Universalist holidays: a 1857 list

So I have this 150 year old prayerbook, The Gospel Liturgy: A Prayer-Book for Churches, Congregations and Families. Prepared by direction of the General Convention of Universalists. Apart from Sundays, what observances does it commend? Well, many are always on Sunday and I bet the rest got transferred to Sunday, but so I suppose I mean “apart from ordinary Sundays.” (Oh, and visiting Quakers should read to the bottom.)

Listed exactly as they are in the book.

  1. Beginning of the Year
  2. February Twenty-second
  3. Day of Fasting
  4. Good Friday
  5. Easter Sunday
  6. Ascension Sunday
  7. Whitsunday
  8. John Baptist, June 24
  9. Fourth of July
  10. Transfiguration
  11. Thanksgiving Day
  12. Treaty of Peace
  13. Advent Sunday
  14. The Pilgrims, Dec. 22
  15. Christmas Day
  16. Ending of the Year

Some observations:

  • Why congregations and churches in the title? The book was commended for use by preaching stations (in the absence of a preacher), loosely-organized societies and occasionally-meeting congregations, what we would call worship groups and lay-led fellowships today.
  • Neither Maundy Thursday and All Souls Day — later to be well loved — are present in the list.
  • Whitsunday is Pentecost.
  • Two national holidays are noted — surely fewer than would become common in later years — though cited only by date.
  • The list is evidently in chronological order from January 1, but the Day of Fasting, Thanksgiving Day (not our modern holiday of course) and Treaty of Peace aren’t given particular days of observance. I’m assuming an August 6 observance of Transfiguration.
  • That last one is particularly interesting, as it refers to the “Great Treaty of 1682” (specific date unknown I gather) between William Penn and the Lenape (Delaware) Nation. More about that one later this week.

By Scott Wells

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

1 comment

  1. Scott, Fast Day here in New England was traditionally the first Thursday in April. The last state to get rid of it as a holiday was NH, who stopped recognizing it and began to recognize MLK Day in 2000.

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