Minot Judson Savage was born June 10, 1841, in Norridgewock, Me., and joined the Congregational Church there at the age of thirteen. He enrolled at the Bangor Theological Seminary and, after serving for a year during the Civil War with the Christian Commission, graduated in 1864. He was ordained at Bangor and commissioned by the Home Missionary Society as a missionary to California. In 1867 he was settled over the Congregational Church in Framingham, Mass., and in 1869 he became minister of the Congregational Church in Hannibal, Mo. He struggled with his orthodoxy, resigned from his church in Hannibal in 1872, and joined the Unitarian fellowship. After serving the Third Unitarian Church in Chicago, Ill., for one year beginning in September 1873, he was called to the Church of the Unity in Boston, Mass., where he served until 1896. For the next 10 years, he served as the associate minister of the Church of the Messiah in New York City.
Savage was a popular preacher and speaker who affirmed the religious interpretation of evolution, modern biblical criticism, and comparative religion. His extemporaneous sermons were written down and widely distributed in pamphlet form as Unity Pulpit and Messiah Pulpit. He was the author of several theological books, including the influential Religion of Evolution (1876), poetry, and hymns. He developed a spiritualistic faith in personal survival after death and published Life Beyond Death in 1899 as a tribute to his son Philip Henry, who had died at the age of 31 earlier that year.
He served on the board of directors of the American Unitarian Association, on the Council of the National Conference, and as a delegate to the International Council. He received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Harvard in 1896. He died May 22, 1918, while attending the annual Unitarian meetings in Boston.
For more information, see: Heralds of a Liberal Faith, ed. by Samuel A. Eliot. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1952. Vol. 4, p. 206-210; Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Son, 1935. Vol. 16, p. 389-390. [Photo: bMS 1446/190] .