Program Narration for


by David Johnson and Eugene Navias
Published by the Universalist Bicentennial Committee

Note To Worship Leaders

Here is the narration for Singing - Shouting - Celebrating: The Second Century of Universalism as it was presented at the UUA General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina, on June 26, 1993.

The program booklet and narration are being made available for use in worship services and educational programs in UU congregations and conferences. You are granted permission to use and/or adapt the narration and to photocopy all of the hymns, songs and materials in the program booklet. Please give credit as appropriate. At the General Assembly the narration was delivered by the authors speaking alternately and began with an introduction designed for that occasion. The opening lines that follow have been adapted for general use.

Preludes On Hymn Tunes

Choral Prelude: Of Love and Understanding, text by Kenneth Patton, Music by Betsy Jo Angebranndt

The First Hundred and Twenty Years - 1741 - 1861

Today we celebrate the second century of Universalism with stories about Universalists and songs and hymns by Universalists.

But first, we'll make a quick review of the history of Universalism from its introduction in America to the Civil War.

America began discovering Universalism when George de Benneville came to Pennsylvania in 1741.

John Murray delighted the ears of Thomas Potter when he preached on the New Jersey shore in 1770 and heeded Potter's demand to share the Universalist gospel that God is love.

God is loving and forgiving like a caring parent.

Eternal punishment, hell fire and bitter sectarianism are the real heresies.

God loves all people in every condition all over the world. Anything less than that is to be scorned as partialism.

Salvation is universal. All souls will come into harmony with God and know the joys of heaven.

That message was a strong antidote to the orthodoxy of the period, and was spread by preachers on horseback to Canada, New Orleans, Oregon, and many a town in between.

Convinced of God's love from searching the scriptures, Universalists preached, published and debated successfully with popular purveyors of doom.

They applied their universality to all human issues. As early as 1790 Judith Sargent Murray wrote an essay proclaiming the rights of women.

Olympia Brown and a host of her sisters were officially ordained as Universalist ministers.

Universalists reasoned that if we're all going to be in heaven together, we'd better learn how to get along amicably on earth.

Slavery and war were proclaimed as abominations to a loving God.

The way was not easy. Universalism was denounced as an anathema and Universalists as heathen.

The right of free assembly, the right to support one's own chosen church, the right to ordain one's own clergy had to be won by legal battles.

Early preachers and their congregations were often far flung and lonely.

So they began to meet together and held their first regular assembly in September 1793, the date we celebrate as the formation of the Universalist denomination.

When they met, they gave voice to their faith, their hope, their love, just as we do today.

This hymn for a Universalist festival was written by Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, renowned for the clarity, passion, and depth of her oratory.

Hymn #1: For A Universalist Festival by Mary Ashton Rice Livermore

The Second Century - 1861 - 1961
The Civil War

Many American Universalists preached and prayed, lobbied and marched against slavery, but it took a bloody Civil War to end it. In April 1861, Universalist Clara Barton visited soldiers wounded in one of the first battles of the war and began a one woman relief operation that later culminated in the organization of the American Red Cross.

The most popular love song for Union and Confederate troops was Lorena, one that will be familiar if you heard the TV series on The Civil War. Lorena was written by a lovelorn Universalist minister, The Rev. Henry de Lafayette Webster, who was rejected by his sweetheart Ella Blockson. Her parents would not let her marry a lowly Universalist preacher. Legend has it that the song so deeply affected lonely men on both sides of the battlefront that they deserted in droves. Some Southern officers went so far as to blame the loss of the war on Lorena.

#2 Solo: Lorena by Henry de Lafayette Webster

Women Workers of the Church

Lonely the men might be - but Universalist women were organizing! They voted in Universalist churches long before Unitarian fathers thought it would be safe to extend such a franchise to Unitarian women. In 1869 the Universalist Women's Centenary Aid Association was formed to celebrate John Murray's arrival in America and to aid needy ministers and struggling churches. It triumphed in gaining members, raising money and furthering the Universalist cause. In a single year 13,000 Universalist women joined this first American denominational women's organization. It was soon clear to them if not to the men that Universalist women were organized for good and would no longer quietly take orders from men.

From Univeralism's earliest years there were women who wrote, published, organized and preached. But it was during the Civil War that Universalists became the first denomination to accept the ordination of women. In numbers they came through the doors and set their energies free in pulpit and parish. In 1893, the Universalists had twice as many women ministers as the Unitarians. Olympia Brown and Phebe Hanaford became leaders in suffrage and equal rights. Caroline Soule became Universalism's first missionary to Scotland. Florence Kollock Crocker created an innovative ministry to youth, and was a popular missionary to the needful heathen in California. Mary Livermore - author of our first hymn, Augusta Chapin, Caroline Fisher, and Henrietta Bingham, and others threw their organizing energies into the cause of Universalism as they did for abolition, temperance, equal rights, women's rights, and suffrage. Through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century Universalist women were in the vanguard and called their denomination to issues and to service.

