The Roots of Protestant Dissent in Dublin

On Saturday, 11th June members of Dunmurry along with members of First Belfast and All Souls’ Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches enjoyed a great visit to to Dublin. We were made very welcome by the Unitarian congregation on St Stephen’s Green and treated to an excellent tour of sites connected with the roots of Protestant Dissent in Dublin by Rory Delany.

St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, where Cromwell is said to have stabled his horses in the 1650s

Rory has a fund of knowledge about the history of Dublin and of the different strands of Dissent in the city, which largely date back to the period of Oliver Cromwell. We were taken on a fascinating walk around some of both the familiar and not so familiar parts of Dublin and all of us gained a deep insight into the way Dissent – Independency – Presbyterianism – Unitarianism – developed in the city and the contribution made by members of the Dissenting churches to the history of the city.

Starting the tour outside the church on St Stephen’s Green

Rory gave us an outline of the plan before we set off. The Unitarian Church was built in 1863 by the congregation of Strand Street and four years later it was joined by the congregation of Eustace Street. These two congregations contained many of the leading merchants in the city, families which had played an important part in civic life for decades, and were groups which were rooted in at least four churches which had maintained a continuity of existence from Cromwellian and Puritan times onwards.

Rory explaining the location of the medieval city

Perhaps the most direct stream of religious life which fed in to the modern church on St Stephen’s Green was that of Wood Street. The first minister connected with this congregation is usually said to be John Owen, a leading Puritan divine who came to Dublin as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell and later became dean of Christ Church, Oxford during the Commonwealth. The congregation may date back to Elizabethan times but the first minister in Wood Street itself is thought to be Stephen Charnock who came to Dublin as chaplain to Henry Cromwell in 1655. A fellow of Trinity College, Dublin he was a ‘lecturer’ at St Werburgh’s and returned to England following the Restoration in 1660.

This unprepossessing view is actually the site of the Wood Street meeting-house

Wood Street was the scene of the ministry of Daniel Williams for approximately 20 years. Welsh-born he moved to London in 1687 and became the leading figure in English Dissent, establishing the library that bears his name to this day. Other distinguished and sometimes controversial ministers to serve this congregation include Joseph Boyse, Thomas Emlyn, John Abernethy and James Duchal (click on the links where shown for more information on this blog) . The congregation moved to Strand Street in 1764.

The ruins of St Nicholas’ Church just opposite Christ Church Cathedral
The burial ground of St Nicholas’ Church, now a Peace Garden

Samuel Winter, a key figure in Cromwellian Ireland and Provost of Trinity College, was also preacher at St Nicholas’ Church from 1650 and had as colleague from 1656 Samuel Mather, the son of Richard Mather (for more on his family and their connection with Toxteth click here) a leading Puritan in England, New England and Ireland. Samuel Mather was a lecturer at Christ Church and a Fellow of Trinity College. He died in 1671 and was buried in St Nicholas’ Church. He was later succeeded in the ministry by his brother Nathaniel, by which time the congregation had built their own meeting house on New Row.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Eventually New Row moved to Eustace Street in 1728. Nearby was a Quaker meeting-house and Rory told us that one of the Quakers said of the Eustace Street meeting-house that ‘When there is so much vanity without, there won’t be much religion within’. But it is actually a very well-proportioned and elegant building, although eighteenth-century Quakers had their own view of such things. Having said that what survives of Eustace Street today is only the facade and that is not shown off to best effect by the banners hung outside by the Ark Theatre group that use the new building.

The surviving facade of Eustace Street meeting-house

Eustace Street was also the location of the first ministry of James Martineau (click here to read more about James Martineau on this blog).

