This world. This place. This life.

Finding “Bright Galaxy”


One of our assignments for UU History class was to prepare a class presentation about our home congregation’s history.  I chose to look at the Anchorage UU Fellowship’s history through the lens of its origins in the Fellowship Movement.

I had previously read two UU World articles about TFM earlier.  The story of the Boulder Fellowship’s beginnings still rings in my ears (“You’ll have to do it yourself.”)

As I returned to those articles, I noticed a reference to Bright Galaxy, a book about TFM published in 1960.  Intrigued, I tried to track it down online.  No luck.

Meanwhile, my interest in TFM was growing.  A tiny spark was becoming a flame, and conversations during my first two days at Meadville last week fanned the fire.

Then last Tuesday the Meadville students hosted a pizza party at the historic Meadville-Lombard building that was recently sold to the University of Chicago.

Curious, I took a self-directed tour.  In the library I found a small bookshelf, piled high and overflowing with stacks of books.  Above it a sign said, “Free Books.”  (ML is paring down in preparation for its move.)

Sitting on top, right at eye level, was Bright Galaxy.

In the months leading up to this class, I’d planned to write my final paper on pluralism, trying to answer for myself the question of how this tradition, with its Christian origins, had become the theologically diverse faith it is today.

Finding Bright Galaxy, and continuing conversations with my classmates, changed that plan.  Now I’m writing about the Fellowship Movement–what was hoped for, what went wrong, what we can learn from the experience.

On the plane home from Chicago, Bright Galaxy was my companion.  Somewhere over Alberta I read that Laile Bartlett, the author, considered the Plymouth Brethren to be one of the spiritual forbears of the Fellowship Movement.  I spent the first 20 years of my life among the Plymouth Brethren.

There is a deep satisfaction when life folds over on itself, and the past is suddenly useful.

5 thoughts on “Finding “Bright Galaxy”

  1. It’s a fun read, too, if I well remember. Shame it’s so hard to find now.

  2. Oh man! I missed the free book grab. I agree with Scott. My memory is of a fun read…

  3. I wonder if the lay-led aspect will have any resonance with your Plymouth Brethren roots? Maybe not, because the foundations are so theologically different (or does theology really matter to why a congregation works?)

    I went looking just now and found another reference that you probably already know, Holly Ulbrich The Fellowship Movement, 2008.

  4. @Adam–They’re really pruning their books. Almost every floor of the library had stacks of books free for the taking. I could have used a week in Chicago just to sort through them. Sigh.

    @Tom–Deep resonance. I’ve left behind most of that theology, but certain aspects still make sense to me. PBs have an aversion to “one-man ministry” that speaks to current reality among UUs. Why would a congregation want to hand over leadership to one person? Or listen to that one person week after week, year after year?

  5. Pingback: Boy in the Bands - Orphan works and Unitarian Universalism

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