Universalists in Brooklyn

A Universalist history note. In places where there was more than one Universalist parish (also called a society), the churches — by which was often also understood as the building — had a distinct name. Confused? It gets worse when you consider some parishes didn’t have churches; that is, that they didn’t have a covenanted and visible body of believers (oops! didn’t get around to that), a building or both. Or, that following General Convention advice about a hundred years back, the parish-church was merged into a single unit. But that’s for another time. Here’s a key to the naming convention.

See the following list from the Universalist Register of 1912, listing the Universalist parishes and churches in that “city of churches” — Brooklyn, New York.

  1. Our Father
  2. All Souls
  3. Church of Reconciliation
  4. Church of Good Tidings

So the First Universalist Society — as I bet it was called — of Brooklyn was more likely known in practice as the Church of Our Father. (As indeed, the First (Murray) Universalist Society of Washington, D.C. was known; this is the legal predecessor to the Universalist National Memorial Church, itself an example of the merged parish-church model.) And this explains why Fourth Universalist Society in New York — Manhattan, really — was known historically as the Church of the Divine Paternity.

Back to Brooklyn. Of the four parishes above, only the Second survives, in a federated churches now known as All Souls Bethlehem Church. Whew!

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