UGC resolution . . . from 1874

Funny what you’ll find when you look. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading old Universalist General Convention minutes, available at Google Books. The proceedings of the 1874 convention, in New York City, were particularly interesting.

The sixty-seven delegates served a different role than our General Assembly delegates today. For one thing, the General Convention created State Conventions, which handled many of the routine fellowship matters centralized in Boston today. Commercial publishing houses and what we might call independent affiliates took care of many of the program pieces. There were no workshops or celebrations apart from morning and evening worship and a Convention sermon. (Deceased ministers and significant laypersons were remembered by resolution.) This left the General Convention with committee work, report auditing and meta-responsibilities, like domestic and international mission work (including building funds) and establishing fellowship in areas not covered by a State Convention, like my own Washington, D.C. (Not so much because it is the Federal City but because it didn’t have enough churches — indeed, it has only ever had one Universalist church — to qualify for Convention status. I don’t think Maryland or Virginia did either.)

But past these differences, some business verities remain. The delegates considered fund raising, defining fellowship with churches, making policy decisions, budgeting and support for multi-cultural ministries (funding a transferring Lutheran minister to establish Universalist parishes in German ethnic communities).

Much of the decision making was hashed out in a committee created by the Convention to create subcommittees to consider the Board of Trustees report and other overtures. The membership — the Rev. A. A. Miner, Mrs. Eliza W. Bailey, Rev. E. H. Chapin, E. W. Crowell, M. R. M. Wallace, Rev. D. C. Tomlinson and the Rev. B. F. Bowles — included some Universalist heavyweights.

They introduced an omnibus resolution which included remarkable non-discrimination planks. Women’s history buffs should particularly note these:

  • That it be the established polity of this Convention to exclude no person from its Board of Trustees, from any office or from any general committee now existing, or that it may create, on account of sex; and that it be its established policy to encourage the existence of no organization composed exclusively or men or women.
  • That to make possible the acceptance of the forgoing invitation, we recommend to State Conventions the election of Delegates to this Convention, without reference to sex, but with reference alone to fitness.

The reasoning? I suspect it has to do with the leadership women made with fundraising through the congregation-based Missionary Box program. (Indeed, later in the same meeting, a Committee of Five was established to superintend the program, with a majority of three positions reserved for women.) The same resolution encouraged support of the program, and “gratefully recogniz[ed] the good service” of the Woman’s Centenary Association and that the “proved capacity of women” to raise fund should lead the convention not only to include women in fund raising but “awaken[ing] a religious interest.”

And, with some bumps, that’s what happened.

There’s an old lesson there, and excuse me for bringing this to date. Power flows from showing up and producing, especially money needed to keep the staff paid and the lights on. Alas, the youth and young adult resolution passed this General Assembly makes demands on principle which sound a bit too much like an ultimatum — give us what we want or we’ll leave; yet, so many already leave — and, which all too often don’t hold up in practice. (The lesson of age, perhaps?) As I said before, if the youth and youth adults raised money — as indeed their predecessor organizations did — perhaps the attrition problem would take care of itself.

New Harmony (Windsor) Universalist Church on Google Street View

I caught a rumor that there was a Google Maps Street View camera vehicle in D.C. If anyone knows if that’s true, please leave a comment.

It’s about time. I’m a little miffed that some very out of the way places have been filmed but not Washington, D.C. Case in point? I found New Harmony Universalist Church, in the Windsor settlement near Loganville, Georgia on Google Maps Street View. A charming now-dormant church that comes to life — if nothing’s changed — on the fourth Sunday in September for homecoming. Metro Atlantans should make a note — but take good food, since the shared dinner is among the best you’ll ever have.

At least now you won’t have a hard time finding it, or knowing what the building looks like. Oh, and “go before you go” — New Harmony (Windsor) had nothing but an outhouse the last time I was there.

Children's Sunday

The Universalist General Convention commended the second Sunday in June, or as near as convenient, as Children’s Sunday. Don’t know if there was a fund-raising or denominational programatic piece — bet there was, though — and will report back if I find anything, including the resolution that began the observance.

