Old Universalist genre has legs

Mid- to late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Universalists were masters of their own eclectic genre of publications: miscellanies and handbooks. To this I will add information rich directories and handbooks. These would blend (in no particular order of importance)

  • Polity introductions
  • Model bylaws
  • Denominational history introductions
  • Lists of famous Universalists
  • Hymns
  • Catechisms
  • Lists of biblical texts proving Universalism
  • Liturgies
  • Children’s stories
  • Essays on the theory of worship
  • Advice on children’s education
  • Almanac listings
  • Devotional literature
  • Timelines
  • Lists of conventions, churches and ministers
  • Sermons
  • Denominational statistics
  • Exhortations

You would see something of the same in Universalist serials, an almost completely unfathomed field of study. (A hint to any church history Ph.D. students out there.) But more importantly today, we can take some inspiration — I have, anyway — to provide generalist resources for healthy church life. The key is having generalist resources from a number of different sources to fill in the usual needs. This is something past Universalist writers understood. John Wesley Hanson, for example, still lives on the ‘Net because his histories, theologies, and even children’s stories touched a chord. Specialization was not an option. With web-based publishing, the biggest liability for publishing these miscellanies is overcome: you can search for content, and all of it (by one author) is in one place. We have an opportunity to share resources broadly and meaningfully.

By Scott Wells

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

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