 1823. At the age of eight he was compelled to leave school and support himself by work in a linen factory. He was naturally studious, however, and supplemented his scant schooling by night study. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a blacksmith, and for several years worked at this trade at Ilkley. In 1849 he became a local Methodist minister, and in the following year emigrated to the United States, where he obtained employment as a hammer maker at Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania. Here he soon began to preach on Sundays while still employed in the factory on weekdays. His earnest, rugged, simple style of oratory made him extremely popular, and at once secured for him a wide reputation. His advocacy of anti-slavery principles, then frowned upon by the Methodist authorities, aroused opposition, and eventually resulted in his trial for heresy and the revocation of his licence. He continued, however, as an independent preacher and lecturer, and in 1859, having joined the Unitarian Church, became a missionary of that church in Chicago, Illinois. In 1860 he organized and became pastor of the Unity Church, the second Unitarian church in Chicago. Under his guidance the church grew to be one of the strongest of that denomination in the West, and Collyer himself came to be looked upon as one of the foremost pulpit orators in the country. During the American Civil War he was active in the work of the Sanitary Commission. In 1879 he left Chicago and became pastor of the Church of the Messiah, now renamed the Community Church in New York City. Later he brought his old friend, the popular writer and hymnodist, Minot Judson Savage, to assist him in his ministry. In 1903 Collyer became pastor emeritus. He died in 1912

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