The Unitarian Society: Herman Haugerud

Janson’s defection was a big issue for the newly born congregation.We know Janson’s side of the story: according to him, some «fervent socialist elements» had wanted to change the religious society into an «ethical society» and, through a sort of coup d’état, thei had passed bylaws to turn the Church of Brotherhood into something more like a philanthropic society, giving it tasks it had no means means to carry out and even tring to force the minister to preach about what they wanted, which was unacceptable in the light of Janson’s spiritualist views.

Actually, in 1900 some people left the congregation following Janson, but, as we have seen, the majority of the members decided to continue their path in Unitarism in a more balanced way, moving towards a sort of Unitarian religious humanism.

Naturally they needed a new pastor and this is the reason for which they called back from USA pastor Herman Haugerud, offering him to lead the Congregation.
Born in Kristiania in 1864 and soon addressed towards a scientific career, he had had his Unitarian vocation at the age of 22, deciding, therefore, to move to USA to complete his religious education. In 1886 he got enrolled at Meadville Theological School, where he met Janson, under whose incluence he studied till his ordination on the 3rd December 1890. Immediatly he began to serve in a local Congregation in Puyallup, Washington, which he left in 1892, willing to complete his studied at Harvard.

After obtaining his Doctorate, Haugerund served again in some American Congregations (including the former Congregation od Janson in Minneapolis), till the moment in which he was asked to return to Oslo to succede Janson in leading the
Unitarian Society.

A Unitarian of the time, Hans Østerholt, editor of the Social Democratic satire magazine «The Wasp», traced a sketch of Hugerung in his autobiography: «Unfortunately, Haugerud did not have Janson’s warm, captivating ability as a speaker, and furthermore, he lacked the necessary strength of personality to bring people together» (it is probably not without a sense that Østerholt himself rejoined the State church in 1933, although still considering himself a Unitarian in belief). Moreover he arrived to Oslo Congregation in a period of big conflict: for the first two years (1904-1905)

Haugerud and Janson lead services in town at the same time but in different places nd this surely didn’t help the new minister.

In a way we can say that Haugerund’s ministry effectivly started only in 1905, when Janson stopped leading Unitarian meetings following a different path. Being the only Unitarian pastor and the leader of the Unitarian Society, Haugerund established good conctacts with USA Unitarians, receiving some material from the from American Unitarian Association to use during services (books and Congregational items) and managed to have 12 new members.

In December 1905, in order to give a future to his Conngregation, the pastor tried to encorage the creation of a Unitarian Youth Organization, whose firse secretary was, interestingly, Harold Tambs Lyche, the son of Hans Tambs Lyche. As far as we know, the life of the organization was quite short (only six months, we could think, as it doesn’t appear in records afer June 1906), but, for sure its program was full of interests and activities.

Only in 1914 a second Norwigian Unitarian Youth Organization was promoted by Haugerud but the only thing we know about this new experience is the time and place of its first meeting, on Tuesday October 20, 1914 in «The Farmer’s House» in Oslo.

In the period 1906-1907 we know of about 100 regular members of the Society, of a calendar of regular services attended by more or less 200 people and of the creation by Haugerund of a magazine called «The Unitarian» which anyway, has a short life (ending its publications the following year).

In the best period of the Congregation, around 1908-1909, the Church Board planed to build a church for its services and sent Haugerund to England in order to collect the money for the construction.During his journey, Haugerud took part to the Sunday Evening Service at Clarence Road Unitarian Church (now no more existing) on March 14th, but the founds he collected looked like being non sufficient as we have a letter by Joseph Ference, bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, dated September 29th, informing the Nowegian pastor that finally the Hungarian Unitarian Churches have collected money to be sent to Norway in order to erect a church building. Probably this is not the only letter between the two and this tells us of frequent contacts between the Norwegian and the Hungarian Congregations.

The following datum we have about the Unitarian Church dates 1914, when The British & Foreign Unitarian Association invites Haugerud to visit England and to preach four Sunday sermons at Wandsworth, beginning on beginning February 4th, 1915. It is during that journey that, on February 24, Haugerud is given a letter of recommendation in which the Rt. Hon. H.J. Tennant, M.P. of the War Office states that: «His [Haugerud’s] object is to counter as far as possible the German propaganda going on in the Norwegian press» and gives to the pastor authority «to visit internment camps or any other places where he can, by personal investigation, counteract some of the falsehoods being circulated about us in neutral countires».

After Haugerund’s coming back to Norway, on October 25th, 1917, the General Assembly of The Unitarian Association writes a letter to him in which he is asked to continue his service as Unitarian pastor, which he accepts doing two days later.

We know almost nothing of the following activities between 1919 and 1937, but surely it shouldn’t have been a very positive moment if we find only 2 new inscriptions recorded in the church books in 18 years.

With the unexpected Haugerud’s death in the 1937, in fact, his Unitarian church ceased existing and, little by little, the Unitarian movement in Norway vanished to the point that, in 1950, only 17 Unitarians all over the Country got recorded in the Census Register.
Rev. Rob

Revision: Rev. Sudbury