A service celebrating the life of The Rev. Dr. Samuel Nathaniel Slie will be held Saturday, March 23, at 12:30pm, in Battell Chapel, in New Haven, where for decades he served as Associate Pastor of The Church of Christ in Yale University. A much beloved pastor, a friend to thousands, and a beacon for interfaith cooperative ministry, Sam died peacefully at the age of 93. The son of Annie Brown Slie and Robert E. Slie, Sam grew up in New Haven's Oak Street neighborhood, which he recalled fondly as a 'beautiful mixture of everybody - Italian, Irish, Polish, Jewish, Black, Portuguese.' As a youngster, Sam became, in his words, a 'Shabbat goy,' climbing on a chair to turn off the lights of the two synagogues on his block. 'We were all part of one another's lives.' After graduation from Hillhouse High School, Sam completed a semester at Springfield College before being drafted into the then-segregated US Army. There he served in the Buffalo Brigades sent to liberate Tuscany, Italy, in a brutal campaign. His war experience led Sam to see the complexity of prejudice; he discovered that his expansive acceptance of different people was not shared by all. Sam was honorably discharged in 1946 but remained longer in Italy, where he developed a love for all things Italian, gaining life-long friends and fluency in the language. He returned to the US questioning the value of human life in the contexts of war, power and race. 'Why did some people have the power to not send their sons,' Sam questioned, 'but send me instead? Why was I one of the 'easily draftable' people? I was no longer enamored with the American systems and in many ways I felt like a pawn.' Returning to Springfield College to complete his undergraduate studies, Sam met conscientious objectors, many of them Quakers. Long talks with them about the meaning of life inspired him to attend Yale Divinity School. He graduated from there with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1952 and was ordained promptly to the Christian ministry at Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, in New Haven. Sam then returned to his beloved Italy to work on post-war reconstruction with the American Friends Service Committee, first as a volunteer and thereafter as a co-leader. In the course of many summers, Sam led AFSC work camps, rebuilding roads, sewers, schools, and bell towers throughout Italy. 'I saw this work,' Sam said, 'as an opportunity for participants to build a lifetime spirit of peace, unity, and love for humanity.' That he did, in the course of which he developed a lifetime relationship with the Tuscan village of Cogna, which he continued to visit for decades. The Heads of Family of Cogna even appointed Sam its 'Honorary President of all public works which will be undertaken by the community, as we are certain that he will always be our friend and collaborator.' Through his decades of ministry, Sam served in many positions, including: Southern Area Secretary with the National Student Council of the YMCA; Regional Director of the New England Student Christian Movement; Coordinating Chaplain of the United Ministry in Higher Education in New Haven; and Protestant Chaplain at Southern Connecticut State University. He also served as Associate Pastor of The Church of Christ at Yale University while Rev. William Sloane Coffin was Yale's Chaplain. During that time Sam helped to start the Black Church at Yale. He continued as an Associate Pastor of the Church of Christ at Yale and since 2005 had been Pastor Emeritus of Shalom United Church of Christ. Sam was a Fellow of Yale's Morse College. He also served as a member of the board of Yale's Dwight Hall, which appointed him Emeritus Board Member in recognition of his legacy and invaluable contributions. A man of deep faith and inquiring intellect, Sam pursued additional degrees, earning a Master in Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School in 1963 and in 1985 a Doctor in Ministry from New York Theological Seminary. Sam was deeply rooted in the Congregational tradition and for several years taught United Church of Christ polity at Yale Divinity School. Sam also served as Coordinator of the Downtown Cooperative Ministries, an ecumenical association of Christian churches, which spawned New Haven social service agencies such as Columbus House and the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund. Committed to the widest possible embrace, Sam convinced the DCM board to expand its vision and mission to welcome all faiths and to become Interfaith Cooperative Ministries. Sam skillfully laid the groundwork for this new organizational identity by hosting a series of brown bag luncheons called 'Shalom People,' to which he invited non-Christian clergy from the area. As Herbert Brockman, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Israel, recalls, Sam's strategy was to get people comfortable enough with each other that the transition would feel natural. Slie, observed Brockman, was 'very sly.' Sam's body now rests in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery. He is survived by his cousin, Dorothy Jennings Ramdayal, of Ocala, Florida, whose daughter Josephine ('Phina') Tuttle was a constant presence and help in Sam's later life until the end. In a real and enduring way, Sam is survived also by family that circles the globe: his Godchildren, his parishioners, his students, his colleagues, those he baptized, those at whose weddings he officiated, those he counseled and those he inspired. As so many have commented on learning of his death, Sam was truly a saint in his time, a beloved pastor, a prayer man extraordinaire, and a great human being. We have been blessed by this man of amazing grace. Well done, good and faithful servant! Contributions may be made to the Rev. Dr. Samuel N. Slie '52BD, '63STM Internship Fund, c/o Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511.

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  1. Dear Slie Family,
    I am so sorry to hear that Rev. Slie has passed. I learned something every time I spoke with him, and know his contributions to religious life in New Haven will continue for generations. May the God of peace give you comfort in your grief. Susan Olson

  2. I posted the following on my Facebook page about an hour ago: I just heard about the passing of the Rev. Dr. Samuel N. Slie on February 12th at the age of 93. For decades, Sam served as the Associate Pastor of The Church of Christ in Yale University (the UCC church that met as part of and alongside the university chapel services at Yale), having worked alongside University Chaplains William Sloane Coffin, John Vannorsdall, Harry Baker Adams, and Jerry Streets. In 1973, Sam co-founded The Black Church at Yale, an institution that is still going strong. He was a champion of interfaith dialogue in New Haven. Sam was a profoundly important mentor during my time serving as the Samuel N. Slie Fellow while interning at the Yale University Chaplain’s Office, and when I first stepped out into the world of religious and spiritual life as the chaplain of Suffolk University in Boston in 1998. He was someone well loved by generations of Yale students, by the people of New Haven, and by the United Church of Christ folks throughout Connecticut. A truly good man who left behind a truly wonderful legacy of service and leadership. Rest in peace, my mentor, my friend, my teacher. I never knew how .There is a Balm in Gilead. was supposed to sound until I first heard it reverberate from you, full and rich and sad and inspiring. I’ve never heard it sung right again since.

  3. Dear friends and family of Sam. I’ve known Sam for many years as a friend, pastor, and mentor. I remember fondly our may conversations together and meetings in the New Haven community, working for peace and justice. He was a kind and gentle man with a deep commitment to care for people with the wider world. From his work with the YMCA, the Wider City Parish, the Interfaith Cooperative Ministry the UN association, the peace movement, and students everywhere, Sam’s presence was vital. With gratitude for this kind and prophetic man, Paul Hodel

  4. Dearest Slie Family, I attended weekly Bible Study Class with Rev. Dr. Samuel Slie at Battell Chapel when I was a student at YDS. As a result, a lifelong friendship was formed. He has been a wonderful mentor to me and has provided invaluable guidance to me as a preacher of this marvelous Gospel. I will greatly miss him. Yet, the many lessons that he taught, both verbally and non-verbally, will always be with me. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace. Sharon Reives

  5. Many years ago I was briefly part of the Yale religious ministry alongside Sam. Getting to know Sam was the part of that experience that remains strongest in my memory.

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