What is Unitarian Universalism Anyway?

How many Unitarian Universalists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

lightbulb

What is Unitarian Universalism Anyway?

That is an awesome question and I am so glad you asked it! Unitarian Universalism is a huge part of my spiritual journey and I’m excited to tell you about it.

Before we start, it may be helpful to let go of any preconceived thoughts you have about religion or spirituality. Let go of “should” and open your mind to the fact that spirituality can and does exist outside of the traditional framework you may be used to.

Unitarian Universalism is a creedless, scriptureless, judgementless, liberal, create-your-own spiritual adventure. I like to tell people we’re the “Come as you are, be who you are, just be kind” church. We pride ourselves in being the church of the open minds, loving hearts, and helping hands.

We do not have a creed or doctrine. You do not have to believe in anything to be a part of Unitarian Universalism. You do not have to subscribe to any particular beliefs, read any set of scripture, or participate in any rituals or sacraments. Everyone’s level of participation is at their own discretion.

That said, we are liberal, but not entirely lawless. We affirm, promote, and work to uphold the following principles:

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

When we teach them to kids, we call them the Rainbow Principles, and personally, I find the children’s version a little easier to remember.

1. Each person is important
2. Be kind in all you do
3. We’re free to learn together
4. We search for what is true
5. All people get a vote
6. Work for a peaceful world
7. We care for Earth, our home

Unitarian Universalism draws from many spiritual traditions. Our Sunday morning services are typically much like some Christian services I’ve attended in the past. We have announcements, hymns, readings, an offering, sermons, and benedictions. We tend to drink a lot of coffee and form a lot of committees. (I recently met someone from a nearby congregation and introduced myself by listing all of the committees I’m on. It’s the second most-UU thing that’s ever happened to me.)

What makes us different includes that we do Religious Education instead of traditional Sunday School, where our youngest fellow travelers learn about the UU principles, other traditions, social justice, and practicing kindness. Most services have a story for all ages, where kids and adults listen to a story and reflect on it together. We use readings from many sources, some spiritual, some scientific, some literary.

Where some other traditions instruct followers to prove their faith, renounce their sinfulness, and earn their salvation, Unitarian Universalism affirms that you are enough, you are loved, and you do not have to earn or prove it.

To me, the coolest thing about Unitarian Universalism is that every single person in a UU church believes something different, and that is not only ok, it is celebrated.

We firmly believe that we need not think alike to love alike, and what makes us different is what makes us beautiful.

We accept all people as friends, regardless of who they are, where they come from, how they identify, or how they participate the larger society. We value the individual journey as well as the role every individual plays as a part of the larger community.

We celebrate diversity and do our best to be accommodating and welcoming, no matter the color of your skin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, level of ability, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or history.

We are a living tradition, meaning that we are constantly learning and adapting. We are not perfect and sometimes we miss the mark; when that happens, we are eager to find out what happened and why and figure out how to make it right.

The symbol of Unitarian Universalism is a flaming chalice, representing the light within all of us and its ability to be shared without being diminished. My favorite chalice lighting words come from James Vila Blake:

“Love is the spirit of this church,
and service is its law;
this is our great covenant:
to dwell together in peace,
to seek the truth in love,
and to help one another. “

If you ever have any questions, I’d love to try and answer them or help you find the answers. You can find a UU congregation near you at the Unitarian Universalist Association website.


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