Peter Tufts Richardson
I grew up in a household surrounded by shelves and piles of books, beginning my library at an early age. I was surrounded by teachers in my extended family, two grandparents and two aunts. My mother’s sister, Aunt Dot, taught English and through frequently corrected usage I learned the difference between “can” and “may,” “shall” and “will,” and the weakness of overusing “very.” In my generation the problem of using inappropriately “like” hadn’t yet surfaced. In high school I encountered an English teacher who actually required that we write on an almost daily basis!
In college as a history major with supporting courses in philosophy, political science and education and graduate courses preparing for the ministry, writing and research became a way of life. I wrote the first chapter of my MDiv thesis five times before it was right. There I developed a research style resembling more the action of a vacuum cleaner than a linear path to a preordained goal. Creative juxtaposition of insights prevailed over a pinched attention to details.
The ministry of religion resulted in over 1200 sermons added to numerous meditations, newsletter columns and occasional productions. My first two books came out of this practice. At the nation’s Bicentennial, disturbed by the false claims of evangelicals that the founders of the United States were Biblically motivated, I preached a series of six sermons resulting in The Spiritual Founders of Our Constitution (1987). Meditations/prayers spoken during my 16 years serving the First Parish in Kennebunk, Maine, resulted in Meditations In A Maine Meeting House (1986) Both these books benefited by my camera work as well, an important adjunct to my ministry. It is estimated that the American public absorbs well over half its information via visual images.
This combination continued with my book, Sunday Meditations (2009), with 102 photographs to accompany 65 meditations spoken in worship for Kennebunk and Andover, MA. I was pleasantly surprised to find my poetry had greatly improved in the decades since 1984! Writing as a spiritual practice does deepen our reflections.
In 1989 I qualified to administer the MBTIÔ (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), the most widely used psychological instrument, based in psychologist, Carl Jung’s, personality typology. I then surveyed the literature on type and spirituality, finding there were no sources embracing all traditions of world religion. Thus I wrote Four Spiritualities (1996), published by Consulting Psychologists Press, publisher of the MBTIÔ. It sold nearly 11,000 copies and went out of print, December 2010.
During a decade of conducting workshops and lectures on the Four Spiritualities I discovered participants were learning by experiencing the four patterns as present within themselves, not by imposing labels upon behavioral observations. This indicated to me that the Four Spiritualities and likely psychological type itself is archetypical. Behind a multitude of motifs, myths, narratives and practices is the universal inner archetype from which they all derive. Long before the alphabet and written scriptures how were the Four Spiritualities expressed? I found each of the elements of the archetype described and documented by students of religious symbolism, Eliade, Jung, Campbell and others. But none had seen the system as a whole, as a model for spiritual growth, dating back into our human beginnings. Elements of the archetype are present everywhere: earth, sky, sun, moon and the tree of life, embodied in the serpentine human spine. Looking through my photographic travel images in many countries I found I had already documented the archetype, really an archetype complex. I consider Archetype of the Spirit (2007) my most important discovery (together with its 108 illustrations).
In 2001, revised in 2007, I created a workshop leader manual, Growing Your Spirituality, now out of print, to be used with Four Spiritualities and Archetype of the Spirit.
I discovered the deep history of Unitarianism in Boston while an undergraduate at Tufts. Inheriting eight of the original nine Puritan churches and the city’s oldest Anglican and Presbyterian churches, the Unitarians founded 74 societies within the city limits. Such a concentration not only gave leadership to the wider Unitarian movement but to American culture as well in literature and the humanities, war and peace, education, architecture and commerce. The New England Renaissance and the Transcendentalist movement only added to the city’s reputation as “the Athens of America” and “the Preacher’s Paradise.” The Boston Religion (2003) is a study of how an open, liberal, democratically governed, “un-sectarian sect” can journey towards “a multi-faith faith” in an urban environment.
The Boston Religion brought me an invitation to deliver the Minns Lectures for 2005. Renamed and annotated the lectures became Exploring Unitarian Universalist Identity (2006). Chapters introduce the religion’s leadership, its polity, the Transcendentalist emergence, and the stages of development to a multi-faith globally-embracing orientation today.
