Winter 2023 Newsletter

The 2023 Unitarian Universalist Studies Network Convocation

March 23-26, 2023 at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL. Convocation registration and hotel information.
Students, laypeople, religious professionals, and scholars are invited to Widening the Circle of UU Studies, the inaugural international gathering of the new Unitarian Universalist Studies Network on March 23 – 26, 2023, at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL. The 2023 Convocation will encourage presenters and attendees to engage across multiple and intersecting disciplines with the 2020 Report of the Commission on Institutional Change, Widening the Circle of Concern (Boston: UUA, 2020) which analyzes structural and systemic racism in Unitarian Universalism.  
Widening the Circle of UU Studies will include presentations from a variety of disciplines and perspectives that explore the imaginative, congregational, intellectual, and liberatory study of Unitarian Universalism. Beyond presentations, Widening the Circle of UU Studies will include an optional Thursday-afternoon field trip to Chicago area attractions, panels addressing a wide variety of topics, social hours and communal lunches and dinners, and two talks from our distinguished speaker, Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore.  
Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore is Lead Minister and Minister for Lifespan Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY, past President of the Liberal Religious Educators Association, and a former member of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change and a former VP of the Board of Trustees for Starr King School for the Ministry, and member of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change. Rev. Dr. Fenimore is an author of Unitarian Universalist Religious Education Curriculum and Religious Education Renaissance Modules, meditations and readings. She is a contributing author in “Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity and Power in Ministry” and “UUA Commission on Institutional Change: Widening the Circle of Concern.” Her Doctor of Ministry area of study is Narrative Theology with an emphasis on Story and Faith Development for African American Unitarian Universalists. 
See: Registration and hotel information. Generous scholarships will be available.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2022 Annual Meeting (pictured above)!

Re-launch Announcement: Circle for Congregational Historians and Archivists project!

The Circle is composed of historians and archivists (and any representative who desires to take on those skills) who have, are ready to, or are interested in collecting histories of their congregations. We have resources to guide your research and charts to help you organize your findings.

Our larger hope is to foster a renaissance of congregational histories that is deeply attentive both to the historic presence of marginalized communities within UUism and to the complex ways that our movement has both perpetuated and resisted structures of oppression and marginalization. To achieve this vision, we need as large and diverse a team of truth-tellers as possible, historians and archivists alike. We are also compiling a database of histories and archival resources for as many congregations as possible.

In addition to research, which is at one’s own pace, we are planning our first virtual meeting in the upcoming months. If interested, please fill out this poll so we can accommodate as many schedules as possible.

If you are interested in learning more or being added to our mailing list, please email Dan McKanan and Erin Aslami at

Reflections on Historical Research from John Buehrens

One of the many projects of the UU Studies Network continues an effort by its predecessor organization, the UU History and Heritage Society. We are attempting to identify, region by region, current congregational historians and archivists, along with online congregational histories in the Circle for Historians and Archivists. For a time, we had a seminarian coordinating this work. When my term as UUSN Treasurer is finished next summer, I will attempt to fill this role. I serve as the historian and archivist for the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco. Recently I completed a congregational history which should be out in January: A Religious Center with a Civic Circumference: Unitarians in San Francisco Since 1850, published by the congregation itself.

Since I have an extensive personal library relevant to Unitarian and Universalist history, I often respond to historical queries sent to the UUSN website or posted on our history-oriented listserve, uuhs-chat. You can easily sign up for that ongoing discussion group through the UUA website:

In the course of my own work as an archivist and historian, I have learned a good deal about how to research congregational events and individual UUs. In additional to the many books and biographies easily available online, I made considerable use of both and its related site, Although they charge for access, I found that results justified the expense.

I also learned when it makes sense to deposit congregational archives with a properly curated public archive. This can have many advantages, including making documents accessible to researchers who may be interested in issues that cross local and/or denominational lines. The existing UU archives at Meadville Lombard Theological School and Harvard Divinity School Library are extensive. State and regional historical societies might also be considered.

Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society Board 2022-2023


John Leeker, Chair
Dan McKanan, Secretary
John Buehrens, Treasurer
Kathleen Parker, Journal Editor ex officio
Connie Simon, Editor of the DUUB 
Phoebe Cos, Newsletter Editor
Chris Cameron, Board Member
Patrice Curtis, Board Member
Barbara Coeyman, Board Member
Barb Greve, Board Member
Clyde Grubbs, Board Member
Isaac May, Board Member

For the past three years, your UU Studies Network has worked to honor the rich history and traditions of the many organizations that have preceded it. Building upon the wisdom of these organizations and their communities, the UUSN has defined itself as a “mutually supportive collective” of scholars. Scholarship is never an individual project, but a communal and relational endeavor. The UUSN’s mission is to support this shared work.

Recently, the actions of a board member disrupted our mutually supportive collective. In early October, Jay Kiskel, a board member, contributed to the reckless posting online of an anonymously written article attacking a fellow board member. This action destroyed relationships, disrupted the ability of the board to serve our mission and our membership, and prevented the UUSN from, to quote our bylaws, “building a diverse multicultural scholarly community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” Following both our mission and our bylaws, the board voted to remove Jay Kiskel as a director of the UUSN on October 30. I share this with you as not only a requirement of our bylaws, but as a reflection of the board’s commitment to accountability to both its mission partners and members.

