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Principles and Purposes
As a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, we 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 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 that 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.
Unitarian Universalism in One Minute or Less
by the Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association and currently Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
What is Unitarian Universalism?
Ours is a religion based on the conviction that the meaning of life, its mystery and its grandeur, outspills every human attempt to capture it in a single sentence. Most religions teach that life’s meaning has been revealed in a single person or event, metaphor or myth. For Jews it is the Covenant. For Buddhists it is Enlightenment. For orthodox Christians it is the grace of God as manifested in Jesus Christ. But for Unitarian Universalists it is all of these and more. We believe that the glory of life is so great that it defies every attempt to squeeze it in to a narrow category. That is why ours is a creedless faith.
But if you have no creed, does that mean that Unitarian Universalists can believe anything?
Not at all. It is important to distinguish between belonging to a church and being a Unitarian Universalist in faith and practice. We have no creedal test for membership in our congregations. People can join without affirming a particular set of beliefs. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a whole series of affirmations based upon our traditions and our formal Principles and Purposes which define what a practicing Unitarian Universalist is. I would say that if someone did not believe in the use of the democratic process, for example, or the inherent worth and dignity of every person, he or she could belong to one of our congregations but his/her beliefs would fall outside the range of what makes for Unitarian Universalism.
Well, what exactly do Unitarian Universalists believe anyway?
Let me give you some examples of what I think the vast majority of Unitarian Universalists would affirm…
- We reverence the natural world, what our Principles and Purposes call “the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part,” and reject the notion that creation can be divided into natural and supernatural realms;
- We believe that human beings are responsible for the future; that history is in our hands, not those of an angry God or inexorable fate;
- We believe that life’s blessings are available to every one, not just those who can recite a certain catechism;
- And we believe that those blessings are made manifest to us not just in the “miraculous” or extraordinary but in the simple pleasures of the everyday.
Do Unitarian Universalists believe in God?
A majority of us are comfortable with the use of the word “God” but many Unitarian Universalists would describe themselves as agnostics or even atheists. Those of us who do speak of God do so in a way very different from the conventional. Very few Unitarian Universalists, for example, understand God as a Person or Being who intervenes in human affairs. Some of us would identify God with the larger cosmic pattern or process which has made creation possible in the first place. Others would see God as the source of life’s gracious gifts which come to us unbidden and undeserved. Still others would experience God (or the Goddess) as that which inspires us to value ourselves and honor the world around us. What is important is not what language we use to express our deepest spiritual longings; what is important is that we take those longings seriously.
What do Unitarian Universalists believe we must do to be saved?
Live life with as much passion, integrity, and care as we can muster and remember that every single one of us is on a short and perilous pilgrimage. If we can gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, if we can be swift to love, “salvation,” whatever it be, will take care of itself.
Other Unitarian Universalist Web Sites:
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
Joseph Priestley District of the UUA
Delaware Valley Area Council of the UUA
Murray Grove Retreat and Conference Center
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee