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Two Short Documentaries about Pivotal Moments for Unitarians and Universalists in 19th-Century America

Excellent for Sunday programs and education.

To order a DVD, please contact vurbanowicz@yahoo.com.

Universalists Expel Minister for Premature Unitarianism!

Rev James Harvey Tuttle

James Harvey Tuttle

Herman Bisbee

Herman Bisbee

Heritage of Heresy—Bisbee and Tuttle on the Universalist Frontier

In 1872, Universalists in Mankato, Minnesota, did something unique in their history: they held a heresy trial. The outcome was the removal of Reverend Herman Bisbee from fellowship for heresy and “unbrotherly conduct”—he had publicly criticized Reverend James Tuttle. Bisbee had learned his “heresies” from Unitarian Transcendentalists. After the trial, he became a Unitarian minister, placing himself in a milieu where he was not seen as a radical.

By the century’s end, ironically, most Universalist clergy—including James Tuttle—agreed with Bisbee’s “heresies,” which included Biblical higher criticism and acceptance of Darwinism.

Bisbee’s dramatic life story is a telling episode in the complex interaction that led to the merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961.
This half-hour video documentary by Jerry Lakso, acclaimed video editor for Twin Cities Public Television in Minnesota, is included in the UUA online curriculum Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults.

Sample Heritage of Heresy on YouTube. For convenience and superior visual quality, order the DVD.

Lumber Magnate, Feminist, and Agnostic Minister Start New Church!

Full Circle of Life: The Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater

Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts

The Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin

Andrew Tainter enriched the Knapp Stout Lumber Company and himself by felling much of Wisconsin’s white pine. His second wife was Bertha Lesure, who started an Emerson society that grew into the Menomonie Unitarian Society. Andrew adopted Unitarianism. He and Bertha supported calling a self-described agnostic, Henry Doty Maxson, as the society’s first minister. So was launched yet another of the vibrant Midwestern humanistic congregations that disconcerted some Eastern Unitarians and attracted others.

When the Tainters’ daughter Mabel died at age 19, her parents erected a building in her memory that housed the Unitarian Society, the city offices, a theater, and a public library—serving “the full circle of life.” Built in 1889, the Mabel Tainter Memorial housed a Unitarian congregation for several decades. Restored today as the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, it again serves the community much as originally intended.

The 20-minute video is the creation of Tim Hirsch, retired professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, who has written extensively on Wisconsin history.

Sample Full Circle of Life on YouTube. For convenience and superior visual quality, order the DVD. Contact vurbanowicz@yahoo.com.