Painting of the Universalist Church in Gloucester

Over the years, troves of images have been released into the public domain or under liberal licences. The most recent release is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Search page)

Here is “The Church at Gloucester“by Childe Hassam (1918) and now in the public domain. The church is, of course, the Universalist church — the first in the Americas.  John Murray was its pastor; Judith Murray, a founder, was an author and leading figure in Gloucester.

Universalist work in Korea, 1937 report

The story of the Universalist Korean mission is little discussed, surely because the Japan mission, on which it was institutionally dependent, is also little discussed and because there is no evidence that has come to light that it survived the Second World War. I’m hoping to add to the record, and follow up on the article I posted two years ago.

I was at the Library of Congress yesterday and scanned minutes and reports from the 1937 General Convention. This is from the section called International Church Extension. I’ve added links to outside resources for context.

Universalist General Convention. Universalist biennial reports and directory. Boston, Mass. : Universalist General Convention. (1938), p. 83-86.

Korea

Under the leadership of Mr. [Ryonki] Jio [or, Cho in the financial reports], graduate of Doshisha Theological Seminary, work was begun in Korea in 1929. Mr. Jio with another student from the seminary had done summer evangelistic work the two previous years. As he traveled all over the country he investigated possible centers for his future work. His final decision was in favor of Taikyu (Daigu—Korean pronunciation), a city the size of Rochester, New York.

In April, 1929, after his graduation from Doshisha, Mr. Jio rented a house and began his work. It was thought at first that no Sunday school could be conducted in such narrow quarters but on April 7th some 57 children came and three men and four women volunteered to help in teaching. What has come to be a very significant work was thus humbly begun.

Taikyu

There is a church building, and a pastor’s house on a small plot of land down a narrow alley building leading from one of the many wide streets in Taikyu. The buildings and land are being bought on the installment plan, with payments each month for something over two more years. The “church building” is an adapted ex-wrestling hall, now in quite bad condition, with uprights weakening and sinking to such an extent that the windows, which open horizontally, are immovable now, with the exception of one half of one window. A new building—one could almost say, a building—is needed badly, but the group is attempting this year a complete renovation with the limited resources these poverty-stricken people can manage to scrape together.

Here are all the usual meetings and some unusual ones —not only Church and Sunday School—but many other meetings throughout the week.

Mr. Jio has lived through some hard experiences since the start of 1929—experiences that would have embittered most men—but he has had his dream and has worked towards its realization steadily. To tabulate such activities as frequent preaching, Sunday School direction, prayer meetings, boys’ club work, Bible classes, does not begin to give one an idea of the work done. Mr. Jiu is fast becoming one of the best-known citizens of Taikyu.

In August of 1936, several months after his graduation from the Taikyu Government Medical School, Dr. Pak, who had for several years served as Sunday School superintendent, in cooperation with Mr. Jio and in the name of the church opened a medical-services-at-cost enterprise in a makeshift “attic” section of the “church building,” divided into a small laboratory, a small waiting room, and a somewhat larger consultation and treatment room, the whole comprising a space of about ten by fifteen feet. (Their original plan to build up the enterprise on a cooperative “shares” basis was prohibited by the police authorities.) For over a year Dr. Pak worked without salary patiently building the work. In August of ‘37, however, he resigned to take up a private practice in Manchukuo among Koreans there. Another young doctor was procured on a salary basis, and the work is going forward with steadily increasing numbers of patients daily and an ever-widening scope of influence in the city. In some months the average number of patients served has been as high as 40 to 50 daily. Last autumn, in answer to the need of an in-patient department for slight operation cases such as for trachoma, which is very wide-spread in Korea. Mr. Jio turned his house over to this work and took up a rented dwelling some twenty minutes’ walk from the “church.”

Handicapped by extremely limited equipment this “church and hospital” enterprise goes forward steadily.

Mrs. Onjun Pak, the first Korean to be trained at the Blackmer Home, has started a Sewing School for Women and Girls in connection with Mr. Jio’s work. Very little equipment was available, but it is hoped that interested groups in America may be able to contribute towards the purchase of a few machines and some necessary supplies. Until that time Mrs. Pak is carrying on with what is at hand and is making a real contribution to the people she serves. A portion of the International Friendship Offering received in Universalist Church Schools in November, 1937, has been a sign for this work of Mrs. Pak.

