Dating that pamphlet

File this under “not working on tomorrow’s sermon.”

So, when was that midcentury Universalist pamphlet published. It’s helpful to know when a clear pivot away from Christianity was made from a central authority, in this case, the “Department of Public Relations, U.C.A.”

It’s clearly post-World War Two, and presumably before the 1959 convention that ratified consolidation with the Unitarians. Any more internal evidence?

  • The reference to the “four year advance.” Possibly after 1956. Can’t find dates online with associated files at the archives.
  • The quotation from Harry Overstreet citing The Mature Mind.
    The book was first published in 1949.
  • The Universalist Circle program, a parallel to the Unitarian fellowship movement, that lasted through to consolidation.
  • The 16 Beacon Street address. Offices there from 1933, per Miller, The Larger Hope, 2: 630.
  • Possibly the quotation from the Brainard Gibbons, who championed this approach. Probably from his 1949 Convention sermon, or related to it. The Larger Hope, 2: 634; Spoerl, in Universalist Heritage, 4.

But the most evidence isn’t of date, but of kind. Long-time readers of this blog know I’m not fond of this kind of Universalism. (I think it’s naive; it also cultivates self-centeredness and — perversely — sectarianism.)

But I’m not unsympathic to why they wanted a religion that they though would be expansive and more optimistic. The fires of war had just died down, and a thermonuclear fire might have destroyed everything. It was a time of growth and unexpected prosperity. Why wouldn’t they respond to the times?

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “Dating that pamphlet”

  1. They definitely were responding to their times. In a context where human civilization had just survived devastating global warfare, they were trying to envision a religious response. Where they were na├»ve, was in seeing their own formulation as a human universal… Blind as it was to the way in which their religious Humanism was so embedded in a very particular culture of white, middle class, United States, post-Protestantism. Hardly universal at all, but very particular. But at least with an interest in global peace.

  2. A minister wrote an article about Kenneth Patton’s ministry at the Charles Street Meetinghouse. He described it with some of the same words that Derek, above, used: “middle class,” for example. I don’t know how much time Derek spent writing that paragraph but the minster spent a lot of time writing the article, which was longer and more scholarly. It appeared in “A Bold Experiment: The Charles Street Universalist Meetinghouse.” And yes, Derek is a minister, too, but I admire the way that he hit many of the main points which the longer article made. As Derek pointed out, the pamphlet was responding to global warfare. According to the article, Rev. Patton was attempting to make his sanctuary more international for example when he placed a large photo of a galaxy in his sanctuary or when he put up symbols of the religions of the world. I wish that I could list more similarities between Derek’s paragraph, above, and the scholarly article, but my copy sits in a storage locker.

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