Beacon Street Diary
The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in observance of Independence Day.
All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Monday.
fireworks over the U.S. fleet in Sasebo, Japan
We will be open again on Monday the 6th.
photograph of sailors, family members and Japanese citizens gathered to watch fireworks on U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan (2005) by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 1st Class Paul J. Phelps
This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
- Robert Wood papers, 1920-2011
An archival collection of material by and related to Robert Wood, an ordained United Church of Christ minister and a pioneer in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement. The collection focuses on Rev. Wood's life as an advocate for LGBT rights, particularly regarding marriage equality and military service, more than as his work as a United Church minister.
- United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns records, 1980s-2009
An archival collection containing the documents of the Coalition, which provides support and sanctuary to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the United Church of Christ, and advocates for their full inclusion in church and society; its primary program is the Open and Affirming program. This collection is currently closed, as it is being processed, but will be open and available to researchers soon.
- Raymond Bradley's collection on marriage equality in Rhode Island, 1977-2013
An archival collection containing documents related to Raymond Bradley's advocacy and work towards human rights campaigns: mental health, racial equality and civil rights for the LGBT community.
- There are also a number of books related to LGBT worship and acceptance in churches.
As we stand on the brink of a monumental Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality and mark 30 years since the explosive impact of the AIDS crisis, I took the opportunity to speak with Marnie Warner and her wife, rosi olmstead, initiators of the UCC's growing commitment to LGBT support and acceptance.
What was the catalyst that sparked an initiative for the passage the ONA resolution in the 1985 Synod of the United Church of Christ? rosi would say that it was about empathy. "It all started with the AIDS epidemic… People cared about people who [are] dying, people who are being discarded by others." At the time Marnie was an active member and deacon in the Church of the Covenant in Boston's Back Bay where rosi was a co-pastor. In 1984 very few people were out but their church had opened itself up, and as more members of the LGBT community got the word, it welcomed more. This brought sorrow as well as joy. Their congregation alone experienced the devastating loss of 13 members to AIDS. They asked the question "How does God accept them?" and answered by caring.
It was time to expand the work beyond the Church of the Covenant. They took their cues from the Presbyterians' More Light initiative but realized that the program needed to be tailored to the UCC culture. Confident that their cause aligned well with the UCC's tradition of social justice and its tenet that God is active in the world. On the political side, it was up to Marnie and rosi to gain acceptance on the state and national levels, and their strategy focused on UCC core beliefs; unlike today, few people were aware that "somebody they knew next door, or their niece or nephew (was gay)".
While many churches counted gay members among their congregations, non-discrimination was not enough, they were looking for acceptance. "We really wanted churches to open their doors, but we also wanted them to affirm who the people are," Marnie asserts.
Given the atmosphere in Massachusetts, it was the logical place to launch a resolution, recalled Marnie in a 2012 interview. Here a church could "put out the welcome mat and affirm lesbians and gays into the fullness of your life, whether as just a parishioner, ordination, being a deacon, whatever, the whole package." The progress was not without tense moments. At the 1984 Massachusetts Conference meeting, in what could be called Biblical one-upmanship, she describes a period of about an hour where rosi extemporaneously parried a barrage of biblical passages from delegates unsupportive of gays and lesbians by quoting other biblical texts. At the end of the day, they gained support and, with the spiritual guidance of Rev. Reuben Sheares, the resolution passed 2/3 to 1/3.
Then it was on to the 1985 Synod in Ames, Iowa, where the resolution calling for congregations to declare themselves "Open and Affirming" took place. Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke that year, as did Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, who addressed discrimination but failed to include gays and lesbians in a list of groups who suffered discrimination.
When procedural issues threatened the Open and Affirming resolution's way to the floor, it was up to Ann Day and the Coalition to shepherd it through the Synod bureaucracy to get before the delegates. There was a hearing where people told their stories. Ministers, both gay and straight, who pastored churches with gays and lesbians members, spoke out for the necessity of the resolution. In spite of promised confidentiality, a record of the session was played off-site and many of those who spoke felt that trust had been broken. But there was an unforeseen positive effect; people became aware of just how difficult it was for gays and lesbians to feel safe and true to their identity. And that swell of empathy helped turn the tide and moved the discussion forward.
rosi and Marnie paint the picture of the final vote. A key figure was Al Williams, conference minister from Massachusetts, who for the first time spoke publicly in favor with a consciousness of how people on both sides of the issue felt. Again it got down to that personal level and the need for collaborations and honest discussions. Williams's appeal was so persuasive that the question was spontaneously called from the floor and the vote was over 90% in favor of the resolution.
That was just the starting point for Ann Day and the Coalition. Ann's brilliant programmatic work gave the movement wings. She created discussion guides about the ONA process and took them directly to churches, growing grass roots support. She worked with churches and their congregations to adopt Open and Affirming covenants of their own. rosi remembers the importance of these sessions aimed at "exploring the kinds of things they had to do to love one another" from the bottom.
