With its historical roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions, Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion — that is, a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with in all times and places. We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves. We are a “non-creedal” religion: we do not ask anyone to subscribe to a creed.
Our congregations are self-governing. Authority and responsibility are vested in the membership of the congregation. Each Unitarian Universalist congregation is involved in many kinds of programs. Worship is held regularly, the insights of the past and the present are shared with those who will create the future, service to the community is undertaken, and friendships are made.
A visitor to a Unitarian Universalist congregation will very likely find events and activities such as church school, day-care centers, lectures and forums, support groups, poetry festivals, family events, and adult education and study groups.
(This material is excerpted from “We Are the Unitarian Universalists”, pamphlet #3047.)
This “free church” tradition traces its history to 16th century Europe and in North America to the first Pilgrim and Puritan settlers. It has numbered among its members five U.S. presidents and such noteworthy Americans such as Thomas Jefferson, Clara Barton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Susan B. Anthony, singer Pete Seeger, and even the late actor Christopher Reeve.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), headquartered in Boston, MA, was formed in 1961 through the consolidation of two historical denominations: the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association. More than 1,050 congregations in North America belong to the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.
Historical Affirmations of our Unitarian Universalist Faith
- That there is in each person a spark of the divine.
- That relevant and meaningful statements of belief are personal statements.
- That all human beings can hope for salvation.
- That God is a unity as opposed to a trinity.
- That truth grows and changes.
- That people should be free to judge whether or not to accept the pronouncements of the church.
- That a broadly inclusive tolerance in religion is preferable to an enforced uniformity.
- That religious assertions must be reasonable if they are to be accepted as valid.
- That doubt can help to winnow the truth from untruth.
- That a person must develop a trusting reliance on him/herself and his/her own capacity to make sensible life-improving choices.
- That religion ought to be concerned primarily with this life.
- That answers to questions, solutions to problems, and comfort from discomfort – to have any real or lasting effect – must come from within a person not from the outside.
- That God is in the world, not outside the world.
- That suffering is a part of Life, not punishment for a way of living.
- That religious literature offers symbolic, rather than literal, truth.
- That religion ought not to involve only ritual, but also reflection and action for goodness.
– Rev. Roy Phillips