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Sunday, April 9, 2006

William R. Hutchison's memorial service, April 28.

I was dismayed to learn in early January that William R. Hutchison, the eminent historian of liberal and modernist movements in American Protestantism and one of my teachers at Harvard Divinity School, had died of stomach cancer in December. When I thought of his work again last week, I was afraid that I might also have missed his memorial service. Happily, I ran into his friend and colleague — and my divinity school advisor — David Hall at the Episcopal church where I celebrated Palm Sunday this morning. Hall said that the memorial service will be April 28 in Harvard's Memorial Church. The Harvard Gazette obituary says the service is at 2:00 p.m. You may also be interested in the Boston Globe obituary. (I linked to several of his books in my Scrapbook entry.)

It was in one of Hutchison's history seminars on twentieth-century American religion that I realized that I probably wasn't cut out for doctoral work: I toiled all semester on a paper examining organizational dynamics that might explain the failure of the Free Religion movement in the late nineteenth century and the relative success of the Humanist movement in the early twentieth century — but I only managed to get a handle on the secondary sources. Hutchison was an extremely generous teacher and a great host. I especially remember the evening he invited his seminar students over to his condo and gave us a glimpse of his interest in the history of slang: He had "translated" the Gettysburg Address into several different period idioms, with the help of several generations of students! I wish I could recall an example.

I thought of Hutchison's work while making my slow way through Gary Dorrien's recent illuminating CrossCurrents essay, which offers a short version of his upcoming book on liberal theology since the 1950s. I haven't finished the essay yet, so I'll hold off on commenting — but it's so interesting that I may suggest we try another discussion group about it in a few weeks. How's this for an intriguing title?: "American Liberal Theology: Crisis, Irony, Decline, Renewal, Ambiguity" (Winter 2005-2006). Print out a copy and set aside time to read it; among the prominent theologians he discusses are several Unitarian Universalists or theological liberals who associated closely with UU congregations, including James Luther Adams, Bernard Loomer, Charles Hartshorne, Thandeka, and Forrest Church.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 9 April 2006 at 9:48 PM

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Ron Robinson:

April 12, 2006 10:29 AM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks for the heads up on the Dorrien piece. I will pass it, and again, along to our UUCF forums who will be interested in reading it in preparation for Dorrien's keynote at Revival 2006 in NYC. blessings.

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