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A History of USSS

From the website of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard University, written by The Rev. Frank Robertson:

In 1811, Unitarian ministers and lay leaders in Boston began to establish schools meeting on Sundays for poor children they called “Sabbath” schools. By 1826, several such schools had been established by them in their churches and in separate chapels. On December 16, 1826, the teachers of the Franklin Sabbath School urged J.F. Flagg to organize a meeting of leaders from the various Unitarian parishes who sponsored such schools so that they could coordinate their outreach efforts. The Boston Sunday School Society grew out of the first meeting he organized in January of 1827 and a series of subsequent meetings. Dr. Joseph Tuckerman, a Unitarian Minister-At-Large, became the first president. By 1831, the word “Boston” was dropped from the name as the rapid development of Sunday schools for both poor children and for the members of Unitarian churches spread beyond the city. The organization was simply called “The Sunday School Society” until 1868 when it changed its name to The Unitarian Sunday School Society.

The Society published numerous books for Sunday schools and took over the publication of a children’s periodical, first published by a group of Unitarian ministers in Worcester in 1849 called “The Sunday School Gazette.” The name of the periodical was changed to “Dayspring” in 1872, and again to “Every Other Sunday” in 1885, and again to “The Beacon” in 1912. In 1911, the Society transferred its functions of sponsoring teacher training conferences and publishing Sunday school materials to the Department of Religious Education of the American Unitarian Association and continued as a foundation, using the income from its endowment to provide grants in support of special religious education projects. At that time, its officers also served on the A.U.A.’s Religious Education Committee and its president, Dr. William Lawrence, became head of the Department of Religious Education. 



To this we add:


Today, the Unitarian Sunday School Society continues to provide grants in support of religious education projects not originating with the Unitarian Universalist Association’s own religious education arm. The Board of Directors, made up of active religious educators, meets two times annually to award grants to a variety of projects, all of which also apply for funds from other sources. The USSS pays close attention to what curricula and resources the UUA Lifespan Faith Development department is planning, and attempts to fund curricula, resources, and other projects that further the aim of promoting Unitarian Universalist religious education for congregations and individuals.


To view specific holdings of USSS at Harvard, please visit .

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