Category Archives: 2012 Conference Papers

Alfred Cole Unmasked

Alfred Cole Unmasked:

The Provenance of the Universalist Preaching Commission

Jay Atkinson ©2012


The Universalist Preaching Commission, “Go out into the highways and by-ways . . .Give them, not hell, but hope and courage”—long attributed to John Murray—is shown to have been written by Alfred S. Cole in 1950.  The source of the misattribution is identified as a 1962 book by Henry Cheetham, and the trajectory of the misattribution’s subsequent transmission into the circles of Unitarian Universalist legend is traced.  In addition, the aptness of Cole’s words as an accurate expression of the thought of Murray and of Zeitgeist of the late eighteenth century is examined and found wanting in significant historical and theological respects.  The paper concludes with some reflections on how contemporary canons of historiography, especially within UU circles, foster the proliferation of such misattributions and what scholars should consider in moving toward more responsible practices in the writing of UU history.


This paper, in revised form, may be found in:

The Journal of Unitarian Universalist History XXXVII (2013-2014), pp. 100-125.

2012 Papers

 Jay Atkinson Alfred Cole Unmasked: The Provenance of the Universalist Preaching Commission
 George Kimmich Beach “What’s Past Is Prologue”: James Luther Adams and the Unitarian Universalists
 Barbara Coyeman Woman’s Rights Reformer, First Ordained Universalist Woman, and Doctor of Water Cure
 Avery “Pete” Guest Why a Liberal Religion Had So Much Trouble Being Liberal: The Universalists and the 1845 Antislavery Protest
 Mark Morrison-Reed Selma Revisited
 Kathleen R. Parker “The Scientific Spirit in Religion” –Rev. L. Walter Mason in the Inter-War Years
 Sheri Prud’homme Jane Leade: Dancing With Paradise
 Jane Rosecrans Unitarian Universalism and Christianity: Perceptions and Responses to the Presence of Christians in UU Churches
 David Tarbell Analysis and Commentary of “Incomplete Nature” by Terrence Deacon
 Arliss Ungar The Honorable Horace Davis (1831-1916): Flour Merchant, Congressman, Educator, Unitarian Lay Leader