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


Let all who live in freedom, won by the sacrifice of others, be untiring in the task begun, till everyone on earth is free. — James Reeb, Unitarian Universalist minister, who was killed in Alabama, March 11, 1965

This workshop examines the commitment and contributions of some martyrs in our Unitarian Universalist history who paid the ultimate price upholding their religious principles. Participants explore the strength of their own beliefs, values and attitudes regarding taking a stand when the cost may be high.

Before leading this workshop, review the Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters in the program Introduction. Prepare to accommodate individuals who may be in the group.


This workshop will:

  • Describe religious, political, and cultural conditions that gave rise to the persecution of Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists at certain points in history
  • Introduce some Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists who stood against the prevailing ideas and institutions of their times—Michael Servetus, Norbert Capek, Violet Liuzzo, and James Reeb
  • Invite participants to explore their own understandings of religious "martyrdom" and their feelings and beliefs about risking personal safety to take a stand in service to their values.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand how the intersection of religious, cultural, and political power create conditions for religious martyrdom, through the examples of Michael Servetus, Norbert Capek, Violet Liuzzo, and James Reeb
  • Learn the stories of several Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist martyrs
  • Explore ways taking a stand in service to religious values can involve personal risk and sacrifice
  • Consider their inheritance from Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist martyrs.