Activity 2: A History of Statements of Belief
Activity time: 30 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Leader Resource 2, A History of Statements of Belief
- Handout 2, A Collection of Covenants and Statements of Belief
- Workshop 1, Handout 2, Time Line of UU History
Preparation for Activity
- Print out Leader Resource 2, A History of Statements of Belief and Handout 2, A Collection of Covenants and Statements of Belief and familiarize yourself with their contents.
- Copy Leader Resource 2, A History of Statements of Belief.
- Arrange for volunteers to read aloud the six statements of belief quoted on Handout 2. Give readers the handout and their assignments ahead of time.
- On the Time Line of UU History, locate the dates of all six statements of belief quoted on Handout 2.
- Write on newsprint, and post:
- What were the concerns of the people who wrote this statement of belief?
- What hopes, dreams, and understanding of human and divine natures does the statement reflect?
- How does this relate to contemporary Unitarian Universalism?
Description of Activity
Explain that the tradition of covenantal organization comes from our Unitarian roots and stretches back to the New England Puritans. Our Universalist forebears (and, at various times, our Unitarian forebears as well) sought to name what held them together, choosing to articulate a set of shared theological understandings about the nature and responsibilities of humanity and the nature of God.
Distribute Handout 2, A Collection of Covenants and Statements of Belief. Then, present the information from Leader Resource 2, A History of Statements of Belief. As you go along, pause where indicated on Leader Resource 2 to read (or have a volunteer read) the text of a statement of belief from Handout 2. Point out the date of each statement of belief on the Time Line of UU History. After each text reading, ask the group to consider and respond to the two questions you have posted.
Invite participants to consider two documents from the two different strands of our tradition: the Universalist Winchester Profession of 1803 and Unitarian minister William Channing Gannett's "Things Commonly Believed Today Among Us" from 1887.
Lead the group to compare the documents:
- What are points of similarity?
- What are points of difference?
What seeds of theological agreement do you observe that foreshadow the eventual merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists?
Conclude by asking for general comments about the evolution of beliefs in both the Unitarian and Universalist traditions, and about the ongoing efforts to include, rather than exclude, those whose conscience compelled them to believe something outside the denominational mainstream.