Recalling Channing

Many years ago when I was working in a bookstore in San Diego, I stumbled upon a late nineteenth century reprint of a pamphlet titled “Unitarian Christianity.” It is also sometimes called the “Baltimore sermon,” as it was preached at the ordination of Jared Sparks as minister of the congregational church in Baltimore in 1819.

I was absolutely blown away by the document, and it directly led me to begin attending Unitarian Universalist services.

The sermon was delivered by William Ellery Channing.

When Channing, possibly the most prominent congregational minister in Boston in his day embraced the term “unitarian,” which up until that time had been thrown at liberal clergy as an epithet, it shook the establishment to its foundations.

This sermon is considered one of the founding documents of the emergent Unitarian movement.

Now, I have to admit, a year or two ago I re-read the sermon and I’m not quite sure what it was about it that so compelled me into UU churches. But, things are like that. When the moment is right it doesn’t take much. Not to take a dot away from the importance of this document both for the movement and for myself. It’s just from my current stance, it is an artifact of its time. My theology, as is true for Unitarian Universalism, has generally moved on in new directions since Dr Channing.

Whatever, I will always remain grateful to this eminent divine who was born on this day in 1780.

Happy birthday, Bill!

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