Welcome to Unitarian Universalism
We are people of all ages, people of many backgrounds, and people of many beliefs. We are brave, curious and compassionate thinkers and doers. We create spirituality and community beyond boundaries, working for more justice and more love in our own lives and in the world.
History of Unitarian Universalism
This history of Unitarian Universalism emerges from two different religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. Both Unitarianism and Universalism started in Europe hundreds of years ago. The Unitarian movement emerged from the Protestant Reformation and Universalism started to take hold in the Age of Enlightenment. The Universalist Church of America was founded by 1793, and the American Unitarian Association by 1825. In 1961, these denominations consolidated to form the new religion of Unitarian Universalism (UUA). Click here to watch a short video about our UU history
Since 1961, Unitarian Universalism has followed in the footsteps of its Unitarian and Universalist heritages to provide a strong voice for social justice and liberal religion. Within a very few years of the new religion’s forming, Unitarian Universalists’ voices were heard nation-wide advocating for the rights of conscientious objectors to the war in Vietnam as well as for voting and civil rights for people of color in the south. Many members of our faith responded to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to witness and participate in the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Unitarian Universalists James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo were killed because of their participation in this protest, and ended up becoming martyrs of the movement.
More recently, many Unitarian Universalists have spoken against the first Gulf War (1991) and again ten years later when the US entered Afghanistan and Iraq. Unitarian Universalists continue to protest unjust wars and unnecessary violence today.
The rights of the LGBTQI community have long been supported by many of our Unitarian Universalist congregations, individuals, and the UUA. Ours was the earliest faith to conduct civil unions and was a major contributor to the marriage equality movement with its first, among many, victories in Massachusetts, in 2004. We continue our work with this important movement and with other marginalized communities. Standing on the Side of Love is a visual and outspoken public witness and social media campaign that takes on issues of race, immigration, sexual orientation, gender identity and other groups who need help and assistance. If you are interested in reading further, you may wish to visit the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) website for more information.
Unitarians and Universalists have been very influential throughout American history, especially in politics and literature. Because we are not bound by creeds but by how we are with one another, we measure our lives by our deeds rather than our words. Ours is a living faith where it is understood that revelation is not sealed by one religion at one point in time. We believe that inspiration can come from many of the world’s sacred texts, nature, science, humanity, and elsewhere. We seek to promote faith, reason, compassion and justice.
Some famous Unitarians include Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Revere, President William Howard Taft, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Some famous Universalists include Clara Barton, Olympia Brown, Thomas Starr King, Horace Greeley, George Pullman, Mary Livermore, and Benjamin Rush. Others include Tim Berners-Lee, Paul Newman, Christopher Reeve, May Sarton, Pete Seeger, and Kurt Vonnegut. You can find additional famous Unitarian Universalists here.
Unitarian Universalist Principles
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience.
As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”
1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
From the UU World – “Who Says Unitarian Universalism Principles Are Easy?”
Unitarian Universalism’s Six Sources of Inspiration and Spiritual Growth
We live out our seven principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience. These are the six sources our congregations affirm and promote:
- 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.
Rev. Kathleen Rolenz said, “Throughout history, we have moved to the rhythms of mystery and wonder, prophecy, wisdom, teachings from ancient and modern sources, and nature herself.”
Our Larger World
Shoreline UU is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. We are also active in our New England Region; support the UU Service Committee, Standing on the Side of Love and others. Below is just a sampling of UU organizations and affiliates that support our faith and work for social justice.
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
The 1,041 UU congregations in the United States, Canada, and overseas are democratic in policy and operation; they govern themselves. They unite in the Unitarian Universalist Association to provide services that individual congregations cannot provide for themselves. The UUA website has a wealth of information about current activities and initiatives as well as an overview of the history of Unitarianism and Universalism.
Other Denominational Links
Each UU congregation is associated with a region. SUUS is a member of the New England Region.