Universalists Celebrate 150 Years

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Copy of Copy of Copy of ThumbnailTemplateDONOTSAVEOVER copy 2ST. JOHNSBURY - January marked the 150'th year anniversary of the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of St. Johnsbury. Brendan Hadash, who served as the reverend for 19 years, commemorated the church's founding by portraying Reverend Tracy R. Spencer in a sermon. Spencer was the first minister to preach in St. Johnsbury, when the church opened in 1868.

 Unlike most churches, which welcome people of a particular religion, the Universalist church welcomes everyone. "If all the people in the world are destined for heaven, then of course, a church that welcomes Buddhists, and Jews, Native Americans, Hindus, and even Atheists, makes perfect sense."

It's a community that resides on the foundations of acceptance and respect. This can be seen on the walls of the building, which are decorated in the flags of various religions, beliefs, and cultures. This can be read in the Congregation's Seven Principles, which outline the compassion that members must possess for one another. And this can be heard in the weekly sermons, delivered by ministers past such as Hadash, and the minister present, Susan Lynn-Johns.

According to Hadash, the belief of this church is that there are no right or wrong beliefs; there's only one thing that truly matters. "Basically, if you sum up the message of the church, love is the only doctrine we have."

Unfortunately, Hadash believes the Universalist practice to be widely unknown. Since 1950, the Congregation has not consisted of much more than 50 members. He joked that over his years of service, he saw an annual 20 percent increase in attendance, and although that sounds impressive, it was three people. "Not many people know about us because we don't push our religion. If all we believe in is loving one another, we don't want to knock on peoples' doors and bother them, we don't want to annoy people." Nevertheless, Hadash is hopeful that the word will continue to get out, and that more and more people will become apart of the community. 

Hadash concluded his sermon with this final message to his audience, "This Universalist Unitarian Congregation has a message that needs to be heard: love is the doctrine of this church, it's the only doctrine of this church, and it's the only thing that you need to believe. Go forth and share this message, and I have a firm belief that this church will grow and thrive throughout the next 150 years."

And just as Reverend Spencer had predicted, the Congregation is still growing and thriving, all this time later.