Julian S. Cutler's hymn began to recognize the female side of divinity.

Hymn #3: The Motherhood of God by Julian S. Cutler


The famous evangelical team of Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey fed the great Protestant revival movement with their gospel songs. Moody, the hearty preacher, and Sankey, "the sweet singer," drew some Universalist attention, not for their theology which Universalists flatly rejected, but for the spirit of their message and for those singable sentimental songs. The Universalists had sweet singers too, especially the Rev. Stanford Mitchell who travelled the country singing in his strong, tender tenor voice. Mitchell lifted the spirits of the weary, and aroused congregations, renewing their energies, hopes, numbers, and faith!

Here is the story of the most famous Universalist gospel hymn. J. P. Webster, who years before had composed the music for Lorena, went in deep distress to see his pharmacist. The pharmacist, Sanford Fillmore Bennett, snapped him out of his sadness by reminding him of some of Webster's very own words, "everything will be alright in the by-and-by." Bennett began at once to shape verses around the phrase, urging Webster to compose a tune for them. He did.

The choir will sing the first verse. Any of you who wish are invited to follow the example of the tenors and basses in the chorus in singing the echoing notes in the bass clef.

Hymn #4: In The Sweet By-and-By by Sanford Fillmore Bennett

Education - Free and Searching

Mainly self-educated, Universalist pioneers came to value formal education. Even in the public schools of the day, their children were being bombarded with Calvinist teachings and labeled as heathen. Universalists started more than twenty non-sectarian schools.

Higher public education was also tainted with denominational evangelizing. To counter this, Universalists started five colleges by 1872 including two which prepared candidates for the Universalist ministry: St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York and Tufts College in Medford, Massachusetts. None other than P. T. Barnum, showman of circuses and prima donnas, was a great supporter of Tufts, serving on its board and contributing generously. A man of diverse interests, Barnum was an articulate and passionate spokesman for Universalism. His pamphlet Why I am a Universalist won approval from Universalist leaders, but they balked when he proposed to hang signs saying "I am a Universalist" on his prize circus elephant, Jumbo. In fact, when Jumbo died, Barnum gave his handsomely stuffed skin to Tufts University where it was the show piece of Barnum Hall. Alas, Jumbo was accidentally incinerated when the building burned down. But Jumbo, has risen again. In fact, there have been two sightings. A replica of the stuffed Jumbo is on display at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT, and Jumbo's humongous skeleton is on view at the Natural History Museum in New York. But be it noted, there are no signs identifying Jumbo's religious persuasion.

There were Universalists scattered through many disciplines and non-sectarian institutions. Universalist scholars such as Orello Cone early and eagerly applied Darwinian theory to religion and saw no conflict. This Universalist spirit of intellectual exploration and life's adventure were captured in a hymn written by John Coleman Ada in 1911. Here it is as it appears in our newest hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition. The tune is new, so the choir will sing the first verse and we'll join them on the second and third verses.

Hymn #5 Our Praise We Give by John Coleman Adams

The World Parliament of Religions

We have forgotten that the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago opened with a series of women's events and an International Woman's Congress. The Rev. Augusta Chapin, Universalist, was chair of the woman's committee of the department of religion and an omnipresent figure. A dozen prominent Universalist women ministers, forty of their male colleagues, and hundreds of lay people participated in the several congresses and the Parliament. Universalist Jane Patterson reminded a meeting of Unitarian women that the Universalists had four colleges open to women. Tufts had opened all departments including theology to women. Lombard was the first college in America to grant a Doctor of Divinity degree to a woman and it was conferred on Augusta Chapin during the Congress.

Universalists richly participated in the Congresses on labor, arbitration, mechanics and science. They forthrightly demanded that the Press Congress awake to the issues of the day.

Ada Bowles, a stirring speaker and vigorous advocate of human rights at the Woman's Congress, was also a Universalist missionary. She insisted that Universalism be spread in North Carolina as well as in the moral wilderness of Massachusetts.

Her hymn Rise Up, O Woman!, was sung at the Woman's Congress with enthusiasm and power.

