This week, children in the preschool and elementary classes at 11:00 heard the story of John Murray. This story comes from our second source: Stories from the women and men of long ago and today whose lives remind us to be kind and fair.
Each story begins with an underlay. As we open it up to create our story space, we wonder aloud with the children what it might represent. "What could this be? It could be a big blue book. Maybe it’s a big blue box? Sky is often blue. Maybe it’s the sky? The ocean can be blue. I think it’s the ocean."
Two green strips of felt were added. These could be land. One shore on each side of a large ocean. This is a story told about a boy who was born on one of these shores who when he became a man took the long journey to the other shore.
This boy’s name was John Murray. John became a minister when he grew up. He rode around from city to city teaching people how to love each other and love God. Many of the people where John lived believed that God punished people, sometimes in horrible ways. They also believed that God only cared about a very few people
But John couldn’t believe that God was angry and punished people. In fact he was certain that God was loving. He also had a hard time believing that God only loved a few people. God was so big and so loving, John was certain that God loved all people.
John traveled around letting people know that God loved them, and that God loved all people, and that God wasn’t angry and wasn’t going to punish them. But people couldn’t always believe John. They would get so angry at him that they would tell him to leave their towns.
John finally decided that he was finished with preaching. He had many sad things happen to him and on top of that people didn’t like hearing that God loved them.
John decided that he wasn’t going to preach anymore. He also decided that he was going to leave his country, which was England, and take the long journey to America.
John got a job on a boat which was sailing for America. It was a long trip.
Meanwhile there was a man in America, named Potter. Potter was a farmer who owned a lot of land.
Potter had been having the strangest dreams. He began to think that God was talking to him in his dreams.
Mr. Potter had a dream in which God told him that he needed to build a church building on his land, near the ocean and that God would send a preacher who would come and preach from that pulpit. God also told Mr. Potter that the preacher would preach a wonderful message of love that would change people’s hearts.
Mr. Potter did as he was told in the dream. He built a church building. And then he waited.
The Boat on which John Murray was sailing finally made it to America but the water got shallow and the boat got stuck just off shore. They had been traveling for a long time and had begun to run out of food. So the captain of the ship asked John to go ashore and buy some food to bring back to the boat.
John came to shore. And where was he? He was on Mr. Potter’s land and he ran into Mr. Potter.
And Potter met John saying the strangest thing. He said, “You are the preacher who will speak the good news from the pulpit I have built.” John didn’t know about Mr. Potter’s dream that he was to build a chapel and that a preacher would come and preach God’s love. But as strange as it all was, John liked Mr. Potter and spoke with the man for a long time. He finally admitted that he was a minister and though at first he didn’t want to, John finally agreed to preach that Sunday.
That Sunday he climbed into the pulpit and told the people there to go out and give people a glimpse of God’s love. “Give them not hell but hope….” John didn’t stay with Mr. Potter but he did stay in America and he did start preaching again. He founded many churches devoted to spreading the message of love.
We end our story with some wondering questions. These questions are to remind us to wonder, and not usually ones we have answers to. "I wonder if John was ever scared that people wouldn’t like what he was telling them? I wonder if Mr. Potter ever worried that the preacher would never come? I wonder if you have ever had a dream like Mr. Potter’s? I wonder what other ways God speaks to people?"
John Murray and Thomas Potter believed in God's love for all people. They helped to found the Universalist Church in the United States. We remember our Universalist ancestors for their bravery, in believing in the goodness of peoople and the power of love.
adapted from the Spirit Play Story "John Murray Coming to America"