The Monadnock Summer Lyceum has a long history of supporting free speech and open debate. Its forerunner, the Peterborough Lyceum, was founded in 1828 by the Reverend Abiel Abbot. Despite his traditional Andover/Harvard education, Abiel Abbot refused to condemn unorthodox opinion and preached a message of tolerance. For this he was accused of heresy by Lyman Beecher and nine other New England clergy and stripped of his Coventry, CT ministry. When the Unitarians of Peterborough boldly called Abbot to lead the congregation in their newly built, Bullfinch-style church, Abiel quickly moved to found the Lyceum, a forum for diverse opinion, and, five years later, the first free tax-supported public library in the English-speaking world.
Peterborough renewed its commitment to free speech in 1969, when a committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church resurrected the forum as the Monadnock Summer Lyceum, held in the same original historic structure. Twelve members of the congregation joined Rev. David Van Strien in establishing the Lyceum in its present form.
The Monadnock Summer Lyceum is known as "a feast for the thoughtful" and features prominent speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines who discuss topics of importance to our time. These range from anthropology and archaeology, to social and political commentary, to economics and history, literature and music, medicine, science, and the environment. It draws sizable audiences from the surrounding communities, well beyond our usual congregation. Its mission is to inform, to engage, and to inspire.
The Lyceum is held at 11 am on eight to ten Sunday mornings from June through August, while the usual Sunday services are suspended. It is recorded live and broadcast over New Hampshire Public Radio approximately a week later.
The Monadnock Summer Lyceum is a unique and significant form of social outreach from our church to the wider community. Check the Lyceum's website for the current season's speakers, and listen to recordings from past seasons.
The Committee is an all-volunteer organization. Members include: