A Vision Splendid is the biography of William Jellie (1865-1963), a pioneering Unitarian minister and educator and a key figure in the history of Unitarianism in New Zealand.
In a world where religion is increasingly associated with hatred, bigotry, fanaticism, violence and misogyny, Jellie’s story provides an alternative – a vision splendid – where values rooted in the liberal religious tradition are the very ones required to promote social justice, protect the powerless and reduce social and economic inequality. It is a story we can turn to for inspiration as we continue to work for fairness in society, equality of opportunity, and the enrichment of the human spirit.
Jellie who was born in Ireland and educated at London University and Manchester College, Oxford began his career as minister to a Unitarian chapel and associated mission in an impoverished part of London. After a brief ministry in a quiet provincial town, he was ready for another challenge. Attracted by New Zealand’s reputation for progressive social and economic reform, in 1900 he took on the leadership of a fledgling Unitarian movement in Auckland. Apart from a war time ministry in England he remained in New Zealand for the rest of his life, serving congregations in Auckland, Wellington, and Timaru.
At nearly sixty years of age, at a time when many people start to think about retirement, Jellie began a new career in adult education. For the next fourteen years he was a tutor for the Workers Educational Association, an organization providing higher education to working-class people and trade union members unable to attend university.
Throughout his long life Jellie lived out the Unitarian values of freedom of thought, tolerance, commitment to social justice and the use of reason in religion. This is a fascinating account of how those values were articulated in his own life and the lives of those he came into contact with in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
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