Side view of the City Hall, originally the Royal Exchange

We had a brief look at the City Hall, built originally as the Royal Exchange in 1779 by the precursor of the Chamber of Commerce. The merchants who made up the membership of the Chamber of Commerce included a disproportionate number of Protestant Dissenters, and of these a large proportion were members of one of the three Presbyterian (Unitarian) congregations in Dublin. Indeed, Rory told us, a majority of the Presidents of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce between 1785 and 1870 were trustees or members of the congregations which went on to form the St Stephens Green congregation.

It was a wonderful day full of interest and we are all indebted to Rory for sharing his considerable knowledge with us.

Dublin Unitarian Church, St Stephen’s Green

Rev John Scott Porter (1801-1880)

In an overgrown corner of Belfast’s City Cemetery stands a bold and intricately carved Celtic cross which marks the grave of the Rev John Scott Porter.

Son of a prominent Presbyterian minister and brother to two more he was part of a significant dynasty. This week’s Reflection looks at the life and work of John Scott Porter.

Rev John Scott Porter (1801-1880) – click on the video above (available from 8.00 am on Sunday, 8th May).

Educated at the Belfast Academical Institution he commenced his ministry at Carter Lane Chapel, London (which became Unity Chapel, Islington), where he became a prominent proponent of the Arian group within English Presbyterianism, editing the Christian Moderator. He returned to Belfast, to the First Presbyterian Church, in 1831.

John Scott Porter c.1845 by Richard Rothwell (Ulster Museum/National Musuems Northern Ireland)

In the video we reflect on his career as a theologian, controversialist, Biblical scholar and Unitarian. Other members of his family are buried with him including his brother William, one time attorney general at the Cape Colony, who brought in a franchise that was inclusive of all races.

What can we learn from reflecting on the impressive Celtic cross that marks his grave? An eloquent Victorian statement of piety and memory, for decades long forgotten, yet still making a statement about his beliefs and his ministry.

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society April 2022

The issue for 2022 (vol 28 No.1) will be with subscribers shortly and once again this is a very full and very special issue because members will receive two journals for their subscription. Part One contains three important articles plus reviews and more, Part Two is produced in collaboration with the Reckoning International Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Histories Project.

Part One

The cloisters, Ullet Road Church Liverpool

In Part One our main articles look at Unitarianism, slavery and philanthropy. A number of Unitarians were actively involved in the abolition of slavery. One very prominent example of this was William Roscoe whose memorial is located in the cloisters in Ullet Road Church, a set of buildings constructed at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries which perfectly illustrate the enormous philanthropic contributions of wealthy Unitarians at this time.

‘Jewel Case’ – The Man and his Money Derek McAuley

Very Rev George Case, MA, DD (used with permission of Clifton Diocesan Archives)

Derek McAuley traces the story of the Very Rev George Case whose journey from the Anglican to Catholic priesthood was followed by a very generous bequest to the Unitarian movement. His father was a contemporary of William Roscoe in Liverpool but unlike Roscoe he was deeply implicated in the slave trade. Using modern tools and databases Derek examines the source of Dr Case’s wealth.

Reflections on a Window Rory Delany

The Wilson Memorial Window, Dublin Unitarian Church (Photo: Rory Delany)

The most prominent and striking window within Dublin Unitarian Church, St Stephen’s Green is the Wilson Memorial Window which memorializes Thomas Wilson, long standing member of the congregation and generous benefactor. In this article Rory Delany looks at the source of Thomas Wilson’s wealth, again using the databases and records which have become available and which highlight those families involved in the slave trade. He contrasts Thomas Wilson’s attitudes and business interests with his contemporary and fellow church member James Haughton who was a noted anti-slavery campaigner.

Unitarians and Philanthropy 1860-1914 Alan Ruston

Looking towards the library at Harris Manchester College

Alan Ruston gives a substantial survey of Unitarian philanthropy between 1860 and 1914. Many wealthy Unitarians gave vast sums to build churches, establish charities and develop educational institutions such as Manchester College (see above) which was founded in 1786 in Manchester but moved to Oxford in 1893 following a number of very generous donations.

