I regularly engage in “magnet fishing” on the web, but instead of old bicycle frames I hope to find connections to resources that might not otherwise be found. In this case, it’s for my current research but other times I’ll Google a fragment of the Winchester Profession. You’d be amazed what that scares up: sometimes a community church with a forgotten Universalist antecedent, or even more frequently in a church’s statement of faith, a phrase surviving like a fragment of DNA in a wholly un-Universalist congregation. Perhaps it just sounded nice at the time.
Today’s find hearkens to my own past. As a technically-savvy middle-aged gay man… I’ve seen things. Things in plain text, on a green CRT terminal. Here’s a bit of the internet that’s been untouched since 1997.
That’s the Unitarian Universalist Resource Page from the Queer Resources Directory and I hope it never changes or dies. I recall it from way back. Was it on Gopher (HowToGeek.com) then? Perhaps. (Warning: 1990s web styling.)
uu.txt isn’t a webpage. Indeed, this file surely had a presence online, and on the internet, before it was on the web even though we tend to make those terms synonymous today. Internal references to mailing lists, anonymous FTP (file transfer protocol), bulletin boards, mailing lists and technologies of the same vintage — and the fact the file isn’t in HTML — make me think it had been around for ages, but that this was the end of the line.
But what a handy resource! Drawn together in a single file (large by the standards then; hardly a blip now) see have a window into the program of the UUA and affiliated bodies in the late 1990s. So not ancient history; I was either in my last year of seminary or a new graduate when this file was last touched, and already making my first proper web pages.
What does this file say today? First, it reminds me of the all-in-one manuals Universalists published in the nineteenth century, but more about them later. It also reminds me that you can create effective tools in resource-constrained environments. Did you notice how quickly it loaded? That’ll lead me to low-resource online worship, which I hope to pick up after I get a handle on my March 5 sermon.
5 Replies to “UUs and the lost web”
The QRD site didn’t load immediately — chrome stopped because the site didn’t have an “https” URL and that browser waited for me to approve loading an insecure web page.
It was an interesting blast from the past mentioning resources that now have reduced importance for Unitarian Universalists sharing information online.
I remember in the early 1990s when soc.religion.unitarian-univ first started up. The guidelines for soc.religion usenet groups required these groups to be moderated (soc.religion.quaker was the only exception to this requirement). The moderation solution implemented was auto-moderation instead of a team of human moderators screening posts.
Ah, yes. I objected to
universalistbeing truncated to
soc.religion.unitarian-univbut there were character limits and that settled that!
So, I looked up myself in a Usenet archive of s.r.u-u and saw links back to some of my old sites — the second generation; the first being on my seminary’s servers. Internet Archive grabbed copies! About the same vintage as the QRD site, but be prepared for serious 90s web design. All hand-coded of course.
One concern about naming the usenet group soc.religion.uu was that someone might have thought it was related to this topic (which was still in use in the early 1990s):
With regards to the Winchester Profession. I’ve also run into it in whole or in part, at churches that left the denomination. Some of them in the NACCC. Others that are floating about independent.
Strangely I’ve also run into the Washington Avowal of Faith in a few places too, including in a congregation of the ICCC that was never part of the UUA or its predecessor denominations.