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Reading the Gospels with Bernard Loomer: The Origin of the Interdependent Web

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Most Unitarian Universalists are likely aware of the principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association that calls for the affirmation of “the Interdependent Web of Existence, of which we are all a part.” But how many are aware of the the web by theologian Bernard Loomer?  Loomer, former professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, believed that Jesus was the first “discoverer of the Web of Relationship,” whose attributes he attempted to describe as the “Kingdom of God.”  

The Harvard Square Library is proud to make widely available for the first time Loomer’s most complete and accessible teachings related to the Web, which he believed to contain the “resources for living an abundantly meaningful life.” In the Spring of 1984, and then again in 1985, Loomer conducted a series of discussions based on passages from the gospels for the First Unitarian Church in Berkeley, where his wife, Jeanne Wennerstrom, was an active member and trustee. These casual seminars were Loomer’s last acts as well as labors of great love. He even briefly left the hospital, only days before his death, to teach his last class, speaking about how once one grasps the unity of the Web, all “fearsomeness is gone.” 

You will find the transcripts from these seminars published here as “Unfoldings” and “Unfoldings Two.” In them you will find not only Loomer’s lively discussion of the gospels, but special sections related to Easter, the development of the qualities of religious community, and reflections on power (for him, one sign of appreciation of the Web is the exchange of unilateral, hierarchical power for horizontal, relational power). 

For those wanting to go into even greater depth, we are also making available here a previously unpublished manuscript “Christology,” where Loomer makes a extensive reflection on Jesus’s nature and death. For Loomer, Jesus’s death released a new manifestation of God’s power into the world. Where before his death Jesus represented a special incarnation of the spirit of God as an individual, after Easter Sunday, that power came to belong to as well as constitute religious community. As he writes in “On Christology,”:   “From my point of view, the term ‘resurrection’ must be used figuratively. The term has reference to the idea that the Holy  Spirit, the power of God, became not present but manifest and released in the lives of the disciples and the early Christians.” 

 

We are grateful to the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley for permission to reproduce these materials here.

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