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The New Massachusetts Universalist Convention


The Off-Center Cross

The Off-Center Cross The circle, a traditional symbol of infinity because it has no beginning or end, represents the universe. The empty space at the center represents the mystery at the heart of the universe that people call "God."  The cross represents Christianity, out of which Universalism grew, and which is the path toward God that most religious people in North America are brought up to follow; but it is placed off-center, to leave room for other points of view and to acknowledge the validity of other paths toward God.

The off-center cross was invented in late April, 1946, in a hotel room in Akron, Ohio, during the Universalist General Assembly, where a number of Universalist ministers pooled their ideas. Among those present were Albert Ziegler, Richard Knost, Fred Harrison, and Gordon McKeeman.

Here is how two of the symbols' originators later described it.

The circle is drawn to represent the all-inclusive faith of universalism which shuts no one out. In that circle is placed the cross, symbolizing the beloved faith out of which our wider insight has grown. We feel that universalism is not the product of any one cultural or religious tradition, but is in fact implicit in all the great faiths ... we consider ourselves to be "Universalists of Christian descent."

--Albert Ziegler, Christian Leader, December 7, 1946, p. 558

The Circle is a symbol of infinity--a figure without beginning or end.
The Cross is the symbol of Christianity. It is placed off-center in the circle of infinity to indicate that Christianity is an interpretation of infinity but neither the only interpretation of the infinite nor necessarily for all people, the best one. It leaves room for other symbols and other interpretations. It is, therefore, a symbol of Universalism.

--Gordon McKeeman to Ronald and Jesslyn Bartlett,
members of First Parish Universalist Church, Stoughton, in 1989

The off-center cross was used in a public service of worship for the first time on September 29, 1946 at the ordination of Earle McKinney in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The off-center cross was officially adopted as a symbol of Universalism in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Universalist Convention in 1947.



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