The Universalist church year, 100 years on

Table of Content

I've listed below the fold seven annual observances recommended by the Universalist General Convention; I've pulled this list from the 1907 Universalist Register. Why?

  • I'll be writing about the use of a church year and lectionary
  • the subject of Association Sunday (October 14) is live in the Unitarian Universalist Association
  • the plans for All Souls Day are being made, with some agita about the cultural appropriation or use of Mexican customs for Dia de los muertos

As we see, the recommendations do not run in chronological order over the course of the year, so I suspect there are listed in the order they were commended by the Universalist General Convention. That'll take some research, but the 1907 Register notes that year was the fiftieth anniversary of Children's Sunday, with a review of its history. I'll get that up eventually.

There is no reason to think the recommendations were repealed and I'd bet these dates are sacrosanct in a handful of churches, even if the reason isn't known. Take that as license to resume the use of any of these, if you like.

The Presbyterian-originated World Communion Sunday is also the first Sunday in October and has an ecumenical following, including among some of the Unitarian Universalist Christians I know. A thematic merging with Memorial Sunday might be interesting. Just a thought.

Lastly, the denominationally-specific services of the Church of the Redeemer, Chelsea, Massachusetts were published in 1878 by the Universalist Publishing House and include the first five of the following.


Days of Special Observance.

Recommendations by the Universalist General Convention.

  1. It is recommended that Christmas Sunday, i. e. the Sunday nearest Christmas, be observed by appropriate services.
  2. It is recommended that on Easter Sunday a Service of Recognition be held, at which time persons baptized in childhood, and others, may be welcomed by suitable rites to membership of the Church.
  3. It is recommended that one Sunday be set apart in each year, to be denominated Children's Sunday,--in all cases, where practicable, the second Sunday in June, or as near thereto as possible; that parents and guardians be encouraged and invited to bring their children to the altar on that day for baptism or dedication to the service of the Lord.
  4. It is recommended that the first Sunday of October, in each year, be set apart as Memorial Sunday, for commemorating those friends who, during the year, have been taken away by death.
  5. It is recommended that the first Sunday of November, in each year, be set apart as All-Souls Sunday, for a special celebration of our distinguishing doctrine, the Scriptural truth that all souls are God's children, and that finally, by His grace attending them, they will all be saved from the power of sin, and will live and reign with Him forever in holiness and happiness.
  6. It is recommended that the third Sunday of May, in each year, be set apart as Educational Sunday, for the presentation to the people of the educational interests of our Church. And that on the same day an appeal be made to our Sunday Schools for aid in the Home Missionary Work of our Church.
  7. It is recommended that the fourth Sunday in November, in each year, be set apart as Japan Sunday, for the presentation of the claims of our Foreign Work and for soliciting pecuniary aid therefor.

5 Replies to “The Universalist church year, 100 years on”

  1. 100 years ago today 9/7/07 Quillen Shinn died, a large service was held at Tufts’ Goddard Chapel, and dozens of smaller services held in his memory across the country.

  2. It’s interesting to me that we actually do observe, in general practice among UU congregations, two of these: the Sunday before Christmas is Christmas Sunday in many UU congregations today; and while Educational Sunday has been merged with Children’s Sunday, it does take place in late May or early June in many UU congregations.

    However, Memorial Sunday has been largely transferred to Memorial Day, which seems appropriate to me (sometimes it’s good to accomodate to the wider culture). Easter Sunday may be problematic as a time to welcome new members, since Easter tends to be such a three-ring circus for many families, and since so many regular attenders stay away in order to avoid the twice-a-year attenders. As for child dedications, I prefer to dedicate children during our annual Flower Service (a Unitarian liturgical innovation), not on Children’s Sunday, but I could go either way — mostly, I just do it when the families are ready, and once a year doesn’t seem often enough. I don’t think we’d want to do “Japan Sunday,” especially not on the fourth Sunday in November (not since FDR put Thanksgiving right before that Sunday) — but it would be nice to have some kind of date to recognize Universalists and Unitarians and UUs around the world.

    Having said all that, I’m looking forward to your ideas for a liturgical calendar….

    (Just so you know, in Safari “Christmas Sunday” appeared as “CFPGQRK?Q SWLB?W” — apparently, Safari doesn’t like the small caps formatting you used in this post, although Firefox displays them properly. So for the benefit of other Safari users, here’s the holidays Scott lists above, in the order listed: Christmas Sunday, Easter Sunday a Service of Recognition, Children’s Sunday, first Sunday of October /Memorial Sunday, first Sunday of November / All-Souls Sunday, third Sunday of May / Educational Sunday (in which we appeal to Sunday Schools for aid in the Home Missionary Work), and fourth Sunday in November / Japan Sunday, for the presentation of the claims of our Foreign Work.))

  3. More about the calendar later, but Hubby’s Safari browser is rendering the small caps correctly. Any other Mac users unable to see the small caps in the post above?

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