Books Reviewed

Reviewed by David Wykes, Alan Ruston and David Steers

Part Two

The ethnographic composition of Hungary in 1910 (Map: Lehel Molnár)

Part Two of this issue develops the successful initial event of the Reckoning International U/UU Histories Project which was entitled ‘Transylvanian Unitarians Resisting and Surviving in Authoritarian Times’ and which took place on Thursday, 4 November 2021. This can be viewed online at the Starr King School for the Ministry YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/ozH1fnDkSHk).

The dismemberment of Hungary by the Treaty of Trianon (Map: Lehel Molnár)

We are very pleased to be able to carry in this issue an introduction and summary of the whole Reckoning project compiled by its co-ordinators Claudia Elferdink and Lehel Molnár This is followed by two articles which are not transcripts of the original webinar but which give additional insight and information on the experience of Hungarian Unitarians over the last one hundred years, particularly following the Communist takeover in Romania after the Second World War. The first of these is ‘The Hungarian Unitarian Church in the Twentieth Century’ by Sándor Kovács and Lehel Molnár, an explanation of the struggles of the church from the Treaty of Trianon – when Hungary lost two thirds of its historic territory – to the present century. This is followed by ‘Resistance or/and Compromise. The Struggles and Service of Unitarian Bishop Elek Kiss (1888–1971) in Communist Romania’ by Sándor Kovács which gives a very detailed view of the problems and stresses experienced by the church in the Communist era.

The ethnographic compostion of Hungary in 1880

New subscribers are very welcome, annual membership costs only £10. If you haven’t yet taken out a subscription or would like to renew your subscription that can be done through the Society’s treasurer who can be contacted via the Unitarian Historical Society website here.

Faith and Freedom Spring and Summer 2021

The latest issue of Faith and Freedom (Spring and Summer 2021, Number 192) has just been published.

Cover, Issue 192

Our cover features a striking image that is a piece of ‘discovered art’. A picture by an unknown New Zealand artist which complements so well Wayne Facer’s book A Vision Splendid: The Influential Life of William Jellie, A British Unitarian in New Zealand, which has recently gone into its second edition. The picture also appears on the cover of that book. This publication is the subject of an extensive essay and review by Graham Murphy. In Unitarianism in New Zealand: Essay and Review he uncovers the origins of Unitarianism in New Zealand through the exertions of British and Irish expatriates, most notably Moneyreagh-born William Jellie, and their relationship with Maori culture and the development of the colony right up to the devastating impact of the First World War.

Memorial to Robert and Dermot Neill in Holywood Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Colin Walker writes about The commemoration of three Ulster Unitarians who died at the Somme: Captain James Samuel Davidson, Lieutenant James Dermot Neill and Second Lieutenant Ernest George Boas. They were all the sons of prominent Ulster businessmen, all served in the 36th ‘Ulster’ Division and all were commemorated by plaques created by Ulster artist Rosamond Praeger who was herself a Unitarian and probably knew all three of them personally. All were caught up in the Home Rule Crisis immediately before the war and all of them signed the Ulster Covenant, including Ernest Boas who was Jewish by descent but brought up in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Dr Walker skilfully unpacks the connections between them and also Rosamond Praeger (who like Ernest Boas was also from an originally Jewish family) and reflects on their faith and their legacy.

Rev Frank Walker

In Incarnation: the Supernaturalist Story and the Humanitarian Story, a sermon originally preached in Cambridge, Frank Walker assesses the way the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation can be understood in the light of humanity’s repeated cruelty and excesses, seen most notably in the Holocaust. Despite the obvious problems he finds reason to be optimistic: ‘Incarnation is a continuing reality. Creative energy is forever expressing itself in all the glorious and stupendous variety of life on earth and in the whole universe. And life, which often seems so fragile and vulnerable, subject to catastrophes and extinctions, is so tenacious and adaptable, and is constantly renewing itself’.

William Ellery Channing by Henry Cheever Pratt 1857. (Wikipedia, Public Domain)

A Chautauqua performance is ‘a uniquely American dramatic format’ in which is portrayed an individual historic figure, ‘as if returning to life to address the audience’. Back in the Spring and Summer issue of Faith and Freedom in 2019 Kevin Murphy provided us with a Chautauqua performance concerning Francis David. In this issue he does the same for one of the most prominent American Unitarian theologians in history. An Appearance of William Ellery Channing: A Chautauqua Performance is a wonderfully insightful exploration of the theology that Channing came to espouse in the context of the circumstances of his life.

Books Reviewed

Martin Camroux (foreword by David R. Peel), Keeping Alive the Rumor of God: When Most People are Looking the Other Way, WIPF & Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2020, pp 204, ISBN 978-1-7252-6241-6, £20 pbk.

Accessing a reliable grounding in wonder

Reviewed by BOB JANIS DILLON

Bert Clough, Dancing with Mortality: Reflections of a Lapsed Atheist, Bert Clough, Newbury, England, 2020, pp 111, ISBN 978-1-8381695- 0-3, £10 pbk.

Finding truth through the lives of ‘great souls’

Reviewed by JIM CORRIGALL

Marcus Braybrooke, Meeting Jewish Friends and Neighbours, Marcus Braybrooke, 17 Courtiers Green, Abingdon, OX14 3EN, marcusbraybrooke4@gmail.com, 2020, pp 225, ISBN 9798564270243, £12.50 post free.

A comprehensive analysis of Jewish faith and life

Reviewed by PETER GODFREY

Wayne Facer, Prophet at the Gate. Norman Murray Bell and the Quest for Peace, Blackstone Editions, Toronto, 2021, ISBN 9781775355656, $25 NZD pbk.

Norman Murray Bell – Pacifist and anti-war campaigner in New Zealand

Reviewed by GRAHAM MURPHY

Catherine Robinson (ed.), Fragments of Holiness, The Lindsey Press, London, 2019, pp 205, ISBN 978-0-85319-091-2, £9 pbk.

An anthology for daily use

Reviewed by LENA COCKROFT

Cliff Reed. Beyond Darkness Words for Reflection, Lindsey Press, London, pp 134, ISBN 978-0-85319-095-0, £9 pbk.

Waking up to the Divine within you

Reviewed by DAVID STEERS

An annual subscription for each volume (two issues) costs £15.00 (postage included) in the United Kingdom. Single copies can be ordered at a cost of £8.00 each (postage included). Cheques should be made out to Faith and Freedom and sent to the business manager:

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Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society June 2021

The latest issue of the Transactions, including a special Supplement, is now ready. New subscribers are very welcome, annual membership costs only £10. If you haven’t yet taken out a subscription or would like to renew your subscription that can be done through the Society’s treasurer who can be contacted via the Unitarian Historical Society website here.

The new issue contains the following articles:

The History of the Kolozsvár English Conversation Club

Sándor Kovács

The Unitarian College Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca shortly after its opening in 1901


Sándor Kovács relates the hitherto unresearched story of the Kolozsvár English Conversation Club. A major source for illuminating the relationship between Unitarians in Transylvania and Hungary and in the UK and USA. The Club was founded in 1876 by János Kovács and gave local people the opportunity to learn English. It became the main point of contact for visiting Unitarians throughout the rest of the century, over the period of the celebration of the Hungarian Millennium in 1896 and on into the twentieth century.

Received with Thanks. Unitarian Hymns sung by Mainstream Churches

Nigel Lemon

Nigel Lemon investigates hymns penned by Unitarian writers which have found favour in mainstream hymnbooks. He looks at around 50 Unitarian hymns which are found in a selection of mainstream books published in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and focusses on thirteen Unitarian authors.

