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

Activity 3: We Are Universalists

Activity time: 35 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out Leader Resource 3, We are Universalists and cut the biographies apart. Place all the slips in the bowl or basket.
  • Print out the two photos from Leader Resource 4 to pass around.
  • In order to allow ample time for conversation following the reading of biographies, select 10 or 12 from those given, or simply plan to let participants choose some of the biographies.
  • Optional: Download Leader Resource 4 and prepare the two photos as digital slides. Test the computer and projector.

Description of Activity

Explain that participants will learn about some of the people who helped forge the identity of Universalism. Say the basket contains short biographies which they will be invited to read aloud.

Pass the basket, inviting each participant to select a slip with a biography. If your group is small, participants may choose more than one. Invite each person in turn to read the biographies in a loud, clear voice. After each biography is read, ask if anyone would like to add anything about that historical figure. Mark the life of each person on the Time Line of UU History.

Following the readings, engage participants in conversation about the biographies using some or all of the following observations and questions:

  • What common and defining characteristics do you see in the collected stories of early Universalists?
  • Point out that most of the people whose biographies were read came from other religious backgrounds and converted to Universalism. Many were Baptist, Methodist, or Congregational. In large part, this is because most of these selected biographies are of people born very early in the history of established Universalism, but it is also true today that the majority of Unitarian Universalists come from other religious backgrounds. Do you see this as a strength that lends diversity and tolerance to our denomination, or do you have a different view? What does this mean in terms of your own religious journey?
  • Many of the early Universalists were itinerant preachers (both lay and ordained) moving from place to place as they spread their message. Do you recognize any similar practices in contemporary Unitarian Universalism? How do we spread our message today?

Including All Participants

Select a bowl or basket that is lightweight enough for participants to easily pass. Be sure to tell participant they may "pass" or request that another person read for them if they do not wish to read a biography aloud.