Today over 1200 congregations welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members and others are in discussion to become ONA. Nearly 250,000 members of the United Church of Christ belong to ONA churches. While their progress over the last 30 years reflects shifting cultural attitudes, their work has been a catalyst for the change in society as a whole.
Marnie has been working over the last year archiving and preparing the records of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns at the Congregational Library & Archives in preparation for this month's the UCC Synod in Cleveland where the 30th anniversary will be marked. While Marnie and rosi had planned to attend, rosi's recovery from a recent stroke will prevent them. I am happy to say that this did not impede her lively participation in this interview and I thank both of them for telling their stories.
Our executive director Peggy Bendroth is an esteemed historian and prolific author. Her next book, The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past, will be published in October.
Bendroth chronicles how the New England Puritans, known for their moral and doctrinal rigor, came to be the antecedents of the United Church of Christ, one of the most liberal of all Protestant denominations today. The demands of competition in the American religious marketplace spurred Congregationalists, Bendroth argues, to face their distinctive history. By engaging deeply with their denomination's storied past, they recast their modern identity. The soul-searching took diverse forms — from letter writing and eloquent sermonizing to Pilgrim-celebrating Thanksgiving pageants — as Congregationalists renegotiated old obligations to their seventeenth-century spiritual ancestors. The result was a modern piety that stood a respectful but ironic distance from the past and made a crucial contribution to the American ethos of religious tolerance.
The Last Puritans is available for preorder now from the University of North Carolina Press.
We will also have copies available for borrowing by our members as soon as they are shipped.
We know that not everyone can make the trip to Boston to visit us in person. That's why our staff do what we can to come to you. If you're attending either of this month's denominational meetings, be sure to stop by the Congregational Library & Archives' table in the exhibitor spaces and say hello.NACCC Annual Meeting & Conference in Salt Lake City this coming weekend (June 19-23). Both will be leading workshops, and Sari will be manning our table and holding casual "office hours" in the lobby for individual questions about records stewardship or preservation. Their scheduled appearances are listed below, and attendees are always welcome to chat with them elsewhere. You can also find Sari on Twitter @ArchivistSariM.
|Saturday (6/20)||10:30 am - 12:00 pm||Office hours with Sari Mauro|
|Sunday (6/21)||2:45 - 3:35 pm||Stewarding Your Church Records workshop with Sari Mauro|
|4:15 - 5:15 pm||Stewarding Your Church Records workshop with Sari Mauro|
|Monday (6/22)||4:30 - 5:30 pm||The World Beyond the Hudson River: The Story of Congregationalism in the West workshop with Peggy Bendroth|
|4:30 - 5:30 pm||Office hours with Sari Mauro|
|Tuesday (6/23)||11:15 am - 12:00 pm||Office hours with Sari Mauro|
|1:45 - 2:45 pm||The World Beyond the Hudson River: The Story of Congregationalism in the West workshop with Peggy Bendroth|
Our archivist Jessica Steytler will be at the UCC General Synod in Cleveland next weekend (June 25-30) along with current and former board members Barbara Brown Zikmund and Virginia Childs. They will mostly be found in the exhibit hall and all three will be happy to chat about the work we do and answer any questions you might have. If you're looking for Jessica in particular, you can keep up to date with her whereabouts on Twitter @JessicaSteytler.
Don't forget to reserve your seat for Thursday evening's event.
The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War.
The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation is a groundbreaking technical achievement. It is also virulently racist, and glorifies the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan. Early civil rights leader and radical newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter embarked on a campaign to have the film censored in Boston.
This event is co-hosted with the Boston African American National Historic Site.
Thursday, June 11th
The latest addition to our New England's Hidden Histories program is a collection of papers from the Rev. John Rogers (1666-1745) of Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Other personal items included are a letter to Rev. and Mrs. Rogers from John Wise proposing a courtship between their children, and Rogers's unsigned will.
The Congregational Library & Archives will be providing space for this discussion of how an old text is being given new life in digital form.
Dr. Ian Christie-Miller has been hard at work on a project called Catechismusa 2 to study the text in depth. The music annotated on 24 pages of the Catechismusa has not only been recorded but the sound tracks have been integrated into high quality pdf images of the entire book. In addition the use of specialist front lighting and back lighting of every page of the Vilnius copy has revealed watermarks in every gathering of the book.
Join us for a presentation that shows how the music can be accessed from the digital version of the text and examines ways in which watermark and paper research can reveal otherwise hidden data. The religious, cultural, musical, and bibliographical significance of the project will be shown.
Monday, June 8th
12:00 - 1:00 pm
To register, contact Ian Christie-Miller: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project Catechismusa 2 is funded by the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Our reading room will be closed to the public on Monday, June 1st for our board's annual meeting.
All of our online resources will be available as usual, and staff members will be in the office to answer questions over the phone or by email.
Our own Sari Mauro will be giving a presentation at the New England Historic Genealogical Society next week.
New England Historic Genealogical Society
99-101 Newbury Street, Boston
Friday, June 5
12:00 – 1:00 pm
Register through the NEHGS site.