Laymen’s Academy for Oecumenical Studies (LAOS)

Laymen's Academy for Oecumenical Studies Records, 1956-1976.

22 boxes (11.5 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 020

An oecumenical ministry based in Amherst, Massachusetts, that sought to inspire local citizens to act upon their religious faith in their daily lives and occupations, and to reinvigorate religious dialogue between denominations.

Includes by-laws, minutes, membership records, news clippings, press releases, treasurer’s reports, letters to and from David S. King, correspondence between religious leaders and local administrators, and printed materials documenting programs and organizations in which the Laymen’s Academy for Oecumenical Studies (L.A.O.S.) participated or initiated, especially Faith and Life Meetings. Also contains questionnaires, announcements, bulletins, and photographs.

Historical Note

In 1961, the Reverend David S. King, then Chaplain of Amherst College and later Associate Minister of the First Congregational Church in Amherst, founded the Laymen’s Academy for Oecumenical Studies (L.A.O.S.). King proposed that a “new oecumenical ministry” be begun in Western Massachusetts, based in Amherst, that would appeal to local citizens and draw from local religious leadership. Its mission was to inspire people to act upon their religious faith in their daily lives and occupations, and develop programs aimed at reinvigorating religious dialogue and cooperation between denominations. Based on King’s belief that “laymen are the missionaries of the future”, members were encouraged and trained to lead many L.A.O.S. efforts, particularly “Faith and Life” meetings.

L.A.O.S. was governed by a board of directors, which met monthly in different regional locales. An executive committee met weekly. Annual meetings were held to which all members were invited. In its beginnings, more than 60 laymen and ordained ministers representing 6 denominations (Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, and United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, and Society of Friends) and 24 western Massachusetts towns and cities, comprised its membership. In the 1960s, faculty from universities and colleges in the region were active in L.A.O.S. administration.

An independent charitable corporation, L.A.O.S. sought money from state and national denominational bodies, individuals and private foundations, rather than from parish churches and councils, to carry out its activities. They were active within the Massachusetts Council of Churches and campus ministry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1967 and 1968, L.A.O.S was involved in the development of the Amherst United Ministry, a group of clergy and laity representing seven denominational churches in Amherst that held interfaith worship services in an attempt to bring the people of the different faiths closer together.

L.A.O.S. also held meetings for local lawyers, school teachers and various other professions exploring their relationship between the careers and their faith. In 1964, L.A.O.S. received an award from the Adult Education Association of Massachusetts for “breaking new ground in adult education”. In that year Associate Director Paul Sanders, a Methodist minister and professor at The University of Massachusetts, established four lay schools of theology in Amherst, Holyoke, Orange, and Westfield. A continuing education program for clergy in western Massachusetts was also formed.

In weekly “Faith and Life Meetings” held in churches and conference centers in Western Massachusetts, L.A.O.S. members tackled issues of religious and social relevance to individuals and families in the local community, such as the role of women in the church, the role of religion on a college campus, civil rights (The March on Boston), ending the Vietnam War (Negotiation Now!), mixed denomination marriages, drug addiction, and civil disorder.

In 1969, David King resigned as Executive Director. Two years later, under the direction of President Mrs. Charles E. Morgan, it was decided that the mission of L.A.O.S. had been fulfilled and that it was time to either disband the organization or find a new mission. Reverend Richard E. Koenig of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church (Amherst) proposed that L.A.O.S. open and sponsor a bookstore in the five college area that would provide theological literature to area religious communities and the general public. Staffed by volunteers, it was felt that the bookstore should have the atmosphere of a library or community center, rather than a retail space, where browsing and spontaneous religious conversation would be encouraged. The L.A.O.S. bookstore opened in 1972 in the Parish House of Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst town center.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Laymen’s Academy of Oecumenical Studies (L.A.O.S.) records document the activities, programming and administration of the organization from its founding in 1961 through a period of dynamic growth in the mid and late 1960s, to its change in mission and scope, and eventual decline in activity in the early 1970s. Records are organized into six series: Administration (1960-1976); Financial (1961-1974); Correspondence (1961-1970); Programs (1956-1971); Subject files (1963-1968) and Photographs (1965, N.D.).

Administration records include by-laws, Board of Directors’ minutes, personnel committee minutes, annual meeting minutes, membership records, news clippings and press releases. Financial records consist of treasurer’s reports, budgets, check registries, and ledgers. Correspondence consists primarily of letters by David King to and from members of L.A.O.S. expressing acknowledgement and thanks for work done. Program records make up the bulk of the collection and contain correspondence (primarily between religious leaders, local administrators and David King or, occasionally, Paul Sanders), handwritten notes, and printed materials that document programs and organizations initiated by L.A.O.S. or in which L.A.O.S. participated. Issues of political interest to the membership and their affiliated churches, and to faith workers nationally, throughout the 1960s are evident in these materials and include McCarthyism, racial unity, school desegregation, pacifism and anti-war activism.

