Friday, April 30, 2010

Growing Potters

One of my favorite stories from our Universalist heritage is the story of Thomas Potter and John Murray. You can read a dozen versions of it elsewhere, but the gist? John Murray was a Universalist minister in England - but life got really horrendously awful. We're talking Job, here. He set sail for America, to lose himself in a new land. The ship gets within sight of the New Jersey coastline and they're stuck. Murray goes ashore to barter with someone for supplies and meets Thomas Potter who just happens to be a Universalist and has BUILT A CHURCH and has been waiting for a minister to come along. Murray shakes his head. "Not your guy, sorry." Potter tries to wrangle something out of him and it just isn't working--but he finally gets the glum man to agree -- if the wind hasn't changed and the ship is still stuck? Yeah, fine. We'll have a service Sunday.

Thank goodness that the wind didn't change. Murray went on to spend the next 39 years spreading the good word of Universalism in the colonies (and soon, the fledgling nation.)

As cool as Murray was, I keep coming back to Thomas Potter. This illiterate farmer had done some thinking and decided that Universalism made a lot of sense to him. But there was no Universalist church anywhere near, so he built a church on his land...and waited. (In the mean time, he let other groups use the church, with or without ministers.)

How can we develop Potters in our congregations? People who are willing to do the hard work, to create a sacred space and invite in change, wrestling with others' reluctance to bring forth their prophetic voices?

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