Unitarian Universalism

What is Unitarian Universalism?

"Nurture your spirit; help heal the world."

A Historic Union

Unitarian Universalism was formed from the consolidation of two liberal denominations in America: Unitarianism (est. 1825) and Universalism (est. 1793). The Unitarians were humanists who believed in the oneness of all humanity. The Universalists were Christians who believed in the universal salvation of mankind. After consolidating in 1961, these faiths became the new religion of Unitarian Universalism through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

“Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith” speaks to the courageous history of our UU ancestors and how their movement laid the foundation for our liberal religion and social justice work.

Chalice symbol on sanctuary building with flowers in front
Ushers smile warmly at each other near the pulpit as they prepare to take up the offering.

“We believe in the evolution—not only evolution of life forms, but in evolution of thought and of moral and ethical understanding. So the truth that I embrace today may not be the truth I embrace tomorrow. Revelation is not static, but is ever unfolding. More and more will be revealed.”

~ Rev. Marilyn Sewell

drumming at forum

Different Beliefs, Shared Values

Unitarian Universalists are people of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs. We are brave, curious, and compassionate thinkers and doers. We create spirituality and community beyond boundaries, working for more justice and love in our own lives and in the world.

Guided by seven Principles and six Sources, we celebrate an expansive spirituality that brings together people of different beliefs but shared values. All are welcome at the table of awe, question and illumination—gateways to wisdom and transformation, personally and for our world.

Julian tells his story

The Seven Principles

Member congregations of the UUA covenant to affirm and promote the Seven Principles. These principles guide us both as a Fellowship and as individuals:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence

The Six Sources

As Unitarian Universalists, our living tradition draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of mystery and wonder
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions
  • Jewish and Christian teachings
  • Humanist teachings
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions

A Faith Without Certainty

“The liberal religious tradition is an invitation, not a mandate. It invites us to live with ambiguity without giving in to facile compromise; to engage in dialogue without trying to control the conversation; to be open to change without accepting change too casually; to take commitment seriously but not blindly; to be engaged in the culture without succumbing to the culture’s values. It is an eyes-wide-open faith, a faith without certainty.”

~ Paul Razor, Faith without Certainty—Liberal Theology in the 21st Century

UU Traditions

Like any religion, Unitarian Universalism has rituals that reflect its unique faith and values.

Chalice Lighting

The flaming chalice is the official symbol of our faith. It was commissioned during World War II by Rev. Charles Joy and created by Austrian artist Hans Deutsch for the Unitarian Service Committee, which was helping Jewish refugees escape Nazi persecution. In 1961, two overlapping circles were added to the symbol, representing the merger between the Unitarians and the Universalists.

Today, the chalice is lit before services and meetings to signal entry into a sacred time and space. Read more about its meaning here.

Flower Communion

Flower Communion, sometimes called the Flower Ceremony, is an annual ritual that celebrates the beauty of diversity.

In this ceremony, everyone in the congregation brings a flower from their home and places it in a shared vase on the altar. The congregation and minister then bless the flowers and redistribute them. Each person brings home a different flower than the one they brought.

Unitarian minister Norbert Capek of Prague started this tradition in 1923.

Water Communion

Members bring to service a small amount of water from home or a place that is special to them. At the appointed time, people come one-by-one to pour their water into a large communal bowl. As the water is added, the person who brought it explains why it is special to them.

The combined water is symbolic of our shared faith coming from many different sources. Some congregations later boil the water and use it as “holy water” in child dedications and other ceremonies. This tradition began in the 1980s.