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In the spring of 1855, a young Unitarian minister and his brand new flock found themselves in the midst of an undeclared civil war over slavery in the Kansas Territory. Members of Ephraim Nute's church were shot at, scalped, burned out of their homes, impoverished, and imprisoned. Their faith and pacificism were sorely tested. Through it all, Nute nurtured his growing congregation, fought ardently for abolition, helped escaped slaves, and struggled with the American Unitarian Association to secure the financial support he had been promised. His written accounts of the violence in "Bleeding Kansas" rallied abolitionists and the Unitarian denomination. Although he was a household name in his own time and a key figure in the founding of the University of Kansas and the Western Sanitary Commission, which tended to wounded Union soldiers, few today remember him.
Nute comes to life again in his letters and the correspondence of those who knew him. Sometimes funny, sometimes painful, and always poignant, the story of Nute's ministry illuminates what it means to do the work of justice in the face of violent resistance. Nute and his parishioners helped shaped the destiny of the Territory, the outcome of the Abolitionist movement, the inevitability of the Civil War, and the future of the Unitarian Universalist denomination.
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