The Dr. Duncan Howlett Sermon Collection


The Rev. Duncan Howlett, D.D., Minister Emeritus of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Washington, D.C., presented to the Moulton Library of Bangor Theological Seminary most of his theological books and personal papers. Dr. Howlett was ordained to the Unitarian ministry in Salem, Massachusetts November 17, 1935. Of particular note, among his papers are sermons preached from 1934 to 1986, fifty-two years of preaching reflecting his best thought over this significant period of American history. The sermons respond to the times and comment on the great events that moved the nation, such as civil rights, race relations, poverty, justice, democracy, the responsibilities of religious people. Attached is a chronological listing of sermon titles for your perusal.

Duncan Howlett was born May 15, 1906, in Newton, Massachusetts. He received the SB. degree from Harvard in 1928, the LLB. Degree in 1931, and in the same year he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Following the practice of law for two years, in 1936 he yielded to a lifelong interest in religion and returned to Harvard where he was awarded the STB degree with honors in 1936, while serving as Minister of the Second Church, Unitarian, in Salem, Massachusetts. Howlett was at that church from 1933 to 1938. From there he went to the First Unitarian Church, New Bedford, Massachusetts (1938-1946). In September of 1946 he became Minister of the First Church in Boston, Unitarian, a position he held for the next twelve years. In 1958, he was called to All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D.C., the position from which he retired in 1968. In May of that year he was appointed to Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign staff.

In addition to his concern with public affairs during the entire range of his ministry, Howlett played an active role in Unitarian denominational affairs. Among the various committees and boards on which he served were those of the Beacon Press, the Historical Library, and the Christian Register. He was President of the Unitarian Historical Society; Chairman of Commission I, "The Church and Its Leadership"; Chairman of the Washington Advisory Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association Department of Social Responsibility; member of Harvard University Overseer's Committee to visit the Divinity School (1940-62); Chairman, D.C. Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; and member of the D.C. Commissioners' Crime Council; Executive Committee of the Washington Home Rule Commission; and the Washington Urban Institute.

Among Duncan Howlett's books are the following titles: Man Against the Church; the Struggle Between Religion and Ecclesiasticism (1954); The Essenes and Christianity, an Interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1957); The Fourth American Faith (1964); No Greater Love, the James Reeb Story (1966); The Critical Way in Religion (1980); and The Fatal Flaw: the Heart of Religious Liberalism (1995).

On retiring from the active parish ministry in 1968, Howlett became deeply involved in the environmental movement, particularly in the area of forestry. Here in Maine he organized and was the first President of the Small Woodland Owners Association, popularly known as SWOAM. The conservation of natural resources emphasizing the responsible management of woodland on the part of citizen forest owners became for him a "second career." The continuing search for "truth" has motivated Dr. Howlett throughout his life, truth that is lived out in human experience.