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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

CLF: Church of the Larger Fellowship

(Photo by Jonathunder) 
Back in the 1800s, itinerant Unitarian ministers were dispatched from Boston to the American Midwest.  Their goal was to spread the liberal Unitarian message via written materials that "were carried on foot and horseback, house to house, and to Civil War soldiers in their camps."

This "Post Office Mission" soon caught on, and was looked upon as a "church without walls" by the early twentieth century.  This "church" was formally launched by Rev. William Channing Gannett in 1904, and was named the "Church of All Souls."

Rev. Frederick May Eliot then expanded upon the concept.  Members of this church without walls would now be "active participants in the life, governance, and the financial support of the society…"  The church would also have a minister for pastoral correspondence.

This Unitarian CLF was officially founded in May 1944.  Its stated purpose was twofold:  "To provide a spiritual home for isolated Unitarians and their families, and to transfer the allegiance of its members to local Unitarian churches whenever and wherever possible."

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) began in 1961 when the two "U's" merged.  After that, their individual CLF's also joined together.  Today it is still going (and growing) strong.  An educational component also developed; it began as a "Church School by Mail" program and is now an "Independent Study Program."

These days, the CLF also offers a "Directed Discussion Course" (featuring "interactive religious learning") - as well as "a variety of youth publications and a handbook for ceremonies of marriage, baby dedications, and memorial services."


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