Thomas Aikenhead: An Historiographical Introduction

Rob Whiteman

Old Tolbooth, Edinburgh (Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Aikenhead was an Edinburgh student who stood trial for blasphemy in December 1696, and was put to death in the following January. Said to be the last person to be executed for blasphemy in Britain he is often also claimed as a Unitarian martyr. Rob Whiteman examines the way his trial and execution has been understood across the centuries.

Tercentenary of a Unique Donation: Glasgow University and Chowbent Chapel

David Steers

Chowbent Chapel, Atherton

Universities are not known for their generosity to outside bodies but in 1721 the University of Glasgow (see image at the top of this page which shows Glasgow College at the end of the seventeenth century) made a donation to Chowbent Chapel whilst it was being built. The congregation had just been dispossessed from their old chapel by a new landlord. This short article explains how and why Glasgow University supported the building of the new chapel (pictured above).

Books Reviewed

Protestant Dissent and Philanthropy 1660-1914,
edited by Clyde Binfield, G.M. Ditchfield and David L. Wykes,
The Boydell Press, 2020,
hardback, 264 pages, ISBN 978-1-78327-451-2. Studies in Modern British History Vol 39. Price £65.
Reviewed by Alan Ruston
Subscribers to the Transactions will be pleased to know that they are able to purchase this book with a  special 35% discount using the code given in the issue.

A Radical Religious Heritage, by John Maindonald,
second edition, 2020,
paperback, 68 pages ISBN 978-0-473-52784-6. Price $NZ 25.00
Reviewed by Graham Murphy

Supplement

Obituaries of Ministers of Unitarian Congregations
Index and synopsis of references
New entries, and Additions and Corrections
extended from 1 February 2014 to 31 January 2021
Compiled by ALAN RUSTON

This issue comes with Alan’s latest Supplement which brings over twenty years of research by Alan on Unitarian obituaries right up to date. It also makes use of the late Professor R.K. Webb’s index cards based on a wide variety of sources for biographical details of Unitarian ministers from circa 1780 to the early 1990s.

Rev Alexander Gordon

Our worship today comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is the first in a new series considering significant Non-Subscribers from history.

Alexander Gordon was born in Coventry on 9th June 1841 and died in Belfast on 21st February 1931. A self-styled Englishman by birth, Scotsman by education and an Irishman by inclination Alexander Gordon was the foremost historian of religious dissent in the British Isles whose influence is still recognized today.

Alexander Gordon arriving at Dunmurry, 18th January 1931

I’ve mentioned before the above photograph of Alexander Gordon, (click here to see the original post) the last known picture of him, arriving at Dunmurry to take the service in 1931 and this and many other images are used in the video for today’s service.

Click on the video to see the latest service (from 9.45 am on Sunday, 16th May 2021)

The service is recorded in Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reader is Carol Nixon who reads Psalm 100 and the organist is John Strain who plays the hymns Spirit of God, unseen as the wind (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 478) and Fairest Lord Jesus (Irish Presbyterian Hymn Book 19). Also played at the beginning and end of the service are As the deer pants and Who is on the Lord’s side.

As well as the images connected with Alexander Gordon the film includes video of the eighteenth-century roof beams of Ballee Church constructed from Memel pine.

Memorial in First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast

Over the course of a long career Gordon was minister of a number of congregations in England and Ireland and was Principal of the Unitarian College, Manchester and lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at the University of Manchester, in what was then the first free faculty of Theology in Britain. He was also a renowned historian who travelled all over Europe in the course of his work. He regularly travelled between England and Ireland, even throughout the First World War, and always travelled from wherever he was to Dunmurry in order to attend the twice yearly communion services there. He also travelled across Europe visiting record offices and archives – most notably in Poland, Hungary and Transylvania – at a time when such visits were rare and logistically difficult. This is referenced in the service. His researches, whose subject matter stretched over centuries and many areas of religious life, link us with the past and with his life. They set us in context and in time.

