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

Alternate Activity 2: Joseph Tuckerman - Father of American Social Work

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Make copies of Handout 2, Joseph Tuckerman (1778-1840).
  • Recruit three volunteers to read aloud the roles of Narrator, Tuckerman, and Peabody. Give them Handout 2 and their assignments well in advance.
  • Write on newsprint, and post:
    • What obstacles that Tuckerman faced in trying to create a ministry across social or economic class lines might we still encounter today? Class prejudices? Denial of prejudices? Reluctance to engage across differences? Others?
    • How might we make social engagement with others a two-way street?
    • What is one way you might implement one of the modalities of social justice work (education, witness, advocacy, or action) to bridge economic or social class divides?
    • How would bridging those divides move us closer to the idea of radical hospitality?

Description of Activity

Say, in these or similar words:

The concept of class can be complex and confusing, as well as uncomfortable. As R. H. Tawney wrote in his book Equality, "The word 'class' is fraught with unpleasant associations, so that to linger upon it is apt to be interpreted as the symptom of a perverted mind and a jaundiced spirit."

There are many reasons we might find talking about class issues difficult-for example: it is hard to agree on a definition of "class;" class oppression is closely linked with other forms of oppression; we are sometimes reluctant to acknowledge that a democratic society can be a classist society. Yet Joseph Tuckerman's ministry at the turn of the 19th century had class inequities at its very heart. Tuckerman came to be known as the father of American Social Work for promoting the idea that those with fewer resources be approached in the wholeness of their humanity, and given not a handout, but the means to improve their own lives.

Distribute Handout 2, Joseph Tuckerman (1778 -1840). Ask the volunteers to read their assigned parts aloud. Then, post the questions you have prepared and use them to lead a discussion.