At its peak during the Great Depression, the International Peace Mission Movement had about 150 centers, called “Heavens,” spread across the globe, with the majority based in America.
Each Heaven was established as a desegregated communal living facility — a haven for anyone seeking food, work, shelter, and Father Divine’s spiritual teachings.
Followers were expected to abide by his International Modest Code: “No smoking, no drinking, no obscenity, no vulgarity, no profanity, no undue mixing of sexes and no receiving of gifts, presents, tips or bribes.” Father Divine preached economic self-sufficiency and rejected the idea of welfare — a powerful message to a country in the grip of financial turmoil.
The movement to establish the International Peace Mission Heavens started in New York, and it’s believed at least a quarter of the Peace Mission branches were located there. At one point the Mission was the largest property owner in Harlem.
Divine was a savvy businessman, and shops and services that declared themselves part of the movement sprang up alongside the Heavens to meet his followers’ needs. Eventually, Heavens could be found all over the country, including in California, Washington state, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado (one is mentioned in this story from the Colorado Springs Independent).
Gatherings were also called in France, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia, and according to a web comment on the Colorado Springs story, from the archivist of Father Divine’s Library and Museum, “There were Peace Mission Extensions throughout the United States and on every continent except Asia and Antarctica.”