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Not Even the Dead Will Be Safe: Dangerous UU Histories

Guest Speaker: Mr. John Leeker, Archivist, Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Unitarian Universalist history is often imagined as a series of famous names on a timeline: William Ellery Channing begets Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson begets Henry David Thoreau, and so on and so on.  Or, it is told as a series of successes as part of an ever more just world: abolitionism, women’s rights, civil rights and now gay rights.  Neither of these frameworks, however, fully expresses the history of Unitarian Universalism.  John Leeker will explore Unitarian Universalist history through a perspective informed by the philosophy of Walter Benjamin and various theologies of liberation to help create new histories.  These histories, to use a phrase from Benjamin, thrust themselves into our present as a “moment of danger” that opens us to new possibilities of being.

John Leeker, in addition to his position as Archivist at Meadville Lombard, is Secretary-Treasurer of UU Collegium, and Treasurer of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association.  At the University of Chicago, he studied American religious history, writing a thesis on how Catholic women organized themselves within male dominated religious structures.  He received his Master’s degree there.  As a UU archivist, he works at the intersection of historical memory and social justice.  He believes that the past can help us find a prophetic voice for the future.