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

Alternate Activity 2: Fruitlands

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.
  • Print out Leader Resource 5, Louisa May Alcott, Portrait.
  • Optional: Download Leader Resource 5 and prepare to project it as a digital slide.

Description of Activity

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

  • Our congregation's families today face the same challenge that confronted the Con-Sociate Family: living in accordance with stated principles in a society of individuals. What can we learn from the Fruitlands experiment that will help us build stronger congregations, that will help us forge the bonds of community while respecting the unique contribution of each individual?
  • Of her time in the Con-Sociate Family Louisa May Alcott wrote, "Transcendental wild oats were sown broadcast that year, and the fame thereof has not yet ceased in the land; for futile as this crop seemed to outsiders, it bore an invisible harvest, worth much to those who planted in earnest." Do you think Fruitlands was a success in providing a place where people could learn about living a principled life in community or was it ultimately a failure?
  • In our congregations we do not face the kinds of hardship for survival that the residents of Fruitlands faces. We do not depend on each other for food and shelter, but we do depend on each other to do the work of the community. What might Fruitlands tell us about putting community over self or ideal over desire?
  • At Fruitlands the behavior of each person was dictated in the matter of dress, study, work, diet, and even bathing habits. As covenantal congregations we, too, live according to a code of communal behavior rather than one of proper belief. What is the difference between a requirement of compliance and a covenant? Given that those who chose to live at Fruitlands did so voluntarily and in agreement with its aims, was it reasonable to expect them to comply with these dictates? What experience do you have with being part of a group with restrictions on dress or behavior? Do you view compliance with those restrictions as necessary if you wanted to be part of the group?
  • Louisa May Alcott wrote of her father, "He has seen several of his ideals become facts and that is more than most of us ever do... " Is seeing the reality of an ideal worth the risk of failure? What risks does your congregation take based on living according to its principles?