Faith and Life Meeting records are a subseries within the Programs series that contain resource materials and questionnaires used to solicit potential meeting topics from members. Subject files contain announcements, letters, news clippings, bulletins and other reference materials pertaining to current events and issues such as role of women in the church, war relief in Vietnam, civil rights and desegregation (March on Boston, led by Martin Luther King in 1965), and regional ministries. Photographs include few snapshots of L.A.O.S.’s 1965 meeting and several prints and negatives of children (1970s) engaged in what is presumed to be a L.A.O.S.-sponsored program.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Laymen’s Academy for Oecumenical Studies (L.A.O.S.) Records (MS 20). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Processing Information

Processed by Jason Burns, Tim Letteney, and Melissa Watterworth, October 2001.


Additional Information

Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Language
English.


Contents List
Series 1. Administration
Proposal for development of L.A.O.S.
1960-1961
Box 1:1
By-Laws
[N.D.]
Box 1:2
Board of Directors
1962-1976
Box 1:3-19
Annual Meeting
1963-1975
Box 2:20-29
Program and Strategy Committee
1966-1968
Box 2:30-31
Personnel Committee
1966-1967
Box 2:32
Nominating Committee
1967-1968
Box 2:33
Executive Committee
1961-1969
Box 2:34-44
Staffing Correspondence
1962-1967
Box 3:45-50
Staff Association
1968
Box 3:51
Mailing Lists
1968
Box 4:52-53
Membership
1961-1970
Box 4:54-60
Program Planning
1965-1968
Box 5:61
Bookstore
1971-1973
Box 5:62
Course Registration
1967-1968
Box 5:63
L.A.O.S. News
[N.D.]
Box 5:64
Memos to Membership
1967-1968
Box 5:65
Press Releases/Brochures
1967-1968
Box 5:66
News Clippings
1961-1968
Box 5:67
Adult Education Association Award
1964
Box 5:68

Series 2. Financial
Finance Committee
1961-1968
Box 6:69
Financial Correspondence
1961-1970
Box 6:70-79
Treasurers Reports
1961-1971
Box 7:80
Financial Statements
1961-1967
Box 7:81
Expense Account
1968-1969
Box 7:82
Foundations
1963-1964
Box 7:83
Pledge Cards
1970-1971
Box 7:84
Pledges
[N.D.]
Box 7:85
Federal Tax Reports
1963-1975
Box 7:86
Fund raising
1966-1967
Box 7:87
Gift of Stock
1968
Box 7:88
Bank Books
1961-1970
Box 8:89
Check Registries
1961-7193
Box 8
Ledger
1962-1971
Box 9:90-91

