Heritage Service Two -1832-1840: Go West Young Man

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This sermon focuses the early years of First Unitarian Church, with a focus on James Freeman Clarke’s experiment in “western living” and his growing discomfort with slavery.  James Freeman Clarke was a young Transcendentalist minister when he served First Unitarian in Louisville, 1833 to 1840.  After returning to Boston, he became a leader in church reform, anti-slavery, women’s rights, denominational work, and the study of comparative religion.

Religious Historian Jennifer Lavery M.Div., M.A. is a former member of our church from 1996-2005 and a former staff member, serving as church office administrator from 2001-2003.   She taught in the Humanities Division at the University of Louisville for 23 years with specialties in Women’s Studies and the history and philosophy of World Religions.  She is the cowriter with John Findling of “A History of the First Unitarian Church of Louisville” written for our church’s 175th anniversary in 2005.

Knowing that liberty, justice, and opportunity for all are sometimes lacking in the United States, particularly in former slave states such as Kentucky, the Worship Ministry of our congregation was led to wonder about First Unitarian’s history in race relations and slave holding:
“What is our congregation’s history in respect to slavery and civil rights?”
“Were the men and women of white privilege who founded this church in 1830 complicit in Kentucky’s practice of slave holding?”
     The worship committee referred this question to former church member and humanities scholar Jennifer Lavery.  Jenny was glad to be asked to shine a light backward through the church’s history because she believes that there is not only good but inspiring news to report on how members and ministers in this congregation worked to fight against slavery, to hold Kentucky in the Union during the Civil War, and to pass the 13th amendment to end slavery.