UU Minute #88

Thomas Potter's Field of Dreams

In the mid-1700s, the land that is now Murray Grove, in Good Luck, New Jersey, was being farmed by Thomas Potter. A member of a locally prominent family, he was illiterate yet successful and deeply religious. Probably a Quaker Baptist, Potter had caught wind of universalism: the idea that all human beings will ultimately attain salvation.

Universalism contradicted the Calvinism that prevailed in the colonies, but there were a few universalists around. George de Benneville had come to America in 1741 and had been preaching Universalism around Eastern Pennsylvania. A number of German immigrants who believed in universal salvation had settled in the mid-Atlantic colonies. A German Universalist, Georg Klein-Nicolai, had written a book arguing for Universalism, and in 1753, de Benneville had made arrangements for an English translation to be published under the title The Everlasting Gospel. Klein-Nicolai said that
“As the whole divine being is pure love, so are likewise all the attributes of God. His wisdom, omnipotence, holiness, mercy, truth, etc. are, at bottom, nothing else but love…. The true and only God is entirely an ocean of love.”
Perhaps these universalist ideas had made their way to Thomas Potter. In any case, in 1760 he set aside a piece of his farmland and built there a chapel for the express purpose of housing a preacher of the universalist gospel.

Now, we have no record of a voice telling Thomas Potter “if you build it he will come.” But Potter did build it, and, it took ten years, but he came. Universalist preacher John Murray’s ship got stuck on a sand bar just off the coast from Potter’s farm. Murray came ashore to get provisions, the two men met, and Thomas Potter’s chapel had its preacher.

NEXT: Will the Wind Change?

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