UU Minute #89

Will the Wind Change?

1770. John Murray, in grief and despair from the loss of his only child and, soon after, his spouse, sets out for a new life in America. The ship, making its way up the coast toward New York, gets stuck on a sandbar. Murray goes ashore to get provisions, and meets Thomas Potter, who has built a chapel on his farm in order that there be a place for someone to preach universalism. Potter learns that Murray was a preacher and a universalist. Voila!

But there’s a snag. Murray didn’t want to preach, ever again. He wanted a new life, away from all of that. And. He needs to be back on the ship where he expects to be off the sandbar and sailing away by Sunday. But Potter persists and somehow manages to extract a promise that if the wind doesn’t change, and the ship is still stuck on Sunday morning, Murray will come preach in Potter’s chapel.

Would the wind change? Though neither Potter nor Murray could have known it, the history of Universalism in America hung in the balance. If the wind changes, dislodges the ship, then Murray is on his way and maybe he never does preach again, as was his intention.

The wind didn’t change. And because it didn’t, the development of American Universalism did.

Thomas Potter gathered a small congregation of his family and neighbors, and John Murray preached in Potter’s chapel. Potter loved it. Most of his neighbors loved it. Murray got back on the ship and went on to New York, but the encouragement and affirmation he’d received changed his mind about preaching. He was soon back again in New Jersey, and from there launched a popular itinerant preaching career.

NEXT: John Murray in Gloucester

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