- Unitarian Universalism Connection
Rev. Jeffrey W. Campbell was a Black minister who dedicated his many talents first to the Universalist denomination and then to the Unitarian Universalist denomination. Despite years of service, excellent references, and a quick mind, Rev. Campbell never found a full-time ministry. Instead, he had to defend himself and his sister from overtly racist attacks and subtle rebukes. His sister Marguerite Campbell, was a Black lay leader . She worked for the Universalist Christian Association and then the Unitarian Universalist Association.
We are asking for funds to create a marker to commemorate the service that Rev. Jeffrey W. Campbell and Marguerite Campbell did on behalf of Universalism and Unitarian Universalism despite the persistent racism they faced. Both Rev. Campbell and Marguerite Campbell are buried in Edgewood Cemetery in Nashua, NH. The plot for their graves has no marker We have secured the blessings of Jeffrey Campbell’s two daughters for the erection of this marker; Marguerite Campbell herself did not have any children.
This past spring, members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua formed a study group to research the life and achievements of Jeffrey and Marguerite Campbell. As members of the Unitarian Universalist Church that is the direct descendant of the Universalist Church that Jeffrey and Marguerite Campbell joined a century earlier, we were grieved to learn of the treatment that these two leaders faced in the course of their ministry. We also grieved at the extent to which the Campbells’ legacy goes unrecognized within Unitarian Universalism. In contrast, their alma mater, St. Lawrence University, there is a faculty fellowship named in honor of Jeffrey Campbell. At the Putney School in Vermont, there is the Jeffrey Campbell theater, that honors his decades of excellent teaching, teaching that Campbell performed while also working as an unpaid on-call minister.
This marker celebrating these two Universalist and Unitarian Universalist leaders will not excuse the past racism of our faith, nor will it correct this record. However, this marker will bring to the center Black history that our faith has so far been content to leave in the history books. By highlighting the careers of past Black Universalist and Unitarian Universalist leaders, this project seeks to fulfill the recent call by Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism and UUA Rev. President Susan Frederick-Gray to decenter whiteness within our faith.
This spring, we will hold two Sunday services that will honor the lives and works Rev. Jeffrey Campbell and Marguerite Campbell: one at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, the other at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brattleboro. At those services, we will announce the date of the ceremony in which we will install the markers honoring the Campbells. We will have representatives of both churches at the ceremony. Members of other faith communities in Nashua have expressed interest in attending. We will also invite leaders of the local Black community and leaders at the UUA.
In addition to sharing this new memorial with our congregations, we will announce the creation of this memorial in the following media:
- Local newspapers
- The social network profiles our churches
- UU World
We will spend money that we raise from this Faithify campaign in the following ways:
- The purchase of a marker that fits the requirements of Edgewood Cemetery
- The purchase of engraving that honors the service of Rev. Jeffrey Campbell and Marguerite Campbell
- The purchase of the labor required to install, properly, the marker at Edgewood Cemetery
- The ceremonial installation of the marker and the following reception
- We will donate any funds that remain after these expenses to Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism
John Hurley, author of a short biography of Rev. Jeffrey Campbell and Marguerite Campbell, writes: “Universalism, Unitarianism and Unitarian Universalism turned their backs on Jeffrey Worthington Campbell, never recognizing the gifts he could have brought to their ministry. And despite that failure of courage and imagination on the part of church leaders, Campbell never into bitterness and never regretted his call to ministry.” Indeed, late in his life Rev. Campbell wrote in a letter, “I would still undertake the call had I my life to relive.” His, and Marguerite’s, perseverance and dedication to our faith contains many lessons, lessons that we are finally taking the time to learn.