“My Position as an Abolitionist They Could Not Bear”: The Brief Newburyport Ministry of Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Jan 29, 2023

Sermon by Dr. Sandra Harbert Petrulionis

Good morning! Thank you to Rev. Rebecca, Justin, and others for inviting and hosting me at this morning’s service. I’m excited to be in Newburyport for my very first visit.

And I’m honored to be here on one of your Justice Sundays, an initiative that would have absolutely pleased my subject today, whose view on both the church leaders’ and America’s hesitancy toward social reform in 1847 is expressed on the cover of your program: “Lo! the work is not done—the world is not reformed, it is not regenerated.”1 As we all well know, one hundred seventy-six years later, we are still at this important work.

At 23 years old, Thomas Wentworth Higginson was ordained to the Unitarian ministry here in this building, in September 1847. He resigned that position exactly two years and one day later.

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