Today is the 116th anniversary of John Emerson Roberts’s departure from the Unitarian Church.  This move to leave the denomination and create his own “Church of this World” is what makes his an interesting story.  Without that move he would have been one of many successful liberal preachers in the denomination, hardly noticed in the world beyond.

In 1906, when Dr. Roberts decided to take a break from “the Church of this World” after nine years, a reporter for the Kansas City Journal declared that Roberts had fallen away from religion “because his name was Emerson.”  The writer (perhaps it was the paper’s editor) claimed that Roberts was imbued with “Emersonian mysticism.”  He didn’t address the fact that it was Dr. Roberts’s good Baptist parents who gave him this middle name.  Mysticism was not what led Dr. Roberts away from the denominations.  On the contrary, even the Unitarians had too much mysticism for his rational mind.

94933_CoverFrontThis June is also the second anniversary of the publication of my biography of Roberts.  A year ago I was giving talks about the book, which I enjoyed doing very much.  I had to admit, however, that the return on the cost of traveling was not worth it.  Through internet connections I did sell a few books, so this past winter I used LinkedIn ads to draw attention to this site when I posted selections from the book.  I got a nice increase in “views” but no sales.

I was ready to say, “Okay, I’ve done what I could.”  I’d sold some books.  I’d placed them in a few appropriate bookstores.  I’d sent review copies here, there and everywhere.  It seemed like time to put the project behind me.  Then two things happened this spring: the book was given a very favorable review in the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society Journal, and I was invited to write a short summary of Dr. Roberts’s success for Free Inquiry Magazine.  I wait to see what the 117th year since John Emerson Roberts left the Unitarian Church to create his “Church of this World” will bring.

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