Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults

Activity 1: W.H.G. Carter and a Step Toward Reconciliation

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story.
  • If you plan to invite volunteers to read the words in the story spoken by Walter Herz, Leslie Edwards, Starita Smith, and Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, make copies for the additional readers. If possible, invite readers in advance and provide them with copies of the story.

Description of Activity

Introduce the story with these or similar words:

History is not "what happened," but what is remembered and recorded, or forgotten and ignored. It is about point of view. The historical adventure is a process of discovery and rediscovery for each person, for each generation. Studying Unitarian Universalist history together will give us opportunities to encounter anew the stories of our faith and consider what to make of them and what to do because of them.

In this series of workshops, you may hear stories that are familiar to you. Some have been well documented and passed along to us as the truth of our past. They include women, men, youth, events, movements, and conflicts that created our inheritance and form our collective Unitarian Universalist story.

Also included are lesser-known stories from our faith tradition. You may hear a story of a forgotten person, someone whom history has left outside the mainstream. You may hear a familiar story, but told from an unfamiliar perspective. Some of the stories re-open chapters from our history which have been pushed to the side, perhaps because Unitarian Universalists were uncomfortable about what happened and what it might reveal about ourselves or our forebears.

It's important to remember that this program is not a comprehensive survey of Unitarian Universalist history, nor does it offer the final word on any of these stories. This program explores Unitarian Universalism as one current flowing in the stream of religious history. We will see certain themes, whirlpools and eddies of thought and action that appear and re-appear in different times and places. We will have opportunities to engage personally with our history by sharing own stories, reflections, and questions.

We will explore difficult stories, where the actions of our predecessors, seen through the lens of time, fall short of our contemporary hopes and ideals. Former UUA President the Reverend William Sinkford, speaking of our past efforts to bring justice to all, reminded us that whether we succeeded or failed is perhaps less important than the fact that we stayed engaged. By returning together to difficult stories-such as the story we will hear now-we contribute our own engagement to the ongoing stream of our UU history.

Read aloud the story of W. H. G. Carter and the Cincinnati congregations, inviting several volunteers to read the different parts.

After the reading, offer a time of response and discussion, guided by these questions:

  • Had you heard this story from our UU history before, or is it new to you?
  • What thoughts, and feelings, arose as you listened?
  • What questions are you left with?

Including All Participants

Do not put any participant on the spot to read aloud. Use only volunteers and, if possible, give them the material in advance.

Ask readers to speak slowly and clearly so all can hear.