James Freeman Clarke was a young Transcendentalist minister when he served First Unitarian in Louisville, 1833 to 1840. He exemplified the practice of spiritual friendship transcending differences. Returning to Boston, he became a leader in church reform, anti-slavery, women’s rights, denominational work, and the study of comparative religion. His story will be told by Rev. Dr. John Buehrens, who made Clarke a leading character in his book, Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the American Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice. He will also challenge us to emulate Clarke in our day, acting as bridge builders for justice.
John A. Buehrens served as President of the UUA from 1993 to 2001. He is an honors graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School and the recipient of three honorary doctorates, citing him as “author, scholar, organizer and teacher, but above all pastor” to congregations in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, New York and California. Buehrens is the author or co-author of eight books about liberal religion, most recently Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the American Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice (Beacon, 2022). He has also taught at three theological schools. His last full-time post in ministry was as Senior Minister of the First UU Society of San Francisco. His history of that congregation, A Religious Center with a Civic Circumference: Unitarians in San Francisco Since 1850, will be released in early 2023.