Victoria Booth-Clibborn Demarest

The following is a revision of an entry which I wrote for the Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography in 1990.

DEMAREST, VICTORIA BOOTH-CLIBBORN (1889-1982). b Paris, France, 31 December; independent world-renowned evangelist; preached significant Newfoundland crusade 1919; d St. Petersburg, Florida, 4 April.demarest-victoria-booth-clibborn

Demarest was a granddaughter of William (1829-1912) and Catherine (1829-90), co-founders of The Salvation Army. Experiencing the born again experience at the age of six, she claimed to have received a supernatural call to preach at fourteen. She began accompanying her mother, Catherine Booth-Clibborn (1858-1955), aka la Maréchale who, with her husband, Arthur (1855-1939), had disassociated themselves from the Army in 1902. In 1918, she married Cornelius A. Demarest (1895-1970), organist and choirmaster at the Second Presbyterian Church at Louisville, Kentucky.

In the winter of the following year, the Demarests responded to an invitation by the Methodist (later United) churches in St. John’s, NL, to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in the capital city. The meetings convened in Gower Street Methodist Church from 5 January to 10 February. (Meetings were also held in Carbonear.) demarest-letterIn her unpublished autobiography, Rays of His Splendor, Demarest wrote: “The response [to the St. John’s meetings] became an avalanche. Sometimes people could not wait to get to the seekers’ room; they fell on their knees right in the aisles.” Estimates of converts range from “many hundreds” to 2,000. A newspaper reported 684 Methodists, 126 representing other denominations, and 190 giving no church affiliation. The Demarest crusade helped consolidate evangelicalism in St. John’s.

In the nearly six decades after leaving Newfoundland, Demarest continued her worldwide crusades, in 1946 founded the World Association of Mothers fro Peace, and was ordained by the Congregational Church (now the United Church of Christ). She became a pianist, composer (of over 100 hymns, including Jesus is Calling the Weary), linguist (she spoke four languages), author (of over six books, including Sex and Spirit: God, Woman and Ministry), playwright (including King David: A Drama) and monologist. She earned the appellation, “Prophet of Ecumenical Christianity.”

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