John Leeker

Chair of the UU Studies Network

Say hello to the New DUUB!


Work continues on our updated Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biographies website. We are still in the process of migrating existing articles to the new site and expect it to go live this winter. In the meantime, I’m excited to share a sneak peak of some of the new site’s features.

The new DUUB website features larger text and higher-resolution graphics, creating a less-cluttered, cleaner, and easier-to-read interface. It offers enhanced search functions over the previous site. You can view entries by categories Unitarians, Universalists, UUs, and Notable U/U Women. There’s also an “other” category that includes events, organizations, and other non-individual entries. Of course, you can also search by keyword. Search results will display all DUUB instances where your search criteria are found, including in the text of articles.
Results appear in alphabetical order by title. We’re also excited that the new DUUB contains quick links for you to contact us, contribute articles, learn about our publication guidelines and editorial process, and read about the history of the DUUB project.

The DUUB has grown over the years, and we are thrilled to migrate a total of 391 articles to the new site. We have approximately a dozen articles under review that we expect will be part of the launch and become the first featured biographies on the new site. There are another 38 articles assigned but not completed. We are reaching out to those authors to determine their

We would love to receive your submissions. There is a list of 510 suggested articles that do not have authors. Many of them are more obscure figures from our Unitarian and Universalist history and tend to be concentrated in nineteenth century New England but, as we know, that’s not our entire story! We have many stories to tell about the folks of all races, ethnicities, genders, and gender identities who have contributed to our faith. For example, the DUUB does
not contain articles about religious educator and innovator Sophia Lyon Fahs, Korean Universalist Ryongki Jio, African American Universalist minister Joseph Fletcher Jordan, Jared Sparks, Henry Ware, Josiah Bartlett, or Lewis Latimer, scientist and founding member of the Unitarian congregation in Flushing, New York. Click here for the full list. Do you see the name of someone you’re just itching to write about? Let us know! To submit an article or for more information about the DUUB, please contact us at

Journal News

Hello to our Readers! Hopefully by now you have had a chance to read some of the wonderful articles published in our recent Vol. 45 of the Journal of Unitarian Universalist Studies! Fred Muir’s featured piece on Unitarians and Universalists in the Eugenics Movement is revealing, disturbing, and heartbreaking. Kazimierz Bem shows us the dire struggle of the Polish Brethren, forced to leave Poland and find refuge among Amsterdam Remonstrants, where they felt only partially welcome. Paul Riedesel draws a fascinating connection between the Pietists in eighteenth-century Germany and the emergence of Universalist belief in North America.

We learn from our friends in Transylvania (Romania) of the repression they faced under the Ceausescu regime, with the imprisonment of Rev. Imre Gellérd, as told by his daughter, Judit. An informative background piece from Lehel Molnár and Sándor Kovács explains how Transylvanian Unitarians ended up in Romania after WWI. Arliss Ungar critiques the consequences of Freedom of the Pulpit at the Hollis Street Church. Finally, Carol Hepokoski tells the touching story of the Rev. Milma Lappala who served the Finnish immigrant church in Minnesota long after her husband died. If you have not yet read these worthwhile articles, perhaps these summary tidbits will spark your interest in doing so!

Meanwhile, we are in the process of gathering article submissions and book reviews for the spring 2023 issue of the journal (Vol 46)! We invite you to share with us the work you are doing! Please contact Kathleen Parker, Journal Editor, at

Dues Payment Required 

Your dues and donations support the larger work of connecting people in the study, analysis, interpretation, and understanding of Unitarian and Universalism, both past and present.
Dues are $50 for 1 year, $125 for 3 years; $30 for students and those on a limited income.

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Pay by Check made out to UUSN. Send to:

UU Studies Network 
c/o Meadville Lombard Theological School 
180 N Wabash Ave Suite 700 
Chicago, IL 60601
Provide the following information with your check payment.

  • New membership or renewal
  • Title
  • Name
  • Mailing address 
  • E-mail 
  • Phone number
  • Name, city and state of your UU Congregation (if any) 
  • Membership level (regular; student or limited income)
  • Amount of additional donation  

Your Membership dues and donations Support:

  • The editing and printing The Journal of Unitarian Universalist Studies, (which continues The Journal of Unitarian Universalist History)
  • The Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography, an ever-expanding online resource providing hundreds of detailed and well-researched biographies
  • The annual Conrad Wright Lecture at the UUA General Assembly, given by a distinguished scholar, this year Dr. Melissa Borja, a core faculty member in the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program at the University of Michigan
  • Student scholarships to the biennial Convocation of UU Studies
  • Prizes for student essays in UU history, publication of UU congregational histories, and for scholarship and translations about the Polish Brethren   
  • Efforts to network and support congregational historians and archivist.
  • The UU History Chat listserv, helping both scholars and everyday UUs with queries, interactive conversations and debates on a wide range of topics
  • A growing number of other online and virtual discussions