Alternate Activity 3: Common Unitarian Beliefs - 1887 and 1936
Activity time: 40 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Handout 5, Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us (1887) and Unitarians Face a New Age (1936)
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Optional: Computer and digital projector
Preparation for Activity
- Copy Handout 5, Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us (1887) and Unitarians Face a New Age (1936).
- Pre-arrange with two volunteers to alternate reading the lists in Handout 5. If possible, provide the handout in advance.
- Write these questions on newsprint, and post:
- What does the form of the 1887 statement of faith say about the theological conflicts and tensions of its time?
- What does the form of the 1936 summary of agreements and disagreements say about the theological conflicts and tensions of its time?
- What differences and similarities are there between the two statements?
- What tensions or inconsistencies are there in each statement? Do any of the same theological tensions exist in contemporary Unitarian Universalism?
- With which of the points in either statement do you agree? With which do disagree?
- Optional: Download the questions and prepare them as one or more digital slides. Test the computer and projector.
Description of Activity
Distribute Handout 5, Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us (1887) and Unitarians Face a New Age (1936). Offer this background to the 1887 statement from Mark Harris' The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism:
Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us was written in response to a raging controversy over the theological basis for Unitarian churches. The controversy came to a head the previous year... the debate raged over the question of whether or not Western Unitarianism was to be grounded in Christian theism or a broader-based freedom advocated by Jenkin Lloyd Jones and Gannett... In its final form the statement tried to articulate simple truths that a majority could agree upon.
Offer this background to the 1936 statement, also from Harris' work:
Unitarians Face a New Age was the published report of the American Unitarian Association's Commission of Appraisal (COA) the proved pivotal in changing the direction of the denomination toward renewal in the 1930s. The COA, which came into being as a result of an AUA Annual Meeting resolution in 1934, ... (published) a 342-page report... which consisted of seven major areas of recommendations for the denomination... Under a section on "Doctrine," the commission considered those religious values upon which Unitarians agreed, ... and those areas of disagreement. The commission suggested that there should be some attempt to formulate these theological views in written statements.
Invite volunteers to read Handout 5, in turns. Invite participants into conversation about the statement, using the posted questions as a guide.