About Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism is the church of the open mind, the loving heart, and the helping hands. You can bring your whole self.
As Unitarian Universalists, we don’t have to check our personal background and beliefs at the door: we join together on a journey that honors everywhere we’ve been before.
Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive. We have no shared creed, no doctrinal set of beliefs from a higher authority. We think for ourselves, and reflect together, about important questions:
- The existence of a Higher Power
- Life and Death
- Sacred Texts
- Inspiration and Guidance
- Prayer and Spiritual Practices
Unitarian Universalists are brave, curious, and compassionate thinkers and doers. We are diverse in faith, ethnicity, history and spirituality, but aligned in our desire to make a difference for the good. We have a track record of standing on the side of love, justice, and peace.
We have radical roots and a history as self-motivated spiritual people: we think for ourselves and recognize that life experience influences our beliefs more than anything.
We need not think alike to love alike. We are people of many beliefs and backgrounds: people with a religious background, people with none, people who believe in a God, people who don’t, and people who let the mystery be.
On the forefront of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer inclusion for more than 40 years, we are people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Unitarian Universalism creates change: in ourselves, and in the world. Seven days a week, we live our faith by doing. Whether in community with others or as an individual, we know that active, tangible expressions of love, justice, and peace are what make a difference.
We are committed to seven Principles that include the worth of each person, the need for justice and compassion, and the right to choose one’s own beliefs. Our congregations and faith communities promote these principles through regular worship, learning and personal growth, shared connection and care, social justice and service, celebration of life’s transitions, and much more.
Though Unitarianism and Universalism have liberal Christian roots, we seek wisdom from many additional sources. One of our seven Principles is a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning. This responsible search has led us to an inclusive spirituality drawn from six sources: from scriptural wisdom to personal experience to modern day heroes.
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History of Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism grew from the union of two radical Christian groups: Unitarians and Universalists.
Christian beliefs were first codified at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. At the council, various doctrines were agreed upon. One was the idea of the Trinity, one God in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Another doctrine was that only people who believe in the divinity of Jesus will go to Heaven. For centuries after that meeting, people who disagreed with church doctrines were subject to persecution for heresy.
In the 16h century, the Protestant Reformation moved across Europe, allowing somewhat more freedom of belief. Recognizing that there is no biblical basic for belief in the Trinity, some people argued that Jesus was not divine. He was a a human teacher, so while we might follow the teachings of Jesus, we should not worship him. The name Unitarian comes from the belief that there is only one true God, not three in one. Unitarian congregations were established for the first time in 1568 in Transylvania, which is now part of Romania.
Similar churches arose in other parts of Europe, most notably in Rakow, Poland. A Spaniard, Michael Servetus, wrote a book called On the Errors of the Trinity which was circulated throughout Europe. But he was burned at the stake, and the Polish Unitarians were completely suppressed.
Despite continued persecution, Unitarianism spread gradually through Europe to England, then to the colonies, where some early Massachusetts settlers resisted the call for Puritan orthodoxy. Unitarian belief in free will and a free and responsible search for meaning strongly influenced the framers of the Constitution. The first official acceptance of the Unitarian faith by a congregation in the United States was in Boston, in 1783. The American Unitarian Association was established in 1825.
Universalist teachings arose in the 17th century in England. Universalism emphasizes the universal principles of most religions and accepts other religions in an inclusive manner. Universalism also teaches that God is benevolent, not angry, and would grant salvation to everyone, rather than to a chosen few. The Universalist Church of America was established in 1866.
Thomas Starr King, for whom our church is named, described the difference between Unitarians and Universalists this way – “Universalists believe that God is too good to damn people, and the Unitarians believe that people are too good to be damned by God.”
Finding that they had much in common and were also complementary, the two churches joined in 1961 to create the Unitarian Univeralist Association.
Unitarian Universalism remains a living, changing, diverse, inclusive religion. While early Unitarians believed there is only one true God, the one described in the Old Testament of the Bible, few current UUs believe in that God. Some believe in a sacred force at work in the universe, and call it “love,” “mystery,” “source of all” or “spirit of life.” Some believe in a feminine Goddess, or in a God or Goddess of Nature. Some believe in the divinity of the human spirit. Others believe in multiple gods. Still others believe in no “sacred force” or god at all. Similarly, while early Universalists believed that God would grant eternal life in Heaven to everyone, some current UUs believe that, while others don’t believe in life after death, focusing instead on finding joy and fulfillment while living.
Today, Unitarian Universalists include people of many beliefs who share UU values of peace, love, and understanding. We are creators of positive change in people and in the world.
Each Unitarian Universalist congregation is independent and democratic—congregational leaders set their own priorities and choose their own ministers and staff. Congregations are supported by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the central organization for the Unitarian Universalist religious movement in the United States, and by regional and district offices. Congregations vote for the leaders of the UUA, who oversee the central staff and resources. The association’s headquarters are in Boston. It serves churches mostly in the United States. Although Unitarian churches exist throughout the world there is no global organizational structure.