Wulchon

A church was soon started at Wulchon, some six miles from Taikyu, but owing to the persecution by another sect, it had to be suspended. But this misfortune has not followed another enterprise in Wulchon.

Some years ago people in the immediate vicinity of this small town faced a desperate unemployment situation. Mr. Jio resolved to do something about it. With his church group as a nucleus and on borrowed money, he purchased materials and begin a fibre-slipper manufacture, his own special service being the finding of markets for the goods manufactured goods during the long cold season when the ground cannot be worked. Today the Guild thus started has spread beyond this first group, gives employment to over eighteen hundred and manufactures over two hundred thousand pairs of slippers a year, selling some as far afield as Chicago and points farther east. This industry has become second in importance—after silk—in the district which Taikyu is the center.

Kumpo

A dozen miles beyond Wulchon is Kumpo, a small rural village of two hundred or more. Here, after some evangelistic meetings, a church of thirty odd members was formed. But it as was the case in Wulchon, was forced to suspend activities due to persecution from another sect.

Sendung

After Dr. Cary’s address of the Buffalo convention in 1931, Rev. G. H. Leining and Rev. Ellsworth C. Reamon conducted a swift impromptu campaign for funds which resulted in enough to purchase a farm of some one hundred and sixteen thousand tsubo (a tsubo is 36 square feet) or over 98 acres—a very large farm for the Orient. Upwards of fifty families rent and work this farm, which has extensive rice cultivation possibilities as well as being in a good position for fruit. In the summer of ‘34 a great flood swept down and buried large portions of the farm under six feet of water, but it was reconditioned—at considerable expense (with money borrowed of the government on very easy terms). What was necessary was done and the slow process of making the land valuable by annually putting all returns back from it back into it was taken up again. More fruit trees are planted, more poplars about the edges to hold off sand and future floods. In August of 1936 an even worst flood came, wrecking property throughout the southern part of Korea. Once again the work of reconditioning was taken up but it was too expensive to do it as completely as was desirable. Nevertheless, more planting of fruit trees and protective poplars, which are pruned short, was done. A goodly number of the thousands of trees planted before the ‘36 flood, lived through it.

In the nearby town, Mr. Jio holds occasional meetings whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Other interests

Mr. Jio maintains a constant communication with liberal groups of Koreans in Japan proper, especially among theological students to keep him exceedingly busy every time he visits Tokyo and Kyoto, where his alma mater, Doshisha, is.

He sees great opportunity for influence through a liberal magazine, but is compelled for lack of funds to postpone any independent action of this nature, submitting articles for publication in other magazines whenever opportunity permits.

Mr. Jio and the work he and his people undertake is financially aided by the General Convention and in constant affiliation with the General Convention representatives and the Japan Council.

Universalist Conventions and Creeds, republished

Years ago, I learned that the best way for me to read an obscure bit of Universalist theology or history was to transcribe it for the web, thus my twenty years of creating web sites. Following on my last post, about Universalist distinctives, I decided to revisit Richard Eddy’s landmark series “Universalist Conventions and Creeds“, an institutional history of early American Universalism. Though I first found parts of it (on microfilm) in the 1990s, I had never found (thus never read) all of it.

Recently, too, I wrote a page that posted the locations of all know copies of the journal Universalist Quarterly and General Review in which Eddy had published this work. Since then, I discovered this index that is complete. Ignore my list.

Now I can read all of “Universalist Conventions and Creeds” — which means I’ll transcribe it. Full circle. I’m about two-thirds the way of an initial clean up, but the extensive footnotes make a challenge for web publishing. So, I’ll probably make a PDF too. I’ll be over a hundred pages long…

But one more thing. In Google-ing around about the Philadelphia Convention (1790-c.1809), I discovered no only that the documents that Eddy quotes still exist, but that they are at Harvard, but that they too have been digitized and may be read online. I nearly swooned.

Examining the Universalist theory of worship

So, what makes Universalist worship Universalist? What keys do we have, if we want to build on a tradition?

