Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: Story - Joseph Jordan

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story so you can present it effectively.
  • Optional: Copy the story for all participants.

Description of Activity

Youth learn about the first ordained African American Universalist minister.

Tell or read the story. Then discuss it using these questions:

  • As a free African American, born in 1842, where do you think Joseph might have experienced respect? Where might he have experienced disrespect?
  • What did Joseph Jordan learn from Christianity about respect?
  • In most areas of life, African Americans were not, at this time, treated with respect and dignity. This is why Frederick Douglass said, "The soul that is within me no man can degrade." Why do you think the Universalist Ordaining Council took Jordan seriously and treated him respectfully?
  • We should remember that in 1889, when Jordan was ordained, Universalism was a Christian denomination, as was Unitarianism. Although some UUs today identify as Christian, many do not, and our faith is not a Christian denomination. Still, our Christian roots are an important part of our character today. What in your UU faith do you owe to our Christian roots?
  • In 1863, the Universalists ordained the first woman minister in the U.S. In 1889, they ordained their first African American minister at a time when to do so was unusual for a predominately white Protestant denomination. In 2001, the UUA became the first predominately white religious body to elect an African American as their leader. How does this UU history make you feel? Does it mean that within Unitarian Universalism sexism and racism do not exist? Does it mean that some women and some people of color were not discouraged from being leaders in the faith? What does it mean?
  • Jordan not only preached, he opened a school for African American children. What connection do you see between education and respect for the newly freed black people?
  • Joseph Jordan is one of our faith ancestors. What lesson does his life hold for us today as Unitarian Universalists?