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I've loved the view from 25

The neighborhood has been an incalculable bonus working for the UUA on Beacon Hill.
By Christopher L. Walton
Spring 2013 2.15.13

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Chris Walton (© Nancy Pierce/UUA)

UU World editor Christopher L. Walton. (Nancy Pierce)

The first Unitarian Universalist congregation I joined met in a classic New England meetinghouse with columns on its portico and a wind vane on its steeple. But the church wasn’t in New England: it was in Salt Lake City, Utah. When I started attending, in 1991, First Unitarian Church was celebrating its centennial, in a building it had constructed in 1927. The Rev. Tom Goldsmith, who had served two Massachusetts parishes before coming to Utah, liked gently mocking Unitarianism’s Boston roots. In his stories, Unitarianism “east of the Charles River” was the stuffy homeland, the hidebound establishment the Transcendentalists and humanists had rebelled against. Yet our church’s New England-ness was part of its appeal, and its youth still visit the stuffy homeland on Coming of Age heritage trips.

I have worked a dozen years on the fifth floor of 25 Beacon Street, the headquarters the American Unitar­ian Association built in Boston the same year Salt Lake Unitarians moved into their church. They feel like kindred spaces. My job’s perks include unsurpassable views of the city’s skyline and Boston Common. I watched thousands gather for the inauguration of Governor Deval Patrick in 2007 from a vantage point so close that after I opened my window to take a picture, a swat team member paid me a visit. Oops.

For me, the neighborhood has been an incalculable bonus. But I often wear my scarf in my office as I listen, sometimes in vain, for the clanging that heralds steam in the radiator. As much as I’ve loved working on Beacon Hill, I can appreciate President Peter Morales’s quest for a modern headquarters, about which we’ve been reporting for almost two years. Don’t miss Richard Higgins’s cover story, “Farewell, 25 Beacon St.?” (page 22), which explores the symbolic meanings and real limitations of “25”; and you can see more of John Benford’s beautiful photos of the UUA’s buildings at flickr.com/uuworld.

Another perk of working for the UUA is the chance to take a paid sabbatical. The magazine staff put this issue together without our managing editor Kenneth Sutton, who is taking a well-earned sabbatical after ten years on the staff. We can’t wait to have him back, but are grateful for the freelance editors who helped us in his absence: the Rev. Laura Randall, who edited the Spirit section; copyeditors Sara Burke and Stephanie Franzosa; and proofreader Jenny Albert.

Corrections: A profile of First Parish in Bedford, Massachusetts, failed to mention that its four choirs are led not just by music director Brad Conner but also by youth choir director Janet Welby (Winter 2012, page 37).

A profile of the Rev. Dr. Judith Campbell, whose mystery novels feature a minister-sleuth named Olympia Brown, wrongly identified the character’s nineteenth-century namesake as a Unitarian minister (Winter 2012, page 60). Brown was a Universalist.

A photo caption perpetuated a legend about the origins of the UUA’s United Nations Office (Winter 2012, page 62). Adlai Stevenson II, a UU who served as United States ambassador to the UN, did correspond with UUA President Dana Greeley, but there is no record of his urging the UUA to set up an office at the UN.

This article appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of UU World (page 3).

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