“brief Sunday school recollection”


We had a wonderful Sunday school program in the Unitarian church in Canton, Massachusetts in around 1959-1960.  The Sunday School curriculum for that year was called the The Church Across the Street.

Dennis Sanford was our Sunday school teacher. Mr. Sanford (we never called adults by their first name in those days) was superb.

We visited a Buddhist temple, a Christian Scientist church, and many other churches which I forget, plus a Catholic church. After mass, we had an audience with the priest, who was very nice.

He asked at length if we had any questions. I raised my hand and said, yes, I did have a question. I wanted to know, if God was good and all powerful, why did He let evil exist (and in fact predominate) in the world?

The priest had a hard time answering me. I was very into rational discourse (I was on the debate team in Canton High School) and found his answers inadequate. I kept persisting.

The priest did his best to answer me and kept his composure, but he seemed a little flustered. It was kind of an awkward standoff.

Our minister, Rev. Alfred Fowlie, was present on this occasion and he told me afterwards, after we had left the church and were going home, that the priest had asked him, had I been coached by anybody to ask this particular question?

Rev. Fowlie told the priest, no, I hadn’t.

Rev. Fowlie then asked me, where do you get such questions from? Don’t you know, he said, that religious thinkers have been struggling to answer this question for centuries? (I learned later that St. Augustine in his writings and preaching gave some of the best answers.)

I did not know this at the time. I told Rev. Fowlie that it had just occurred to me as a natural question to ask based on my own reflections and that I hadn’t intended to be a smart aleck or wise guy.

— Roger W. Smith

  December 2015

Dennis Sanford (2)

Dennis Sanford, our Sunday school teacher

Rev. Alfred Fowlie. A magic man

Rev. Alfred Fowlie


4 thoughts on ““brief Sunday school recollection”

  1. Gary

    Rev Fowlie was an activist and led a very active youth group (LRY) at the parsonage every Sunday evening. He had us marching in protest at the State House for every worthy cause that crossed his path.

    Dennis Sanford and his wife Dorothy were very active in the church. Not only did he teach Sunday School, but in later years he was an advisor to the LRY and drove a carful of teens to Unitarian events all over Massachusetts. He also played a major role in the annual auction. He would bring his company truck home, load up a bunch of LRY teens, and drive all over town picking up items for the auction.

    After I graduated CHS in ’62, Dennis managed to get me a job at Northrop in Norwood, a manufacturer of gyroscopes and guidance systems. It was hi-tech at it’s highest and set me on a path for the rest of my life. I was drafted in ’65 and off to Vietnam. It took many years to return to the real world after that. Dennis was a great mentor and a great influence on my life. It’s now 2022 and I still think of him and LRY.

  2. Bob

    I was a Sunday school dropout.

    I recall that in the 6th grade or so when we studied the Ten Commandments I asked the teacher what it meant to commit adultery. He seemed to get angry and treated my naive question as if I were trying to be funny or embarrass him. It wasn’t long after that that I decided to get a Sunday newspaper route.

    The Church Across the Street is the one class that I’m sorry I missed.

Leave a Reply