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

Activity 2: The Hopedale Community

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story "The Hopedale Community" and prepare to present it.
  • Pre-arrange with two volunteers to read, respectively, the excerpt from the Standard of Practical Christianity and the words of Sarah Bradbury. Give them copies of the story "The Hopedale Community" in advance.
  • Write on newsprint, and post:
    • The Hopedale Community chose to engage with the larger society only on its own terms. Do our contemporary Unitarian Universalist congregations make choices such as this?
    • The community chose to learn about social justice issues through speakers and programs as well as through participation in social justice movements. Is this pattern familiar to Unitarian Universalists today?
    • Is there anything familiar in Sarah Bradbury's assessment of the Hopedale community?
    • What does the story say about the intersection of religious principle and political action?
    • In what ways does our congregation work to live out our religious principles?
  • Optional: Download the questions and prepare them as one or more digital slides. Test the computer and projector.

Description of Activity

Share the story "The Hopedale Community." Act as the narrator, inviting volunteers to read the words of the Standard of Practical Christianity and of Sarah Bradbury.

Engage a whole group discussion, using these questions:

  • In Hopedale, Ballou aimed to put into action his declaration of Practical Christianity, to live according to what he saw as the will of God and the command of Jesus to live a life of personal integrity and social responsibility. On what basis should we evaluate the success or falure of this experiment?
  • In founding Hopedale, Ballou did not wish to withdraw from all society, but rather to create a new model. Yet he felt he had to withdraw from "all interference with the governments of this world." Why? What does this suggest about the implementation of religious principles in society at large?
  • Many residents and visitors to Hopedale were deeply committed to social justice through abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, temperance, or peace movements. They used social, political, and financial means to act on these goals. What does the story suggest about the intersection of religious principle and political action?

Allow about ten minutes for this large group conversation.

Then, post the questions you have written on newsprint and invite participants to consider these questions in groups of three. After ten minutes, re-gather the large group and invite the small groups to share from their discussions. Note similar observations the small groups made about their own congregation and/or contemporary Unitarian Universalism.