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Polish Unitarianism, Then and Now (Plus Prague)

A Study Tour with the Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens and the Rev. Dr. Jay Atkinson

July 1 to 13, 2014

Join two leaders and leading historians of Unitarianism on a visit to Poland and Prague. Born of Czechoslovak heritage, Dr. Buehrens as a seminarian helped to research the Eastern European history of early Unitarianism as assistant to the late Prof. Geo. Hunston Williams, author of The Radical Reformation. John visited Poland in 1985, to meet people in the Solidarity movement. Dr. Atkinson last visited Poland in 2004 and has written on the history and social ethics of early Polish Unitarians, and their Italian-born leader, Faustus Socinus.

Perhaps the first real “process theologian,” Socinus had a transformative effect not only in Poland – before being suppressed in the Counter-Reformation – but also in Western European religious thought through Milton, Locke, and others, and thence to America. Denied basic rights along with Jews, as non-believers in the Trinity, the last of the Polish Unitarians may have died at Auschwitz, which will be visited during the tour. Since 1989, Polish Unitarianism has risen from the dead. Hosts for this study tour will include leaders of today’s Polish Unitarians who are reviving our heritage there; several Transylvanian Unitarian ministers may join the study tour as well.

The study tour begins in Warsaw, then proceeds to what was once (1560-1660) the Unitarian heartland: around the town of Rakow, where the disciples of Socinus had an academy, a press, and produced the first great summary of early Unitarian conviction, the Racovian Cathechism. Then the group will visit Krakow, the royal city of Poland, where Copernicus taught, where Socinus was attacked for heresy, and where Oscar Schindler developed his famous list during the Nazi occupation. The study tour ends in Prague, joining the minister and lay leaders of the Czech Unitarian Society at the church once led by the Rev. Dr. Norbert Capek, originator of the “flower communion” who died at Dachau as a leading resister to Nazism. The history involved raises important social, ethical, and theological questions still in contention: About communalism and communism (not just in its Soviet form, but as practiced at Rakow) and about absolute pacifism versus just resistance to oppression and mass murder.

All participants will receive a copy of Racovia: An Early Liberal Religious Community, by the Rev. Phillip Hewett (88 pages). There will be a further bibliography for those enrolled for academic credit through Starr King School for the Ministry.

Those interested in participation should contact Dr. Buehrens directly. The group will be limited to 20 participants other than the ministers from Transylvania. Scholarships for students may be available through their respective academic institutions or through the UUA. Deposits (payable to UUCMP) of $500 will be required by March 1; full payment by June 1.

The Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens 114 Del Mesa Carmel, Carmel CA 93923

See the Poland trip Brochure for the full itinerary.

About the Author

Eric Cherry

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