Hymn #6: Rise Up! Rise Up! Oh Woman! by Ada C. Bowles

African Americans

From the days of Gloster Dalton, an African American who joined John Murray's congregation in Gloucester in 1785, Universalism was repeatedly tested on its belief that all are one in God's great economy of love - in heaven and on earth. Sometimes with alacrity, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes generously, sometimes with their heels dug in, Universalists were drawn by their faith to welcome and serve persons of every color, nation, and condition, the poor, mentally ill, imprisoned, oppressed. Theirs was a compelling faith that declared that none be cast out, ignored or forgotten.

The Suffolk and Norfolk Schools, later called the Jordan Neighborhood House, in Norfolk, Virginia, were but one of many efforts to plant Universalism and serve human needs in minority communities. Founded in 1889 by an African American Universalist minister, Joseph H. Jordan, and later led by the Rev. Joseph Fletcher Jordan (no relation) and still later by his daughter, Annie B. Willis, these schools showed Universalist idealism at work. Supported by generations of Universalists, the schools provided education, training, human services, hope, and opportunity to thousands whom the surrounding society would not serve.

Every February Universalist children and young people heard stories of the Jordan Neighborhood House and its school for African-American children. They sent their pennies, nickles, and dimes to Annie Willis and her work. They studied and celebrated African-American gifts to our country with story and song. Here is one spiritual they often sang.

Choir: #7 Lord, I Want to Be More Loving

The Youth Movement, Camps and Conferences

Universalist summer conferences and the Universalist youth movement arose in the 1880s and were soon happily entwined. In the next decades a score of camp meetings sprang up about the continent. After the triumph of summer meetings at Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire, in the 1890's, Quillen Shinn, missionary extraodinaire, tramped the northeast coast to find a site that Universalists could buy and use all summer. In 1900, he found a plot, an ocean beach and a grove of tall pines in Saco, Maine. A year later, Ferry Beach, as we call it, began hosting a wide span of conferences. None has been more important than those designed for young people to grow in their understandings of self, faith, and the world.

The needs of youth throughout the year were not neglected. In 1889, Universalists started the Young People's Christian Union, which sponsored local youth programs and held regional and continental conferences. Later named The Universalist Youth Fellowship, they enlisted young people to raise money for Universalist settlement houses, outreach churches, and overseas missions. After World War II, the Universalist Service Committee sponsored workcamps for Universalist youth to rebuild the war-ravaged Germany. Universalists held that God's love for us must be lived in active love of and service for others.

The YPCU held many a conference at Ferry Beach where young people received the inspiration, learned the skills, and caught the vision to become to lay leaders, religious educators, and ministers. A song that captures the conference spirit was written by Max Kapp in 1934 when he was President of the YPCU.

Let's sing I Brought My Spirit to the Sea to the tune to which he set it.

Hymn #8: I Brought My Spirit to the Sea by Max A. Kapp

Religious Education

In the late nineteenth century Universalism upheld the ideal of the church as a loving community. Babes were Christened; growing children were embraced. An annual Children's Sunday was started by the Rev. Charles H. Leonard in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Religious Education took place through the involvement of the whole family in worship, Sunday School, social activity, and service.
The Myrtle, a weekly newspaper for children, was published from 1851 to 1924 reaching thousands of homes with religious lessons, stories, and entertainments.

At the turn of the century, the Rev. Minnie Ogsbury Colegrove, composed music and words for the children of her churches in the midwest. Like later Universalists down to merger day, she dedicated each babe into the church family, companioned their growth, and welcomed them into membership. Here is how her congregation sang to those children.

Choir #9: Children's Dedication Song by Minnie Ogsbury Colegrove

And here is how new members were welcomed with song.

Choir #10: Membership Song by Minnie Ogsbury Colegrove.

In the 1940's and '50's, religious educators such as Angus MacLean, Dorothy Spoerl, Susan Andrews, Horton Colbert, Edna Bruner, and Robert Miller lived out a philosophy that started with the child and tried to model the faith. Let your living example of searching, justice, democracy, and caring be your message in the classroom and outside of it. "The method is the message," Angus MacLean declared. His own methods in teaching theological school students were the same innovative ones he advocated for children and youth. Not one to have students sit passively in the lecture hall, MacLean led his fledgling ministers on early morning bird walks to have them experience the beauty of bird song. He took them to a rural desert where once fertile farmland had been ruined by greedy overplanting. MacLean saw religious understanding and congruent action growing out of the crucible of the thoughtfully examined life. He sought to awaken deep meanings, broad sympathies, and forthright action. How appropriate that the new Professorship in Religious Education at Meadville/Lombard Theological School is named for Angus MacLean!

G. L. Demarest, a strong advocate of the mission movement, secretary of the Universalist Church of America for thirty years, wrote this hymn for a children's hymnal.

Hymn #11: What A World by Gerherdus L. Demarest.

