“You can’t step in the same river twice,” the saying goes. I’ve taken groups on the Boston trip about 24 times in the past 23 years: 22 times with the Coming of Age class, and two adult group trips. No two are exactly the same.
We had beautiful weather this year, which is important since we spend most of our time out of doors. We arrived at the Boston Public Gardens right on schedule, at noon on Friday, and we had a picnic lunch. The fifteen coming of agers went to a nice spot on the edge of the Swan Boat pond, while Carl, Cheryl and I sat on a park bench nearby.
A half hour later I stood in front of the statue of William Ellery Channing and read passages from his famous sermon, Unitarian Christianity, delivered in Baltimore in May of 1819, effectively launching Unitarianism in America. Then we crossed the street and had a tour of Arlington Street Church, the congregation he served for 38 years. We took turns standing in the high pulpit, reading passages from his sermon, which emphasized the ‘Unity of God,’ explaining the reasons why the Trinity was neither Biblical nor rational.
Jeff, our tour guide, took us from one Tiffany stained glass window to the next, inviting the class to get up close, touching the glass to feel the textures, and paying attention to the story depicted in each, and pointing out that there’s no window showing the resurrected Jesus, since we believe in a ‘very human Jesus.’ Then they climbed the steeple all the way up to the bell tower.
We walked across the beautiful, flower-filled Boston Public Gardens, crossed the street to Boston Common, up Beacon Hill and then down to King’s Chapel. The minister, Earl Holt, greeted us warmly; he talked about the rich history of that church, explaining how they’ve maintained its Anglican tradition.
From King’s Chapel we went back up Beacon Hill to the Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters at 25 Beacon Street where we were given a tour of the UUA as well as an introduction to YRUU, Young Religious Unitarian Universalists.
Then we walked to the Holocaust Memorial, moving quietly through the six high glass columns representing the various camps; the glass is inscribed with the six million numbers that were assigned to those exterminated.
The Coming of Agers had time at Quincy Market to have dinner, and to take in the scenes and sites, including street performers and those who were less intentionally entertaining. We met the bus and drove to the Espousal Retreat Center in Waltham, gathered in a chapel where we had a service of worship, including dramatic presentations of parables of The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son. After the service there was a lot of interest in going into the confessional booths. I realized that I had never actually been inside one of those booths, though I waited outside them when my friends were making their confession, or, should I say, ‘making up a confession.’
The next day we went to Follen Church in Lexington, which I served as an assistant from April 1, 1970 to August of 1972. It’s where Emerson concluded his ministry by doing pulpit supply, which is, in part, why I feel so connected to Emerson: I began where he ended. We went to the graves of Emerson and Thoreau and ended our tour at Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin.