Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: What Moves Us: A Unitarian Universalist Theology Program for Adults

Activity 3: Introducing George de Benneville

Part of What Moves Us

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Review the story so you can present it effectively.
  • Copy the handout and the story for all participants.
  • Arrange for two volunteers to read the story, one serving as narrator and the other reading the excerpts from Remarkable Passages. If possible, give the story to the volunteers ahead of time.

Description of Activity

Introduce George de Benneville using these or similar words:

George de Benneville was a medical doctor, preacher, teacher, writer, translator, friend of the refugee, and advocate for Native American rights and the welfare of indentured servants. He was a host to European nobility through his aristocratic background and friend to such men as Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush through his liberal foreground. Today, de Benneville is recognized as one of the spiritual forebears of the Universalist Church of America. For 20 years in France, the German States, and the Netherlands, and for more than 50 years in Pennsylvania, he preached the restoration of all human beings "without exception," building religious communities united by fellowship and action rather than by church doctrine and creed. "My happiness will be incomplete," he declared, "while one creature remains miserable." This declaration of heartfelt compassion for the human race was born from his own inner life, tried by sorrow and despair, and transformed by his personal experience of the spirit of universal love. By example, he gave those around him courage to pay attention to their feelings, emotions, and sentiments. "Let us search ourselves well," he said, "and test thoroughly what is within us, whether it degrades or elevates us." The pathway to Universal Love begins here, he said.

Distribute Handout 1, which contains more detail about de Benneville's life, and invite participants to read it at home.

Distribute the story and invite participants to listen to de Benneville's recounting of his experiences as the two volunteers read it aloud, one as the narrator and the other as de Benneville's voice. After the reading, ask participants to reflect in silence on de Benneville's account of his vision and then to write or draw a response in their journals.