When I was in 5th grade, I began to feel uncomfortable about my religion. Because it was different and I was the only one who was. I didn’t get help with this until 9th grade when the Community Unitarian Church, in Kennewick, Wash. handed out to its LRY kids (Liberal Religious Youth) a reprint of an article in Pageant magazine titled Small Church, Big People. It begins “One Sunday morning shortly before his death in 1957, A. Powell Davies, the celebrated pastor of All Souls Church, Unitarian, Washington. D.C., was asked by a troubled schoolgirl, “Will you please preach about some of the things Unitarians have done? No one seems to know anything about us at school. They think we’re sort of queer. Can’t you build us up a little?” And Rev. Davies smiled, and complied, and taught from his pulpit. Testifying to a religion’s achievements is sometimes more important than modesty, he told his congregation. Then he enumerated all the famous Unitarians, and the great things Unitarians had done. Many names that high school students knew. There could be little doubt, he said, that Unitarians had influenced American life and history out of all proportion to their small number.
This was music to my ears. When I had finished reading it, I felt armored-up, prepared to share and argue confidently with my classmates. I had the facts in my pocket now. The article went on to talk about our theology and how we differed from mainline Christianity, and why. It referenced our Service Committee, and our good works in other ways, and concluded with these four paragraphs:
“Although the denomination has grown steadily, it is not a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ. When the National Council was formed by American Protestant churches at the turn of the century, the three unitarian delegates to the organization meeting in New York were denied admission as heretics who would not recognize “Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.” The three ‘heretics’ turned away were Massachusetts Governor John D. Long, Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard, and Dr. Edward Everett Hale, author of The Man Without a Country and then- chaplain of the U.S. Senate.
“The Unitarians accept their maverick role with wry good humor. Heresy, they say, is a relative charge, since, after all, the Catholics regard all Protestants as heretics. As far they are concerned, there is no such thing as a heretic; just people, entitled always to their own belief, imperfect but not inherently bad, capable of rising by slow degrees to ever-higher planes. To aspire to contribute the ennoblement of their life is a goal, they feel, which no name-calling can demean.
“In the not-too-distant future they hope to be in a better position to achieve their goal. Currently, the Unitarian Church and the even smaller Universalist Church of America (334 churches and 68,949 members) have voted a merger that in all probability will take place in 1961, upon ratification by local churches. There are many parallels in the theologies of the two churches, particularly in the emphasis they both place on tolerance and freedom of religious belief.
“There will be a little bit more of everything if we have a united liberal church,” says Unitarian head Dr. Greeley. “And it should make our mutual goal of ‘getting heaven into people instead of people into heaven’ somewhat easier to attain. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that he hoped every person living in his day would die a Unitarian. We’re not quite that ambitious, but we do think we have the religion of the future.”
Website Workshops each Sunday after Church for at least the next four weeks. Please bring your laptops to church and we will get you ‘activated’ and show you how to prepare your news and information for publication on the website and to the Unichord. It’s easy to do. Please join us if you would like to participate in our new website. I still have a lot of cashmere scarves to give away too.