I suppose I have always been a UU (I just didn’t know it prior to 2010), although, ironically, I still struggle mightily in explaining when a friend, a family member, a stranger begs the question, “What exactly is a Unitarian Universalist?”.
One answer would be reciting the UU abbreviated principals:
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 conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society
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
Another potential way to describe “what” a Unitarian Universalist is could be through the church’s history. As written on the UUA website:
Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religious tradition that was formed from the consolidation of two different religions: Unitarian and Universalists. Both in Europe hundreds of years ago. In America, the Universalist Church of America was founded in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association in 1825. After consolidating in 1961, these faiths became the new religion of Unitarian universalism through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Significant figures in US history who identified as Unitarian or Universalist include: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Revere, William Howard Taft, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Perhaps the best way to describe our general UU philosophies is to read the portion of the sermon aloud.
Love is the spirit of this fellowship
And service is its law.
This is our covenant:
To dwell together in peace.
To seek the truth in love.
And to help one another.
If I address this question more personally, when I first became affiliated with the UU fellowship in Canberra, Australia, in a congregation of 10, I visited the question, what is a UU? During a workshop with a reverend from a larger congregation in Adelaide, we were all asked to write “elevator” speeches. In other words, what would you say to someone in an elevator, a couple minute monologue about what being a UU is to you. In this exercise I established the following mantra…
Unitarian Universalism is an inclusive fellowship of folks supporting each other on their spiritual path toward enlightenment with a particular focus on social dignity and environmental causes.
Describing what UU fellowship brings to my life in one sentence seems a travesty. Reflecting on UU principals, history, and past experience, now that I have taken a committed step to the UU fellowship by signed the membership book, my perspective on what a UU is has evolved. For me, being a UU means:
An all accepting atmosphere where I can ask any question
A community that respects conservation principals
A community which actively seeks out fringe groups who may be experiencing discrimination
A cornucopia of colorful individuals from whom I am continually inspired
A place to express my continual effort towards a purposeful life
To participate in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon (UUFCO), I am continually grateful. To be a member I am speechless and hope I can give back in greater measure that which the community has already given to me.