The main reasons I review Universalist historical documents is to
- try to see Universalists as they saw themselves and not though the (now more customary) Unitarian lens
- uncover hidden or lost accomplishments
- understand the structural reasons for Universalist decline, rather than the shoddy theological suggestions offered, usually keyed to the inevitability of consolidation with the Unitarians
Yesterday, I went to the Library of Congress. Much of the time was eaten up transitioning to the new electronic system — which you have to do on site! — so I only got to review one book: the 1927 Universalist Year Book. But there is a book scanner, so I’ll be processing the parts I scanned for weeks.
1927 (or thereabouts) is important because
- it’s after the 1923 copyright watershed, and so won’t be found online
- some kind of merger was likely, but whether it would be Unitarian or Congregationalist was a live issue
- the decline had begun, but the Depression-era devastation hadn’t
We live with outcomes from this era, including the reality that many of the UUA’s multi-denominational churches (mostly located in New England and Illinois) are the result of the Universalist-Congregationalist flirtation with denominational merger. I feel sad that in many cases, being multi-denominational is viewed in UU circles as “not-UU”. In other words we can cooperate with “those people” in theory, or perhaps at a protest; but local organic, congregational unions are against UU thought and practice. We talk about being broadly inclusive, but then our deeds demonstrate sectarianism. A shame.