Universalist Heritage Foundation hosts worship services

There will be a series of summer services at the Heritage Center — the rebuilt historic Universalist church of Winchester, New Hampshire — of the Universalist Heritage Foundation on several Sundays this year.

Details and more at the UHF’s well-designed and informative Web site. Do spread the word; I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves.

Reader's question: Where to get the 1941 prayerbook?

A reader asked where he might get a copy of the 1941 Universalist prayerbook. This is how I replied:

The 1941 (and lesser known 1943 Harrisville, R.I. prayerbook) were simply abridgments of the 1894 servicebook, with the 1935 Washington Avowal in place — in the appendix — of the Winchester Profession and a new introduction by Emerson Hugh Lalone who noted “The present volume is abridged but in no sense impoverished. Only those parts which are not necessary to the regular services of worship have been omitted.” This includes selections from the Psalter.

What’s left is

  • The Order for Morning Prayer
  • The Order for Evening Prayer
  • The Order for Vespers
  • Litany
  • The Divine Law
  • The Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion
  • Baptism of Infants
  • Baptism of Such As Are of Riper Years
  • The Order of Confirmation
  • Hymns and Psalms
  • Universalist Profession of Belief and Bond of Fellowship

Don’t get too excited about the “Hymns and Psalms” — these are exactly the tests of the Gloria Tibi and Te Deum Laudamus.

I do welcome reader inquiries and have a couple of other replies to post. (I don’t post identifying information; you may comment and I identify yourself.) Write me through the contact page.

High over Relly's church

What does a Shakepearian villain, the author of Utopia, a pioneering Universalist minister and record-making building have in common? A single place

Crosby Hall (1, 2) was a late medieval merchant’s house in the Bishopsgate section of London, near the even older (and surviving) St. Helen’s Church. Among its famous early residents were the Duke of Gloucester — later Richard III, famous in the Bard’s play as the horseless prince-killer — and Thomas More. The area went downmarket in later generations and after the Great Ejection, the area was riddled with Nonconformists. A Presbyterian chapel flourished there for many years, but on its demise, it was taken over by the Universalist minister James Relly as his third and last meetinghouse, closing with his death. Thus the connection.

The area slipped more, and at one point the hall became a wool warehouse, I believe. It was disassembled in 1908 and — thankfully — reassembled in Chelsea in 1910. It survives as a private residence.

The area is full of banking institutions today; the site of Crosby Hall has a rather uninspiring postwar office building on it. But not for much longer.

That site and a couple nearby are being redeveloped as the tallest building in the UK: the Bishopsgate Tower.

Gosh — you can’t scratch London without hitting something.

Memorial Sunday

For “Memorial Sunday” being “Any Sunday in October set apart to commemorate the death, during the previous year, of any member of the Sunday School or family. The room might appropriately be decorated with autumn leaves.” The vertical bars [ | ] are in the original, and are meant for pauses when the prayer is read in unison, “better to ensure reading in concert.”

O Lord, our heavenly Father, who livest and reignest forever, we thanks Thee | for the lives of those whom we have known | upon the earth, but whom we shall no more see | with bodily eyes. We thank Thee | for the pleasure their society has given us and for the hope, sure and steadfast, that Thou still hast them | in Thy holy care and keeping, in a world where there is no death, and where, in Thy good time, we shall meet them, to part no more forever. We thank Thee | that as Jesus, through Thy power, raised again to mortal life | the widow’s son and the ruler’s daughter, so Thou wilt raise to immortal life | all the sons and daughters of men.

And we would ever keep in mind, that Thou are the Home of our souls; that though we sorrow, in Thee are heavenly compassion, and abiding comfort; that all suffering | is to work out Thy glory in our hearts. Help our faith in Thy love. Give us Thy Holy Spirit. May we hold ourselves to be, not beings of this world only, but Thy children; heirs of all blessing and grace. May we now taste of the hopes | and of the joys | of true religion, and, looking forward to the glory yet to come, may we live righteously, soberly, and godly, in this present world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

  • From “Memorial Sunday” in A Year of Worship for Sunday Schools and Homes by G. L. Demarest. (Universalist Publishing House, 1873), p. 90-91.