It turns out that it’s harder to say than in other denominational traditions, including the Unitarian. The problem may date to the beginning, by which I mean the 1790 Philadelphia Convention, where the assembled delegates claimed, “as we have no rules laid down in the word of God to direct us in our choice of a mode or form of public worship, it is recommended to each Church to use such modes and forms of prayer, and to sing such psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as to them shall appear most agreeable to the word of God, or best suited to promote order, and spiritual edification.” Not a sense shared by many of their contemporaries! Whether this was an act of liberality, or a politic act of evasion, I will leave for you to decide.

Universalism was made up of different streams, united by a common hope in a common salvation. Other doctrines were a matter of liberty — one reason theological unitarianism had a place — and so much for liturgy, too. As such, the various hymnals and worship books had denominational sponsorship and could be widely adopted and still be entirely optional.

After the Civil War, institutional Universalism congealed around a common program and denominational governance. The theologial schools and denomintational press were growing in influence, and yet there was little discussion about how this new structure applied to worship. Prayerbooks could go out without a preface; liturgists, like Charles Hall Leonard, could write the works, but scarcely say what they intended.

So, where to look for clues? Private papers? Articles in the weekly papers, as yet little digitized? But it may be as subtle as examining the more popular texts themselves, and see what was used, discern what the source documents were — the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and the prayerbooks of James Martineau, surely — and see what they thought to change…

What I’m reading: history and theory of liturgy

I’m working on some Universalist liturgy projects and have been keenly feeling both the generations of lost ecumenical interchange, and the lost reasoning that lead to the texts we do have. So I decided to read some older works to fill in the missing pieces with the goal of working towards the present.

I happened across “The Reform of Liturgical Worship Perspectives and Prospects” (The Bohlen Lectures 1959) by Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr.

This gave me a sense of the development of American Episcopalian liturgical development from the Ritualists to his own time, halfway between the prayer book revisions of 1928 and 1979.

And it it, I found a reference to the 1867 The Book of Common Prayer: as amended by the Westminster Divines, A.D. 1661, also known as the Presbyterian Book of Common Prayer by Charles W. Shields, but particularly the appended essay Liturgia Expurgata which fills in for that work a lineage that I wished the contemporary (1866) Universalist A Book of Prayer for the Church and the Home had. Indeed, I wonder if it was on the desks of those Universalists, especially Charles Hall Leonard, who developed the longer-lasting tradition of Universalist prayer books that ran in successive editions and abridgments through the 1950s.

Key to Universalist Quarterly and General Review online

I was reading a part of Ann Lee Bressler’s The Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880, when I ran across this:

Until it ceased publication in 1891, the Universalist Quarterly supplied a forum for those thinkers who, like the neo-orthodox theologians several decades later, objected to the increasingly pervasive theme of continuity between the present world and the divine, “the major positive principle of the liberal mind.” (p. 144)

I have long read the Universalist Quarterly and General Review, first for background for my never-written master’s thesis, and later for Richard Eddy’s multi-part “Universalist Conventions and Creeds.” But you don’t have to read them on microfilm any more. Several volumes have been scanned and may be read online or downloaded. It’s a good read, and is a counter to the oft-repeated trope that Universalists were unsophisticated.

Note: some of these are misnumbered. This is not the scanner’s fault, but the original publisher’s.

Alsos, not all volumes are online, but I’ll keep looking and filling in missing volumes.

“Universalist Register” copies found online

A handy set of links for those researching Universalists.

The Universalist register and almanac

The Universalist Companion, with Almanac and Register

The Universalist Companion, with an Almanac and Register

The Universalist Register

Introductions to Universalism

A nice chat with other member of Universalist National Memorial Church after services today, over coffee. As sometimes happens, the matter of books came up, which merged with another comment about Hosea Ballou, and from there to books about Universalism.

I recommended two smallish, straight-forward books and a documentary history, if with reservations. Both are institutional histories, and both are irenic towards Unitarianism, positing Universalism as a close relation rather than a religious tradition on its own terms. Fine as denominational works, but also a bit unsatisfying for informing a faith, particularly a Christian faith. Of course, theological universalism is hot now — in evangelical circles, and so many of the faith-forward works are better for evangelicals. And the academic works are good for academics.

There’s room for a primer. In the mean time, here are those three books.

  • The Larger Faith by Charles A. Howe
  • American Universalism by George Huntston Williams
  • Universalism in America: A Documentary History of a Liberal Faith, ed. by Ernest Cassara

All three are from Skinner House, but only the first two are available at the UUA Bookstore.