The UUCUV is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association, an association of congregations combining two venerable traditions: the Universalists, organized in 1793 and the Unitarians, organized in 1825. The two denominations merged in 1961, and both trace their roots back hundreds of years, to the Unitarian view of the unity of God, and the Universalist belief that God’s infinite love will ultimately redeem all souls. Contemporary Unitarian Universalists have many different concepts of Ultimate Reality. Our faith is marked by respect for diverse faith traditions, the freedom to question and search individually, and the importance of the use of reason in our religious lives as well as secular lives.
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote these seven principles:
- 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.
Unitarian Universalist (UU) theology 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.
These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.
The following is excerpted from the sermon “What Do We Believe?” by the Rev. Dr. Patience Stoddard.
What do Unitarian Universalists believe? There is no simple corporate answer to such a question. Indeed, it is not an objective question at all but a deeply subjective one. Because the ultimate source of authority in our tradition is the individual. So the real question is, “What do you believe? What matters most to you? What are the core values, hopes, or experiences in which you ground your personal faith?” These are not easy questions to answer while chatting with a relative stranger. It seems to me that the “truth” of our faith lies in that ambiguous yet profound territory of paradox, not in either/or, but in both/and.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
I have said that our beliefs are often deeply personal, having grown out of our own encounters with life – through our experiences of love and loss, of doubt and insight, of suffering and joy. Yet the very name of our community of faith calls us to affirm the universal in human experience. Our hymnal contains readings from many world religions not because we wish to co-opt others’ traditions but because we see all faiths as important aspects of humanity’s search for truth and meaning. We are not called the “Unitarian Individualists”, but the Unitarian Universalists: we affirm both the individual and the universal.
Nonetheless, we do tend to be a group of pretty outspoken individuals. We don’t like others to assume who we are or what we believe. We actually celebrate the fact that the person in the chair next to us may hold very different beliefs about the nature or existence of a higher power or about what happens after we die. We’re proud of our tradition of freedom of belief.
Yet we also understand the importance of spiritual community and, in the case of this congregation, I’d say we are a pretty close and caring group of people. As your minister, the words you may use to describe your theology or spiritual practice may not be of major concern to me, but your cares and concerns, your questions and felt truths are very important.
We believe in the importance of caring community and we believe in the importance of putting our personal beliefs into action. We are called to serve. That may be why when UUs gather as an association of congregations, we are apt to talk about social justice issues more than we speak of the nature of divine truth or even of our own spiritual experience. For while our inner spiritual lives and beliefs are vitally important, it is our common concern for the wellbeing of others and the importance of working toward a more just, peaceful, and healthy world that calls us into community.
It is my hope that this congregation offers both opportunities to develop our inner spiritual lives and to find support and encouragement for putting our values into action. We do these through common worship, deep conversations, and working together for justice.
We tend to answer the question, “What do UUs believe?” with a responding question about the seeker’s own profound, personal, and transcendent spiritual quest. I think that it is that willingness to ask and really listen; it is that commitment to open dialogue which makes room for questions as well as answers, for doubt and well as certainty, for the outer life of social and political action as well as the inner life of contemplation; it is those faith-full paradoxes which provide the common ground on which we together create a living faith.