Many of us meet the Transcendentalists in literature classes. We think of Thoreau, Emerson, and Concord: of individualism and nature. Yet most Transcendentalists were Unitarian church people: activists for anti-slavery, women’s rights, and social reform. They developed and maintained spiritual friendships that transcended differences in social location, gender, class, ideology, and race – all because they recognized that my full flourishing as a human being is tied up with yours. Special Music: Jim Stevens, folk guitar
Rev. John Buehrens
Dr. Buehrens is the author of seven books on liberal religion, including a forthcoming study of the Transcendentalists as sparking the American struggle for racial, gender, and social justice. He served as President of the UUA from 1993 to 2001, as national co-chair of Freedom to Marry 2002 to 2012, and now lives with his wife, the Rev. Gwen Langdoc Buehrens, in San Francisco, having retired in 2017 as Senior Minister of UUSF. Those who care for individual rights need to relearn how to form spiritual friendships and covenanted (not creedal) communities.
If you know about Transcendentalism, Unitarian Universalism’s homegrown mystical movement, you probably know the names Emerson, Fuller, Thoreau, Alcott, and have mental images of Walden Pond and the village of Concern. But its reach included church-based, urban activists who applied the ethic of Transcendentalism to their own lives, and we’ll hear about those today. Music: Veronika Agranov-Dafoe