Emerson and Schweitzer: What do they have in common?

The title of this conference includes mention of two of the most influential thinkers on the Unitarian movements in the United States and Germany, respectively:  Ralph Waldo Emerson and Albert Schweitzer.  Neither founded new congregations, nor were they very concerned with denominational affairs.  Yet both of these men offered ideas that were transformative for Unitarians around the globe.

Although Emerson had a brief career as a Unitarian Minister, his influence and legacy are more related to his general writings, which emphasise connection with Nature and the importance of direct experience in matters of religion.  These were key ideas in American Transcendentalism and also provided new direction for Unitarianism in the United States.

Albert Schweitzer emphasised the role of nature, as well as the notion of reverence of life as a basis for ethics.  Although Schweitzer’s Unitarian membership is highly contested, his ideas have continued to have a lasting impact on Unitarians in America as well as in Germany, as being an articulate and inspiring voice of liberal religion.

Emerson and Schweitzer represent the intersection of German and American liberal religious thought that has formed and shaped individual lives as well as the liberal religious movement we know as Unitarianism.  It is not that the denominational interests of Unitarianism were central to their own hearts, but the other way around.  It is their lasting influence on Unitarianism that leaves them so loved, quoted, and claimed as part of a tradition.

Unitarianism in Germany continues to be very similar to Unitarianism in the United States, and yet so different.  One of the goals of this conference is to explore this movement in light of different cultural and historical contexts.  With professors and pastors, students and seekers, please join us for an enlightening look at this small but exciting form of liberal religion, and what it looks like on both sides of the pond.

Lecturer: Rev. Eric Hausman, Unitarian and Universalist Church of Charlotte, USA