This is the first of an open-ended series about the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM); in it, I plan on exploring what it is, how it distinguishes itself in the ecumenical landscape, what diversity it contains, how it functions as a community and how it challenges and adapts concepts of “the right way” to do church. I’ll also explore the unexpected ways it crosses paths with Unitarian Universalism, and Universalism specifically. I think we in the mainline have plenty to learn and appreciate in the ISM.
Unless you are in it, know someone who is, or study British or American religious history, you likely have never heard of the ISM. I first learned of it in the late 1980s or very early 1990s when I was a student in the religion department at the University of Georgia. A classmate friend and I would scan Melton’s Guide to American Religion, which lists and describes religious institutions, for the unusual and exotic including what I’m sure was then more commonly called “Independent Catholicism.” His quest would lead him into the more interesting and esoteric back roads; mine, by comparison, is institutional and conventional. But my respect for this constellation of believers continues to this day, and I’ve been happy to be a friend and neighbor of the movement — which also includes forms of Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, depending on whom you ask — rather than a member or priest.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: a special welcome to those associated with the ISM. Feel free to comment if I get something wrong or right, or send a message through this form. I’d also love to hear your stories, and take requests for themes to develop.