Unitarian Universalism (UU)
Unitarian Universalism, a covenantal religious tradition, emerged out of the radical reformation in Europe and the Puritan movement in America. Members and friends of UU congregations share common values (expressed in Seven Principles) and embrace diverse beliefs about life’s ultimate questions.
We seek personal answers concerning the meaning and purpose of life, while recognizing that responsible beliefs must be guided by a concern for the common good. We recognize people can be spiritual and religious by themselves, but a community provides comfort, support and challenge to our ideas and behavior. Together, we become our best selves and work to improve life for all.
Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism
We covenant, or promise, to affirm in word and deed these ethical values:
- 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
Six Sources of Unitarian Universalism
We receive inspiration for our lives from a variety of wisdom 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 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
The Flaming Chalice Symbol
The Flaming Chalice, symbol of the Unitarian Universalist religious tradition, comes alive when we gather together in community. A flame and a chalice cup are two ancient religious symbols. The flame may stand for courage in the darkness, sacrifice, and the light of truth. The chalice, a vessel for holding something sacred, may stand for community, sharing, generosity, and love.
These two symbols first came together in 1941 when the Rev. Charles Joy, Executive Director of the Unitarian Service Committee, a new organization assisting Jews and Unitarians escape Hitler’s atrocities, asked artist Hans Deutsch to design a seal to make documents look more official and dignified, and also to express the spirit of the social work they were performing. Deutsch, an Austrian refugee persecuted for drawing political cartoons critical of Hitler, was inspired by our heretical history, particularly Jan Hus, a priest martyred for sharing the chalice cup of communion wine with his congregation in opposition to a papal directive that the wine be reserved as a privilege of the priesthood.
Deutsch, impressed by Rev. Joy’s commitment to living out his Unitarian belief in service and sacrifice, created a symbol using a chalice cup and flame. This symbol appeared on papers and as a badge for agents moving refugees to freedom. Over time, the flaming chalice grew from being a two-dimensional symbol for the Service Committee into a living symbol for Unitarian Universalism.
The symbol’s graphic design has taken on new looks over time. Initially one circle around a flaming chalice symbolized the oneness of Unitarianism and of all humanity. A second circle was added in 1961 when our two historic faiths, Unitarian and Universalism, joined together. In the most recent rose design, the circles have been replaced by two nested U’s forming the cup that holds the flame.
In most UU congregations, we light a chalice flame at the start of Sunday worship and before other gatherings. Like a prayer, when lighting a chalice we often say a word of hope, recite a poem that touches our hearts, or offer a brief reading that might set the tone for the ministry to be accomplished.