Sometimes everything seems to click-to go just right. That’s the way this year’s Coming of Age trip to Boston, Lexington and Concord felt. Everything clicked. I want to tell you about it.
Since we do a lot of outdoor walking, the weather is a big factor. It was perfect.
Another big factor is being able to get in to the places we visit. We were told that we would not be able to get into Arlington Street Church, which holds the key piece of history. William Ellery Channing was minister of that church when he launched Unitarianism in America in on May 5, 1819. He went to Baltimore to deliver the ordination sermon for their new minister. In that sermon, Unitarian Christianity, he refuted the doctrine of the Trinity.
This year we began the tour at First and Second Church. Emerson was minister at Second. Leo Collins, their retired music director, gave us a tour, and a summary of their history, starting in 1630. He introduced us to Governor William Bradford, whose stately statue greets you at the entrance. A 1968 fire destroyed their old building; it was replaced by a new, modern structure.
We walked to Arlington Street and we did get in. I immediately climbed the high pulpit and read key passages from Channing’s Baltimore sermon as our COA class sat in the box pews. After a brief self tour of the sanctuary, with the world’s largest collection of Tiffany stained glass windows, we went across the street to Channing’s statue where I reminded them, “He was five feet two inches tall, weighed a hundred pounds and they called him a giant.”
We couldn’t get in to the UUA headquarters at 25 Beacon Street, so I gave the tour on the steps. Then we visited the memorial to the first all-black Civil War regiment, led by Unitarian Robert Gould Shaw, which is directly across from the State House. From there we walked to King’s Chapel where we had a brief tour from a guide and I filled in the blanks.
We walked through the old graveyard beside the church, then walked to the Holocaust Memorial for a self-tour of the 6 million registry numbers etched on glass. We had time on our own at Quincy Market to watch street performers, browse and have supper. We boarded the bus, went to the Espousal Retreat Center in Waltham, and did pyschodrama with the Parables of the Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan. We acted out each of the stories, then discussed meanings that emerged. Then we slept! At least I slept while the chaperones negotiated bed time.
On Sunday we did get in to Follen Church in Lexington where I began my ministry in 1970. I sermonized on Emerson who preached there as pulpit supply after leaving Second Church. Then it was off to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord to visit graves of Emerson and Thoreau, where each of us read a quote and gave our interpretation. The prize for best exegesis went to Lee Wacker and Amrita Sankar, a tie vote. They were all wonderful.
We stopped at Emerson’s house on the way to Walden Pond. The replica of Henry’s little cabin was open-all 24 of us squeezed in as I read from his famous book, Walden. We walked around the pond to the site of the original cabin where we ended with a worship circle. It clicked.
It’s a challenge to keep their attention and interest. I left the last of my voice at Walden, but I came home with a sense of satisfaction, reminded why I appreciate our Unitarian heritage, and why I love being a Unitarian Universalist minister.