UU Minute #70

Unitarian "Sparks" Spread

On the way down to Baltimore in 1819, William Ellery Channing and the half-dozen prominent liberal ministers of Boston that traveled with him stopped and preached along the way in various places, including in New York, where Channing’s sister, Lucy Channing Russell, invited about 40 friends to her house in lower Manhattan to hear her brother speak. This would lead to the founding of the Unitarian Church of All Souls.

Channing’s Baltimore sermon, “Unitarian Christianity,” was produced as a pamphlet. Hardly an American sermon ever has been as widely read. Jared Sparks, whose ordination was the occasion of Channing’s sermon, four months later, himself traveled south to give an ordination sermon in Charleston, South Carolina. On the way, Sparks preached to Unitarians in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Two years later, Sparks was chosen to serve as Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. While in DC, Sparks helped nurture a Unitarian congregation there – also named All Souls. That same year, 1821, Sparks founded “The Unitarian Miscellany,” – a monthly magazine for spreading the Unitarian message. Sparks even received communications of interest in Unitarianism from frontier towns out west beyond the Appalachian Mountains. East coast establishment, unfortunately, didn’t regard the hinterlands as important, so there wasn’t much interest, energy, or organization for serving Unitarians in remote areas.

Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts, the law of the time provided town taxes to supported the town church – even though many people in the town didn’t become official members of the church. In times of ministerial transition, the church and the town as a whole both had a say in approving the new minister. What if they disagreed?

To find out: catch our next thrilling episode!

NEXT: The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

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