Time

Time is the feather’d thing,
And, whilst I praise
The sparklings of thy looks and call them rays,
Takes wing,
Leaving behind him as he flies
An unperceived dimness in thine eyes.
His minutes, whilst they’re told,
Do make us old;
And every sand of his fleet glass,
Increasing age as it doth pass,
Insensibly sows wrinkles there
Where flowers and roses do appear.
Whilst we do speak, our fire
Doth into ice expire,
Flames turn to frost;
And ere we can
Know how our crow turns swan,
Or how a silver snow
Springs there where jet did grow,
Our fading spring is in dull winter lost.
Since then the Night hath hurl’d
Darkness, Love’s shade,
Over its enemy the Day, and made
The world
Just such a blind and shapeless thing
As ’twas before light did from darkness spring,
Let us employ its treasure
And make shade pleasure:
Let ‘s number out the hours by blisses,
And count the minutes by our kisses;
Let the heavens new motions feel
And by our embraces wheel;
And whilst we try the way
By which Love doth convey
Soul unto soul,
And mingling so
Makes them such raptures know
As makes them entranced lie
In mutual ecstasy,
Let the harmonious spheres in music roll!


Jasper Mayne (1604-1672)

Roscoe Gardens – cause for concern

The congregational memorial in 2019

In July 2019 I published a post about Roscoe Gardens, Mount Pleasant in Liverpool, a little-known green space near Liverpool city centre. It is the site of the burial ground of Renshaw Street Chapel and the home of a memorial to the chapel and its members including such notable figures as William Roscoe and Joseph Blanco White. You can see the original post here. In the last year this has become one of the two most frequently visited posts on this blog, the other being Croft Unitarian Chapel to which I hope to return in the near future.

Memorial to William Roscoe

The reason for the frequency of views of the Roscoe Gardens post has been a developing abuse of the site that has seen scant disregard for for its importance to the city and its status as a burial ground and memorial.

Inscription on the memorial

On the evening of Friday, 30th April the Rev Phil Waldron went to Roscoe Gardens in his clerical robes to kneel in prayer at the congregational memorial to highlight this ongoing problem. In solidarity with his stand I am pleased to publish his press release below which explains all the issues. Let us all pray that this leads to some action by Liverpool City Council:

Rev Phil Waldron kneels in prayer in Roscoe Gardens, Friday, 30th April 2021

Statement from Rev Phil Waldron and the Unitarian community in Liverpool:

Since July 2020 Liverpool City Council has been complicit in the desecration of the graves of many of our city’s citizens and the gifting of an entire public park to a private business. Since July 2020 Roscoe Gardens has been locked off, and public access removed and denied, consistently by the business operating in the space.

Roscoe Gardens is not just a public park, but a Unitarian burial ground and needs to be treated with the basic levels of decency, dignity and respect that is not only presumed human moral basics but also obligations under the law of the local authority.

The council have allowed a marquee structure of such vast size, it should be subject to planning requirements, to be erected over and pegged into the graves of those interred on the site.

The Listed memorial of William Roscoe, one of the first abolitionists is currently in a state of disrepair, as is the green space of the park itself. Members of the Unitarian congregation are being denied their right to pay their respects to those interred at the site. Members of the local community, including the elderly and those less able of body, have been deprived of their nearest greenspace during a pandemic and lockdown.

The structure erected by the business is directly adjacent to, and outside of peoples homes. Families of children have had nothing short of months of misery, endured by the obscene and lurid content matter of the ‘entertainment’ blasted directly into their homes, let alone the anti-social behaviour of customers.

This is nothing short of an affront to those buried in the ground beneath them, including founders of the Temperance movement.

As B G Orchard once wrote, “… no group of men has so manifested far-sighted appreciation of great questions affecting social wellbeing of the town or worked with more dogged ardour to promote national education, public parks, free libraries and museums… at present Renshaw Street Chapel is probably the greatest political force in our midst.” –

we are shocked Liverpool City Council sees fit to allow the graves of these people who built the socialist foundations of our city, to be desecrated and ran into disrepair, in such a way.

