Small “u” universalists are everywhere

Today I attended the annual Macedonia Church Singing, a group of people who have been singing shape note hymns on Sand Mountain in Alabama for generations. This is one of the few parts of the country where churches sing in four part a capella harmony from the The Sacred Harp, a four-shape note hymnal, in regular Sunday services. Thus, liturgically speaking it is one of the more conservative parts of the United States; they still conserve some of the old ways of conducting Sunday services that date back a hundred and fifty years or more.

At lunch I sat down across from a fellow who was also singing in the bass section, and when he found out that I was a Unitarian Universalist he grinned and said, “I’m a Christian universalist.” We spent the rest of the lunch hour talking about James Relly — when he found out I hadn’t actually read Relly, he said I simply had to do so — and about Rob Bell, and the Primitive Baptist Universalists, and Hosea Ballou. He probably knew more about universalism than I did, although I was able to tell him one thing that he didn’t know: that Abraham Maxim, one of the composers in The Sacred Harp, had been a Universalist.

It turns out that he belongs to a Methodist church, where he is a Bible study leader. When he became convinced of the truth of universalism, he offered to step down as a study leader, but his church thought it would be fine if he stayed on. I asked about his pastor, and he said that his pastor seemed to have universalist leanings, though of course he didn’t come right out and say so, he just never preached about hell.

You just never know when you’re going to run into another universalist.

3 thoughts on “Small “u” universalists are everywhere”

  1. Dan – I found you! I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation at Macedonia the other day. I did a search on Hosea Ballou and discovered your publication of his Treatise on the Atonement. It was stimulating. I detected a bit of Relly influence–be sure to read Relly’s Union: A Treatise of the Consanguinity and Affinity between Christ and His Church. (1759) I look forward to reading more on your site, and to seeing you again. Sing on! Henry

  2. Henry @ 3 — Hey, good to hear from you! Scott Wells, the commenter above you, is already pushing me to read Relly. So I guess I’m going to have to.

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