Our reading today comes to us from the Universalist Magazine, dated June 16th, 1793:
Lincoln County, Kentucky.
Rush Branch Meeting-house.
“It is now about nineteen months since we were expelled from our former society of the Separate Baptists for the belief of the final restoration of all things to a union with, and enjoyment of God; and we have had to bear up under a storm of slander, prejudice, ignorance, and ill-will. Notwithstanding all this, the Universal cause yet gains ground. We have four churches constituted in this country [referring to Kentucky], five ordained ministers, and several young gifts.
We hold conferences twice a year by messengers from the churches. The number of members now in Society in Kentucky is about two hundred, we hope all walking in love, besides many other Christians in different societies who believe in the universal love of God, who have not joined with us in society yet, for reasons best known to themselves.”
In 1898, a man named Quillen Hamilton Shinn, which is a name that doesn’t get anymore old school Unitarian Universalist than that, arrived in the piney woods area of Dothan, Alabama, a town of about 3000 people at the time. The piney woods area was known as the sparsely populated area — mostly cotton and cash crop farmers with plenty of small town life.
The town of Dothan itself was only incorporated 8 years prior to Quillen Shinn arriving after the railroad had been built. Upon arriving in Dothan, Shinn observed, “The leaven of Universalism has been spreading in the surrounding country and a little has drifted into this town.”
Shinn, you see, was a Universalist missionary. It was all that he did. And the spread of Universalism in the surrounding country, all around the South, was due mostly to his efforts. He knew that in the town of Dothan, there were a few Universalist families already — and his successes had been great — at least in his mind.
Truth be told he faced immense rejection. Shinn organized with the local high school, going toe to toe with the Baptist principal and eventually earning his right to preach there, and shared, for three nights, heartfelt and inspiring sermons about the unconditional love of God. Read the rest of this entry »