Missionary Efforts

The Universalist vision of circling the globe was largely initiated and kept alive by Universalist women and young people. In the 1870's they started missions that stretched from Scotland to Singapore, funded by the Women's Missionary Association and Sunday School penny collections. In 1890, Universalist missionaries went to Japan and founded a kindergarten, a church, a home for girls, and a theological school. Missionary Dr. Clarence Rice wrote home of the difficulty of learning the Japanese language. The old words for post office, "joroku" and hell, "jigoku" got missionaries confused. At least, Dr. Rice quipped, we Universalists don't have the problem of the orthodox who keep sending people to the post office for their sins.

The current chapter of Universalism in the Philippines is recent and dramatic. In 1951, the Rev. Toribio Quimada, an ordained Christian minister, discovered Universalism when he was looking for good Sunday School and worship materials. In the World Almanac he found the word "Universalist" and thought it might bear some relation to his church called the Iglesia Universal de Christo. So he wrote to the Universalist Church of America. The response he got caused his conversion to Universalism, spurred him to start twenty Universalist congregations, and resulted in the wonderful association we now enjoy with our Philippine members.

Quimada's Universalism was also the cause of his murder. In May 1988 he was killed by religious opponents a month before he was to have attended our General Assembly to receive the UUA's official welcome to the Philippine congregations. In his stead, his daughter Rebecca and her husband Perfecto Sienes came to represent him. They spoke of their joy tempered by grief and pledged the continuance of Philippine Universalism.
Toribio Quimada wrote spirited hymn Maglipay Universalist meaning "Be Joyful Universalist!" in 1955. The choir will sing the first verse and we'll join them on the second and third.

Hymn #12: Maglipay Universalist by Toribio Quimada

Social Purpose and Justice

"What a world there might be!," but Universalists had to face the world as it was. After the agony of the war between the states, the struggle against slavery and intemperance, the battle for non-sectarian education, came issues harder and more intractable - real justice and rights for all, labor and economic reform, the weary wrestling for peace and world community. On the verge of another war in 1917 the Universalists passed A Declaration of Social Principles and Social Program under the urgent persuasion of Clarence Skinner, declaring "the day of servitude... is gone forever and the world sweeps onward to freedom and democracy. Wherever fetters are they must fall; wherever exploitation holds sway it must cease. Complete justice must secure universal opportunity for all..." Despite work and hope for peace, war marched across Europe. Skinner and others held to pacifist principles while hundreds enlisted. War and its painful aftermath slid soon into the frustrating relief efforts of countless Universalists in the Great Depression. Following World War II, the Universalist Service Committee began heroic efforts in Holland, Hungary, and Germany. Its spirit is found in this hymn by Thomas Lake Harris.

Hymn #13: 0 Earth! Thy Past by Thomas Lake Harris

Universalism as World Faith

With the end of World War 11, filled with the horrors of a war fueled by narrow ideologies, Universalists felt impelled to champion a larger vision. No longer did they wish to be just "a fringe blip" on the Protestant religious scene. The name "Universalism" could hold the whole of humanity and the universe in its twelve-letter grasp. Dean Clarence Skinner at Tufts had sounded the call decades before. Religion must give "insights into the unities and universals." Now Robert Cummins and Brainard Gibbons, successive presidents of the Universalist Church of America, took up the call. Appreciative of their living tradition, they proclaimed a bold and broader call to synthesize all religious knowledge that passes the test of human intelligence.

To fashion worship for such a faith, the Rev. Kenneth Patton was called to conduct an experiment in worship at the Charles Street Meeting House, Boston. Patton became the energetic and articulate advocate of world Universalism. He wrote: "The Meeting House has one basic and simple idea: to find a religious setting for a religion of humanity and one world." Patton's marvelous talents and energy and those of the congregation joined in the creation of symbols, religious festivals, new hymns and readings. Publishing them on the Meeting House Press, Patton shared them widely.
No hymn so captures a world faith for his day and ours as All Men and Women of the Earth originally written as a choral anthem. We have adapted it as a hymn and invite your heartiest participation.

Hymn #14: All Men and Women of the Earth


We have shared in song and story the legacy that Universalism brought to the merger of our two denominations in 1961.

Today and for an infinity of tomorrows we need a faith in God's love for all humanity and the call to serve that humanity.

Today and for an infinity of tomorrows, we need a vision of one world united by its common humanity where all respect the diversity of human practice

There is indeed much to sing and shout about as we commemorate two hundred years of Universalism!

Go forth and celebrate!



Note: Of Love and Understanding, text by Kenneth Patton, music by Mary Jo Angebranndt, was produced by the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network and the Unitarian Universalist Association, as part of the Signature Choral Series. It is available from the UUA Bookstore.


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