OK, my turn. Just so ya’s know, been a UU since thomasm introduced it to me back in, oh, 1986 or so, involved in both local churches and regional affairs, involved in the UU Musician’s Network, the UU Gay & Lesbian Affairs Committee, and was a choir director for seven years.
Originally posted by Eonwe
Well Unitarian Universalism has its roots in the Unitarian and the Universalist churches, formed in the early 1800s and late 1700s respectively. Basically, they were both liberally-minded (religiously, not necessarily politically) denominations who believed that folks should worship God in whatever fashion He wanted. This could be different for each person, and is really the foundation of what Unitarian Universalism is today (the churches joined in the early '60s).
Basically, but I like the fact that there’s more to it than that. If I may paraphrase a bit from “Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith” by Mark W. Harris…
Both Universalism Unitarianism, as theologies, can be traced back to the origins of Christianity itself. Unitarianism, believing in the “oneness” of God in Jesus (“follow Jesus, God’s messenger, but worship God”), was a viable option until the Trinity was made dogma (Nicene Creed, 325 CE). Universalism, believing that everyone would be saved by an all-loving God, was another “option” before then. Anyone believing these things afterwards were considered heretics.
Lots of changes happened during the Reformation, including the beginnings of an establishment of Unitarianism in the mid-16th century in Transylvania (followed by oppression and suppression into the 17th century). Unitarian minister Joseph Priestley left England in 1791 and established American Unitarian churches in Philadelphia, coinciding with the flourishing of free thinkers in Puritan New England in the mid-18th century. The American Unitarian Association was formed in Boston in 1825.
Universalism also developed in the United States around the same time. There were Universal Baptists in Philadelphia(1781) and the first Universalist church in Massachusetts. Universalists were also the first denomination to ordain women in 1863. Universalism officially organized in 1793.
Both denominations are rife with social justice causes: abolitionism, suffrage, prison reform, mental hospitals, public schooling, and so on. Their liberal ideals spread to their theology, giving support to religious freedom of choice, humanism, respect for all faiths, and respect for no faith. The two churches, seeing their common liberal religious voice, joined in 1961 and formed the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Loved this quote:
Dinsdale, many UU’s have noticed that the older congregations, notably in the northeastern United States, tend to be more Christian-leaning than the newer congregations spread out around the rest of the country. Since the UUA’s headquarters are in Boston, the presidency has, in the past, often reflected the northeast’s sensibilities. Regardless of the president elected and his or her personal religious views, they cannot be considered the only representative voice; UUism cannot, by its very definitions, be represented by only one voice. What the President gives us is leadership and direction, but, like the U.S. President, is there because we voted him there (we’re a highly democratic bunch). We respect his opinion as much as anyone else’s… But, as Eonwe pointed out, there is sometimes a theist/non-theist dychotomy in the denomination which is often discussed and debated (it’s what UU’s do best). Fortunately, within larger metropolitan areas, the chances of you finding a UU church that fits you best are high - traditionalists in one, non-conformists in another, and in Texas we even have an all-Pagan congregation now.
pcubed, I think Scott Adams is a closet UU, myself, but he certainly knows us well. And I think the simplicity of “Peanuts,” particularly when they delve into “spiritual” topics, is what UU’s find so amusing. Another good strip I see many UU ministers have on their desks is “Kudzu,” as they often make humorous UU references.
romansperson, I also notice, from having attended many UU services around the country, that each church tends to develop its own special traditions and “feel,” but things like the chalice, the hymnal, and the kinds of topics discussed are pretty much common throughout the church. (My old church also had “joys & concerns,” always my favorite part of the service.)
SNenc, I was around during the refit of the original “Songs for the Celebration of Life,” the UU hymnal, and let me say, I am very proud of the work they did on it. It is quite a collection of varied faiths, styles, and world musics, and I guarantee you’ll find many things in there you can personally relate to. As a choir director I tried to choose a wide variety of music, from classical and traditional Christian pieces (though not very much, as my church was a bunch of ex-hippie liberals) to contemporary stuff to songs from other faiths as the need required. As a musician I found it very well-rounded and fulfilling.
And Polycarp, do you still love me?