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

Alternate Activity 1: Brook Farm

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out the story and prepare to read or tell it. Or, invite a participant to read or tell it, and provide them with the story in advance.

Description of Activity

Read or tell the story, or invite a participant to read it aloud. Use these questions to engage a group conversation:

  • Like Brook Farm, our congregations attempt to bring people together in a religious community. We share many of their concerns for maintaining finances and physical buildings while living out our Principles. What can we learn from the Brook Farm experiment about living in committed religious community?
  • Brook Farm was founded as an experiment in Utopian living, that is, as a community based on perfect social and political systems. Even though the community was not able to overcome its financial problems, were the social and political parts of the experiment a success? In what ways did it succeed or fail?
  • Ripley's chief goal in founding Brook Farm was to create a community true to the Christianity he preached but did not see lived out in the world. One of his primary aims was to remove class distinctions by sharing the physical labor so that everyone would have time for self-improving study and intellectual contemplation. What does the story tell us about class structures in 19th-century New England?
  • Ripley's goal of removing class distinctions can be seen as an idealism yearning to provide the best life for each individual where all are truly equals. It can also be seen as an upper class elitism that sees all others below their level and wishes to "raise" the other rather than acknowledge the nobility of where the other is already. Do you agree with Ripley's philosophy of removing class distinctions and his methodology for doing so?
  • Does our congregation struggle with class issues? In what ways?