"A History of Universalism in North Carolina"

Today I received an unexpected parcel from Peggy Ward Rawheiser, a well-known figure in heritage Universalist circles: her new revision of the classic A History of Universalism in North Carolina. I’m quite pleased to receive it. (Thank you.)

At first I thought I would review it in full, but since it functions more like a sourcebook — and a big one; image a Unitarian Universalist Association directory — than a conventional secondary history, I’ll have to come up with a different mode of analysis.

Some will want a copy whatever I have to say, so I figure the least I can do now is leave behind ordering informtion:

A History of Universalism in North Carolina
c/o Guild Masters
P O Box 31184
Raleigh NC 27622-1184

The price is 24.95 plus 5.00 shipping and handling. Make checks payable to the Universalist Convention of North Carolina.

Boston Library stereographs on Flickr

Ah, Flickr, the photo sharing service has been drawing some significant image collections and I just saw some stereograph from postbellum Boston, from the collection of the Boston Library. Might I recommend the slideshow? (Go fast; the stereographs are sorted by topic so you’re bound to get a whole bunch of very similar images.)

The churches interest me, of course, and fortunately they come early on, after the Masonic temples. None were Universalist, but “Dr. Gannett’s church” (Arlington Street), King’s Chapel, and the defunct Hollis Street Church (another) and Church of the Disciples are Unitarian churches represented.

But there are other interesting sights: commercial buildings, scenes from the Great Fire of 1872 and the World Peace Jubilee (also of 1872). Or for something more familiar, swan boats.

Long before the blog

Chris Walton (Philocrites) muses about technology and his earliest writings via Internet, specifically on the Usenet group, soc.religion.unitarian-univ.

Ah! I wrote there too, in those heady days of the mid- to late-1990s. I wonder if I was edgier then?

If you care to see what I wrote . . .

Here are archived copies of two (1, 2) of my oldest sites. (I actually started writing HTML in December 1995, but those earliest pages are lost to history and good riddance.)

The Universalist church year, 100 years on

I’ve listed below the fold seven annual observances recommended by the Universalist General Convention; I’ve pulled this list from the 1907 Universalist Register. Why?

  • I’ll be writing about the use of a church year and lectionary
  • the subject of Association Sunday (October 14) is live in the Unitarian Universalist Association
  • the plans for All Souls Day are being made, with some agita about the cultural appropriation or use of Mexican customs for Dia de los muertos

Continue reading “The Universalist church year, 100 years on”

Shinn death centennial, this Thursday

Quillen Hamilton Shinn — “the grasshopper missionary” — got his reward a hundred years ago this Thursday. OK, that’s not so great for Universalism’s most conspicuous missionary, but if you think about it, the epithet is double-edged, too. (Think of the ant and the grasshopper.)

I would have missed it entirely had it not been for this post by Steven Rowe at SC Universalist. Thank you. Read it there.

Where did the highway begin?

I was reading a post at Looking for Faith where its author quotes John Murray’s much-cited passage from his first sermon in America. You know the one — it is even in the gray hymnal:

Go out into the highways and byways of America, your new country. Give the people, blanketed with a decaying and crumbling Calvinism, something of your new vision. You may possess only a small light but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men. Give them, not hell, but hope and courage. Do not push them deeper into their theological despair, but preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.

I’ve preached about this text more times than I care to remember. But one thing nags at me: where does this quotation come from? I mean, what primary source is there from which we can attribute this quotation. Or, what is the earliest secondary source we have.

I though with a more robust Google Books we might be able to pull back the veil, but no. Perhaps the answer lies in one of Murray’s manuscript sermon books, or in one of his rare printed works that not his autobiography. Or perhaps Judith Murray recorded it.

Does anyone have a clue? Not to boast, but if there were only a few people who knew the answer, I thought I would be one of them. The passage is one of the more endearing literary touchstones we have: I would like to know its provenance, even if it means we learn it isn’t from Murray at all.

Poor Unitarians (relatively)

One of the things that annoys me the most about the popular retelling of the story of the Unitarians and the Universalists is how poor or lowly the Universalists were. But many Universalists did quite well financially. Neither the lie nor the fact is all that compelling; wealth alone isn’t a marker of good or evil.

The New York Times has an “interactive graphic” of the wealthiest men (all men) in American history. I don’t see any Unitarians (I know of) on it, but I do see at least one Universalist. Care to guess whom?

The Wealthiest Americans Ever” (New York Times)

Why blog when there's Doctor Who?

The first episode of the third season (new series) of Doctor Who — “Smith and Jones” — premieres on SciFi tonight and I’m watching it. Why blog?  What’s the Universalist significance?

It is set at a hospital — called Royal Hope but obviously (OK, maybe; like I know London that well) intended to be a variation of Guy’s Hospital in Southwark. And somewhere on or near the hospital campus was the old Maze Pond Burial Ground. Or is. I can’t find it.

And that’s where Universalist pioneer James Relly was buried.

Q.E.D.

Where James Relly is buried

James Relly might fairly be called the first Universalist of the modern era. A disciple of Whitfield and contemporary of the Wesleys, Relly left a now little-read corpus of work, including his provocative Union, where he identifies Jesus Christ as the captain of humanity to whom our sins are justly imputed. American readers of Union, including Judith Sargent, became the first willing hearers of one of Relly’s disciples, John Murray. And, as they say, the rest is history.

I’ve written about James Relly’s London. Poking through Google Books, I found a citation of where he was buried: the burial ground of the Maze Pond Baptist Church. (Which after-Googling was noted at the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society site all along.)

Now where’s that: apart from it being in Southwark, south of the Thames from the City of London (proper) and Westminster, I can’t really tell. Plus, the Baptist church moved in the nineteenth century. I doubt either building is extant, and all I hope is that the burial ground isn’t under a road. There’s maddeningly little about Georgian Southwark on the web!

UGC condemned Nazi antisemitism: can we get the full documentation?

According to the one-page Google Books view (p. 113) of A World in Turmoil: An Integrated Chronology of the Holocaust and World War II by Hershel Edelhet and Abraham J. Edelheit (Greenwood Press, 1991)the Universalist General Convention (UGC) condemned Nazi antisemitism on November 21, 1937.

I’d love to see the full text of the resolution, plus any associated report. I wonder if we can scare it up?

With this post, I’m adding or restoring the History category.