Tag Archives: Alfred Fowlie

“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