Liverpool City Councillors and Officers, and even our local MP, have been made aware of ongoing complaints since August 2020 and failed to act. In fact, to this date, Liverpool City Council have ignored every reference to desecration to the graves made, and to this date, not one single Councillor or Officer has had the foresight to contact the Unitarian Church, not only to apologise, but to seek the permission they are obliged to, for use of the space, as set out under the Burial Act.

The business operator has shown no willingness to listen to the community and currently only allows access to the space if a petition is signed in support of their continued occupation of consecrated ground. The business has also consistently breached the terms of the Land Use Agreement they had with the council, and evidence has been provided, again consistently, to the responsible officers and no action has been taken.

Liverpool City Council has failed in its duty to protect this sacred, public space and abandoned its commitment and obligations to respecting culture, faith and our city’s history.

We have asked several times for answers to the simple questions overleaf, and still await a response from the council. We are now demanding the immediate restoration of the dignity of those interred at the site and unfettered public access to the public park resumed.

The Free Mind

This Sunday’s online service comes from the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick and is conducted by the minister, Rev Dr David Steers. The reading comes from Luke ch.6 v.43-49. Church organist Laura Patterson plays the hymns and also accompanies Molly McCloy who sings ‘My Lighthouse’ as a solo.

Click on the above video to see the service (available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 25th April 2021)

I call that mind free, which, through confidence in God and in the power of virtue, has cast off all fear but that of wrong-doing, which no menace or peril can enthrall, which is calm in the midst of tumults, and possesses itself though all else be lost. (W.E. Channing)

The service makes use of W.E. Channing’s sermon on ‘Spiritual Freedom’ given in Boston, Mass. in May 1830.

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) by Henry Cheever Pratt, 1857 (Source: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

The History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland – part two

In our service this morning, from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, we continue to look at the early history of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian denomination and in this address ask questions about the meaning of ‘heresy and orthodoxy’ and look at the role of Thomas Emlyn in sparking the first subscription controversy when the Synod of Ulster introduced compulsory subscription to the Westminster Confession following his imprisonment in Dublin in 1703.

Click on the above video to see today’s service featuring the second part of the History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 28th February 2021)

The service comes from Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and is conducted by the minister. The reading is from Romans ch.14 v.1-9 and is read by Sue Steers. Church organist John Strain plays the hymns Who is on the Lord’s side (Thanks and Praise 164) and Wisdom Divine, bright shining, never fading (Hymns of Faith and Freedom 55) on the church’s Carnegie organ.

Also this week we have uploaded to the Downpatrick, Ballee & Clough NSP Churches YouTube channel a service that was originally broadcast from All Souls’ Church, Belfast on BBC Radio Ulster in 1995:

Click on the above video to see the service

Converted from a cassette tape to mp3 format the service was recorded live from the radio in October 1995. The service is conducted by the minister at the time, Rev David Steers. The readers are Barbara Moneypenny (Psalm 46) and Jim Jackson (Luke ch.6 v.12-31). Muriel Singleton leads the prayers. The church organist is Albert McCartney who plays on the church’s Compton organ the hymns Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation; Just as I am, thine own to be; Dear Lord and Father of mankind; Immortal, invisible, God only wise and leads the Church Choir in the singing of Lead me Lord (music S.S. Wesley, words Psalm 5) and Grant us Thy Peace (music Timothy Troman, words D. Bruce-Payne).

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society December 2020

An additional special issue of the Transactions is now on its way to subscribers (new subscribers are also very welcome, if you would like to join go to the Unitarian Historical Society website here).

This issue features:

WILLIAM HAZLITT, JOSEPH PRIESTLEY AND THE ORIGINS OF UNITARIANISM
IN AMERICA
by STEPHEN BURLEY

The “dark, cracked, dusty and unframed” portrait of the Rev William Hazlitt (1737-1820) painted by his son in 1805. (Image and quote from ‘The Day-Star of Liberty William Hazlitt’s Radical Style’ by Tom Paulin)
Rev Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). Portrait by Ellen Sharples (Source: Wikipedia)

Dr Stephen Burley’s paper is a radical reassessment of the role of William Hazlitt in the development of Unitarianism in the United States. A difficult man, Hazlitt was a fervent propagandist for Unitarianism whose contribution has frequently been overlooked or downplayed. This article adds a great deal to our understanding of him.

Rev William Hazlitt, from a miniature portrait by his son John (Source: Wikipedia)

‘STEADFAST THROUGH TROUBLES’: MOUNTPOTTINGER AND THE LAWRENCES
by SANDRA GILPIN

Ellen Mary Lawrence, from a portrait in Mountpottinger Church. (Photo: Adrian Moir)
Plaque in the schoolroom in Mountpottinger Church in memory of Ellen Mary Lawrence (Photo: Adrian Moir)

Sandra Gilpin tells a story that weaves together Unitarian life in London, Wales and Belfast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through the lens of the Lawrence family. Its main focus is Ellen Mary Lawrence who was born in London and who married the Rev William Jenkin Davies. She died at a tragically young age and her memorial forms part of Mountpottinger NSP Church in east Belfast.

Mountpottinger Church before the extension was added in memory of Ellen Mary Lawrence and probably featuring Rev William Jenkin Davies standing in the centre. To read more about the building of Mountpottinger click on the above image.

HELEN K. WATTS – A UNITARIAN SUFFRAGETTE
by ALAN RUSTON

The daughter of an Anglican vicar, Helen K. Watts became a Unitarian in Nottingham (Picture: Alan Ruston. From a booklet by Rowena Edlin-White, Nottingham Women’s History Group, Piecemeal Pamphlets, £2)
Plaque unveiled in Nottingham on 14 December 2018 in memory of Helen K. Watts (Picture: Alan Ruston. From a booklet by Rowena Edlin-White, Nottingham Women’s History Group, Piecemeal Pamphlets)

Alan Ruston brings together two sides of the life of Helen K. Watts. A ‘stalwart’ Unitarian, well-known in London and Sussex up until her death in 1972. She was also an active suffragette between 1907 to 1911 who was arrested for her campaigning and threatened with force feeding. This remarkable aspect of her life seems to have been forgotten in Unitarian circles and Alan paints a full picture of her life and achievements.

(Picture: Alan Ruston. From a booklet by Rowena Edlin-White, Nottingham Women’s History Group, Piecemeal Pamphlets)

In our Record Section Derek McAuley has used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover hitherto unknown aspects of the life of the Rev Gábor Kereki (1914-1995) who fled Hungary for Britain at the start of the Cold War in 1947. Throughout the rest of his life he made a great contribution to the Unitarian ministry in Britain and this will continue thanks to a substantial legacy left by his wife in 2016. She has established the ‘Gábor Kereki Trust’ to benefit ministers and students of the Hungarian Unitarian Church and enable them to study in the UK.

In our Reviews Derek McAuley begins what must be a long-overdue examination of the role Unitarians played in slavery prior to its abolition in 1833 with his review of Kate Donnington’s brand new book on the Hibbert family. Alan Ruston reviews the important Lindsey Press book Unitarian Women A Legacy of Dissent, edited by Ann Peart, and Andrew Hill reviews a new publication of the diaries of James Losh, a Newcastle Unitarian who observed and recorded detailed changes in nature, the environment and weather in his local area between 1803 and 1833.

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society

Volume 27 Number 3 December 2020
Edited by David Steers

is now available. An annual subscription costs £10. Contact the treasurer via our website to join: https://www.unitarianhistory.org.uk/hsmembership4.html