It takes time to mature a philosophy of religion. New this fall is Journey Beyond God with discussions “Alone,” “Together,” “Between” and “Among,” in a context of a humanist naturalist perspective. Of course it includes 35 of my photographs giving it nuance and enjoyment.
Writing plans going forward include publishing the local father-son Ingraham Journals (1795-1875) here in Rockland, ME, with an interpretive essay, and a study of the Universalists and Unitarians in Maine. There may have been as many as 400 local congregations in the state. An essay will document the central role of Unitarians in founding the State of Maine and the Universalists in a transforming influence in Protestant theology. To date I have gathered over 240 photographs of buildings constructed and occupied by Universalist and Unitarian congregations. A memoir is in the works to be shared with family and friends.
Peter Tufts Richardson
As a young adult, I found myself very involved with the First Parish Church in Concord, MA, Unitarian Universalist. As well as playing the organ and choir directing, I found a day job as administrative assistant to the minister there. As Concord’s 350th Anniversary approached, members of the church decided to publish a history of that congregation, and I volunteered to write the chapter on “Music in the Meetinghouse.” Research was tremendous fun, and my chapter was well-reviewed.
Two years later my husband Peter encouraged me to revisit a paper written in 1963 when I was 16. That winter, my mother took me from Massachusetts to Vinalhaven, ME, where we had summered for generations, to search out survivors of Hurricane Island’s granite-quarrying village. I interviewed a woman who had lived on Hurricane when it was up and running. She died two years later, and I realized I had rescued some very important memories.
When I decided to turn it into a book, I tracked down another woman whose father had been caretaker on Hurricane after the granite company left. She and her nine brothers and sisters had the run of a ghost town. The resulting book, Hurricane Island: The Town that Disappeared, was completed in 1988. I wrote it for sailing families like mine, for anyone who had spent time on Hurricane Island, and for people who were just plain interested in the history of a ghost town.
Three years later I resigned from my job at a local newspaper to interview families for North Haven Summers, a history of the summer community on the island of North Haven, ME. I rowed from house to house with a copy stand on the stern seat of my rowboat, and photographed pictures from family albums. And I asked people for stories they told sitting on high porches over quiet coves, where they sip glasses of bourbon in those long summer twilights.
My grandmother told me how her parents had been among the first to arrive, and to build a summer cottage on the Vinalhaven shore. Later I interviewed my parents, and 90 other families, gathering familiar stories, and some that were new to me. Because it was written from the heart, I consider this my best work.
The same year North Haven Summers first came out, 1992, Peter accepted a call to a new ministry in Andover, MA, and like many minister’s partners I was cast adrift, with no work credentials locally. But the second year we were there, the local Historical Society approached me to write a 350th Anniversary history of Andover! A committee had outlined the chapter titles, but none of them had time or the patience to write it. They hired me to write for a year, and they took charge of selling the book: Andover—A Century of Change 1896-1996.
After that it was a long time before I wrote another book. Years of organ-playing and organ building intervened. Peter and I retired to Rockland, Maine, in 2002. In walks up and down our new street, I noticed the resemblance of all the houses on Mechanic Street to ours. Having gotten involved with the Rockland Historical Society, I began to research the houses one by one. The treasure hunt was on. As the neighbors realized I was serious, they began to step forward with family trees, stories, and wonderful old photographs. Although I was writing this book mainly for my neighbors, I called it Mechanic Street: Uncovering the History of a Maine Neighborhood, because the resources and puzzles in such research are universal.
I printed hardcover for families who wanted an archival quality record, and paperback so they could buy copies for their children. I have about 900 names in the index! Nearly everyone in Rockland has a family connection on Mechanic Street, or knows someone there. There is a great deal of genealogical information on local families in the book.
I’d like to think I’m done with writing books, but there is that shoebox of 19th century family journals upstairs, opening an amazing window on daily life in our own neighborhood 150 years ago, plus a lot of really old family papers. So a joint project with Peter is not out of the question…
Eleanor Motley Richardson