Preparing an online version of “Ancient History of Universalism”

I’ve been writing a blog since 2003, and this is post #4,000. I saw this coming and thought it deserved a little something extra.

Earlier this week I was speaking with a friend and colleague about Universalism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and recalled to him Hosea Ballou II’s 1828 Ancient History of Universalism, which traced the doctrine from the period from the end of the writing of the New Testament to thhe Fifth Ecumenical Council, particularly in the East. Among other things, the work positions Universalism within the entirety of Christian history and not as an innovation then a scant two or three generations old. And given the role Hosea Ballou II played within the denomination, his influence would have been important in his lifetime. I thought to read it, and knowing from my early (1990s) transcription projects that the best way to read one of these old works — and retain any memory of it — is to edit it for web publication, and that’s what I am doing to celebrate post #4,000.

It’s not the first edition nor the second, but the 1872 edition, with added notes. I’m about half-way through, and will post it online as a web page and intend to create an epub edition, suitable for most book readers. (If you want a print reproduction copy of the first edition, get one here.)

And what value is it today? Among other things, to see how a leading and influential Universalist saw his faith and contrasted with others (allegory is silly; reason, good) and to have handy access to those texts (including biblical texts) that early Universalists used to support the faith. And perhaps past both of these, to enjoy a grand piece of period scholarship and to inspire new studies; I’ve since ordered a modern history of Origen to take me where HB2 couldn’t.

I’ll post afresh when and where the files go up.

What church is that in the header?

A friend asked if the church in the header was Universalist. Indeed it is, or was. That is Universalist Meeting House, Hingham, Massachusetts. The image, now in the public domain, was extracted and hosted a Flickr.

This is the original source, The History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts.

Phoebe Hanaford was one of its pastors. The church disbanded in 1929 — so many disbanded in that decade — and the building, which still stands, has been converted to a private house.  Its papers are in the Unitarian Universalist archive at Harvard-Andover Library.

New WordPress theme might be good for churches

There’s been a flood of new Bootstrap-y sites for churches made over the last couple of years, and I’m sure that’s the kind of thing that some other churches would want and cannot afford.

I’m looking at the new default business-minded WordPress theme — Twenty Seventeen — and it pushes some of the same buttons that those other sites push. Cutting edge design? Hardly? But it might what a church needs to refresh its look, and it has features that should make it easy to manage by non-pros.

For a week or so, I’ll have the default Twenty Seventeen theme up. (I’m not selling plants now.)

HymnsoftheSpirit.org is back

I had some site problems this last week. My old main blog, BoyintheBands.com, was badly hacked and in the process of hardening the other sites against attack, I ruined the WordPress install for my homage site to the 1937 “red hymnal” HymnsoftheSpirit.org.

I had to trash the old system and completely reinstalled it. Easy, but I misplaced the theme (no great loss) in the process. So the site is there, if plain.

Restored link to readings and propers page

About three years ago, I started a project where I compared the one-year lectionaries, with accompanying collects (prayers), of a nineteenth-century Universalist prayerbook and an English twentieth-century work that tried to restore liturgial worship to historic dissenter churches, project that reminds me of the work of James Martineau.

And here’s a direct link to that.

It is largely complete, but I realized that in moving the content from Boy in the Bands to this domain, I let the links to this and other liturgical resources vanish. I’ve fixed that, and this week will fill in the missing propers for the days after Christmas.

Moving the ministry to RevScottWells.com

From here on, the focus of my writing ministry will be at RevScottWells.com, and that is

  1. interpreting Universalist Christianity for today, particularly in practical and popular ways, and
  2. identifying and developing methods to operate churches and other ministries more efficiently and economically, including worship and leadership development,

plus short notices and news as appropriate.

An archive of my writing, to date, will be mirrored at BoyintheBands.com, which will continue with miscellaneous religion news, pop culture and opinion. UniversalistChristian.org will continue as a documents archive, and will grow slowly to support my work at RevScottWells.com.

The name “Boy in the bands” started as wordplay on the stage play and film The Boys in the Band, and the Geneva bands I wear when preaching. The play doesn’t match my experience as a gay man (and never has), I’m hardly a boy, and I only preach occasionally (though I do still wear bands) so even if the name ever made sence as a public persona, it doesn’t now.

Changing domains means a hit to readership, but in time that heals. That said, I’d appreciate you reading my blog here, and sharing the word.

Thanks.

Crossposted at BoyintheBands.com

Transcription workflow notes

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but I’ve not been inactive. And since I have the day off today, I thought I’d catch you up. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be putting up two chapters from the 1946 Parish Practice in Universalist Churches as text; I’ve previously posted it as a scanned PDF.

I want to discuss my workflow. I can do the odd report, but I’d like to see more Universalist and other documents transcribed, and to have typographic errors discovered and corrected. I shouldn’t be the bottleneck.

In the past — going back twenty years or so — I would photocopy a book, carefully crop it into a single column, rephotocopy these onto letter size and take them to a central computer center where they would be processed by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). I’d get a file back, and then edit it.  Later, I would use a flatbed scanner at home and OCR software at home, but some documents required the images being edited to one column. These processes were very time consuming. Sometimes, transcribing by keyboard was more efficient!

Image capture and OCR software have improved markedly. Today, instead of scanning, I take a picture with my phone, and use a graphical front-end to powerful OCR software to process the text. It’s not always clean — a second snap and process is sometimes necessary — but the improvement over twenty years ago is striking.

In particular, on my Ubuntu Linux (14.04 LTR) machine, I use YAGF — “Yet Another Graphical Front-end for cuneiform and tesseract OCR engines” with the tesseract engine.

Changing the character set, or trying to

So, my blog is old enough that the character set is all goofy. Translation, when I try to write something in Esperanto with circumflexes, I get question marks or oddments in their place.

Example: ĉiutaga preĝejo. This will not do. This blog needs to display in UTF-8, but doesn’t. And converting the database is not risk free.

This notice is in case I ruin my blog for a few hours or a few days.

UniversalistChurch.net reclaimed

Short update: I lost my oldest domain — universalistchurch.net — because I don’t have the email addresses I used to register it years ago. I feared I might have to transition to universalistchristian.net, but lo! I got the original domain this week. Whew! (I transferred it to a new owner: me.)

Universalistchurch.net reads as universalistchristian.net now — both addresses work — and in time I hope to move the content to a simpler, faster platform. And maybe add more documents!

Long live UniversalistChristian.net

Well, I can’t seem to reclaim the universalistchurch.net domain, despite my repeated appeals to the registrar. (I don’t have access to either email address with which I registered it aeons ago.)

But I own universalistchristian.net, so after some tinkering I’ve moved the site dedicated to the “Christian hope in the final restoration of all souls, and those who believe it” there. It’s largely historical and liturgical material.

But this episode has shown me the limits of WordPress for what should be a simple site, so I plan on converting it (with all the text) to a simpler, easier-to-maintain and (I hope) faster loading platform like Pelican. And now that I have a functioning site, I can try.