Series 3. Correspondence
Correspondence
1961-1970
Box 10:92-97

Series 4. Programs
Amherst Unity Mission Study
1961-1962
Box 11:98
Amherst Classroom
1963
Box 11:99
Adult Christian Education
1963
Box 11:100
Amherst Lay School Correspondence
1961-1965
Box 11:101
Amherst Council of Churches
1965
Box 11:102
Amherst United Ministry
1967
Box 11:103
Amherst United Ministry
1968
Box 11:104
Berkshire Committee for Ecumenical Action
1968
Box 11:105
Berkshire County Area Meetings
1969
Box 11:106
Bishops Roundtable
1963-1965
Box 11:107
Brookfield Adult Education
1967
Box 11:108
Central Berkshire Clergy Association
[N.D.]
Box 11:109
Christian Family Movement
1967
Box 11:110
Christian Unity Committee
1967
Box 11:111
Christian Higher Education Fund (CHEF)
1960-1961
Box 11:112
CHEF Staff
1962-1964
Box 11:113
Church and City Series
1967-1968
Box 11:114
Church and Society for College Work
1966-1967
Box 11:115
Clergy Conference
1968-1969
Box 11:116
Clergy Study
1962
Box 11:117
Committee of Responsibility
1967
Box 11:118
Continuing Education for Clergy
1964-1965
Box 12:119
Continuing Education Project
1969
Box 12:120-121
Council of Churches of Greater Springfield
1967
Box 12:122
Council of Churches of Greater Springfield
1967-1968
Box 12:123
Dalton Committee for Ecumenical Action
1967
Box 12:124
Daughters of the Heart of Mary
1965
Box 12:125
Diocesan Ecumenical commission
1965
Box 12:126
Drug Addiction Conference
1967
Box 12:127
Emma Willard School
1954-1968
Box 12:128
Episcopal Diocese
1961-1963
Box 12:129
Episcopal Society for Cultural & Racial Unity
1967
Box 12:130
Faculty Ministry
1964-1967
Box 12:131
Faculty Retreat
1966
Box 12:132
Faculty summer School
1964
Box 12:133
Fr. Owen Bennett
1963
Box 12:134
First Congregational Church Amherst, Outreach Board
1964-1965
Box 13:135
First Congregational Church Amherst, Tutorial Project
1964
Box 13:136
Four College Summer Session
[N.D.]
Box 13:137
Grace Church Amherst
[N.D.]
Box 13:138
Second Congregational Church, Greenfield
1967
Box 13:139
Greenfield Ecumenical Conference
1965
Box 13:140
Gustave Weigel Society
1967-1968
Box 13:141
Hampshire College
1966-1967
Box 13:142
Holyoke Clergy
[N.D.]
Box 13:143
Holyoke Lay Center
1965
Box 13:144
Iona Community
1963
Box 13:145
Joint Action for Mission
1965-1967
Box 14:146-150
Lawyers
1961, 1965
Box 14:151
Lay Centers and Training Programs
1961
Box 14:152
Lay School of Religion
1968-1969
Box 15:153
Lay Schools Meeting
1964
Box 15:154
Lay Schools
1968
Box 15:155
Laymen’s Institute of Religion, Westfield
1965
Box 15:156
Living Room dialogues
1967
Box 15:157
Lumen Christi
1967
Box 15:158
Marian Retreat House
1968
Box 15:159
MA Conference of the United Church of Christ
1967
Box 15:160
Mass. Congregational Conference
1961
Box 15:161
Mass. Council of Churches
1962-1967
Box 15:162
Mass. Council of Churches, Coop. Planning
1963
Box 15:163
Mass. Council of Churches, Committee On Unity
1964-1966
Box 15:164
Mass. Council of Churches, Western Area
1969
Box 15:165
Mass. Council for Lay Life and Work
1964-1965
Box 15:166
Methodists
1961
Box 15:167
Donna Myers
1965
Box 15:168
National Council of Churches Delta Ministry
1966
Box 16:169
National Council of Churches Special Committee.
1962
Box 16:170
New England Ecumenical Study Conference
1967
Box 16:171
Niemoeller Dinner
1968
Box 16:172
Northampton Adult Christian Education
1967
Box 16:173
Northern Berkshire Council of Churches
[N.D.]
Box 16:174
North End Minority
1962
Box 16:175
Operation Dialogue
1967
Box 16:176
Orange-Athol Lay School
1964
Box 16:177
Orange-Athol Lay School
1966
Box 16:178
Orange United Youth Ministry
[N.D.]
Box 16:179
Orange School
1963-1964
Box 16:180
Pittsfield
[N.D.]
Box 16:181
Pittsfield
1965
Box 16:182
Poor People’s March
1968
Box 16:183
Post-Ordination Seminars
1966
Box 16:184
Presbyterians
1961-1962
Box 16:185
Project Equality
1967
Box 16:186
Quiet Day
1968
Box 16:187
Religions Education Association
1966
Box 16:188
Renewal Task Force
1964
Box 16:189
Sanders and Morgan
1962
Box 16:190
Sedlisky Visit
1968
Box 16:191
Shadowbrook Retreat
1967-69
Box 16:192-193
Sjaloon Group
1967
Box 16:194
Speakers Bureau
1966
Box 16:195
Springfield Area Clergy Study
1963
Box 16:196
Summer Meetings
1964
Box 16:197
Summer School
1962-63
Box 17:198
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
1966
Box 17:199
Taize Community
1965
Box 17:200
United Christian Foundation
1963-67
Box 17:201
United Church of Christ
1961
Box 17:202
United Ministry Proposal
[N.D.]
Box 17:203
University of Life Pittsfield
1959-62
Box 17:204
Vacation bible School
1974
Box 17:205
Vocational conference
1969
Box 17:206
Week of Prayer
1967-1971
Box 17:207-210
David B. Wells
1967
Box 17:211
Wesley Methodist Church, Amherst
1964
Box 17:212
Western area Church and Council exec.
1968
Box 17:213
Westfield
1963
Box 17:214
Worchester Clergy Association
[N.D.]
Box 17:215
World council of Churches
1961
Box 17:216
L.A.O.S. Youth Ministry
1968-1969
Box 17:217-220

Series 5. Faith and Life
Faith and Life Meetings
1956-1961
Box 18:221-229
Faith and Life Meetings
1962-1963
Box 19:230-237
Meeting Evaluations
1963
Box 19:238
Faith and Life Meetings
[N.D.]
Box 20:239-255

Series 6. Subject Files
Civil Disorder
1968
Box 21:256
Civil Liberties Union of Mass. Hampshire Council
1967
Box 21:257
Holyoke Urban Ministry
1966
Box 21:258
March on Boston
1965
Box 21:259
Mixed Marriages
1967
Box 21:260
National Consultation on Continuing Education
1965
Box 21:261
Negotiation Now
1967
Box 21:262
Religion on College Campuses
[N.D.]
Box 21:263
Rabbis
1967
Box 21:264
Religious and Public Education
1963
Box 21:265
Role of Women in the Church
1967
Box 21:266
Science, technology and cultural change
1965
Box 21:267
Social Change
1963
Box 21:268
Southbridge area fellowship
1967
Box 21:269
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
1963
Box 21:270
Vietnam Relief
1967
Box 21:271

Series 7. Photos
Photos of Children
[N.D.]
Box 22:272
Photos of Children Negatives
[N.D.]
Box 22:273
Meeting Photographs
1965
Box 22:274
Large Posterboard Photographs
[N.D.]
Box 22

Subjects

  • Christian union--Massachusetts--History
  • Interdenominational cooperation--Massachusetts--History

Contributors

  • King, David S., 1927-
  • Laymen's Academy for Oecumenical Studies (Amherst, Mass.)

Types of material

  • Photographs
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