Life is a journey. Your journey in life is important. Consider making First Universalist a companion for the journey. We invite you to:
Gather with Us!
This is an invitation to participate in meaningful ways at First Universalist, which is a place of belonging, a place of possibility. Come experience what we mean by love as covenant.
Grow with Us!
Come as you are and expect to grow: Intentionally, deeply, and joyfully. We offer many programs to help you gather wisdom for life.
Serve with Us!
Help heal the world through compassion in action. We offer opportunities for “church work” by volunteering within the church and the “work of the church,” as we work for justice.
We focus on all aspects of church life having to do with growing spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally including worship, lifespan religious education, and church traditions. We offer courses that focus on spiritual development, those that focus on more intellectual issues, and many are a blending of the two.
Forming friendships is at the heart of making meaningful connections at First Universalist. Making connections with other people can be difficult. We want this to be a place where people know your name and where you develop friendships that are important to you. Friendships sustain us through difficult times; friendships increase our joy during joyous times; friendships help us see the best in ourselves and allow us to strive for authenticity. Our programs, courses, and services are intended to nurture community.
In its original meaning, a touchstone was a stone that was used to test the purity of gold or silver. A touchstone has come to mean a quintessential feature. Our seven sources are a quintessential feature of Unitarian Universalism, creating a “religious pluralism that enriches and ennobles our faith.” They take seriously the fact that our religious sensibilities differ. We are invited to embrace those sources that speak to our soul, using them as touchstones to nurture us and inform our actions, using them to deepen our understanding and expand our vision, using them to lead lives of integrity and authenticity.
Our first source: 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.
Religion begins with experience, not with words. Our first source wisely focuses on experience, for it is through our direct experience of life that enduring and nurturing connections are created, ones that uphold us through this journey that we call life. We are not isolated beings. Rather, we are both made of the stuff of stars and connected through time and space with all that exists.
Deeds of Prophetic Women & Men
Our second source: 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.
In every age they arise, some known to history and revered as exemplars—people for us to emulate in word, deed, and spirit. The vast majority of these prophetic women and men, however, became anonymous with the passage of time, but their legacy of courage endures. They used the life they were given doing the work that they believed would help bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice. Unitarian Universalist minister Tom Owen-Towle has characterized Unitarian Universalists as “free-thinking mystics with hands,” a term that captures three essential characteristics of our religious tradition: freedom of belief, a spiritual grounding, and deeds in service of justice. When future generations speak of prophetic women and men, may they also be speaking about us.
Wisdom from the World’s Religions
Our third source: Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.
It is the wisdom of our religious tradition to seek wisdom far and wide, rather than assuming that we already possess it or that it is the province of some peoples, some cultures, some religions, and not others.
Unitarian Universalist minister Jacob Trapp likened the world’s religions to the strings of a harp, each with a distinctive note, but not the same note. Each one addressing a unique and urgent existential dilemma. Each one asking different questions about the meaning, purpose, and challenge of life, and arriving at different and compelling answers, each a source of wisdom. May we honor the world’s religions, finding in each inspiration and challenge and wisdom.
Jewish & Christian Teachings
Our fourth source: Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Love is a gift to our religious tradition from both Judaism and Christianity. When Ferenc Dávid, one of our founders who lived in the 16thcentury said, “We do not need to think alike, to love alike,” he was recalling the words of Jesus who demanded a radical and transforming love as both the basis for human relationship and the gateway to relationship with the divine. With those simple, but profound words, Dávid said we will gather as religious communities based on love, not intellectual propositions; on covenant, not creed; on orthopraxy or right practice, not orthodoxy or right belief.
Because we have tended to embrace the religion of Jesus, rather than the religion about Jesus, we share a religious affinity with Judaism that is as strong as our historical association with Christianity. We have taken the foundation of love from both traditions and used it to build Unitarian Universalism. Because of this, we have always been standing on the side of love.
Our fifth source: 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.
Perhaps it was Galileo in 17thcentury or Darwin in the 19thcentury, but someone opened the door of religion and in walked this interloper called science. Neither religion nor science has been the same since. Galileo’s assertion that the earth revolved around the sun was believed to be false, which is why the Inquisition forced him to recant his discovery under oath in 1633. It is alleged that, after recanting, he said of the earth in barely a whisper, “E pur si mouve!” (“But it [the earth] does move!”). Darwin’s theory of evolution set off an even larger firestorm of protest through the citadels of religion, except, as you might expect, among the Unitarians. They agreed with his conclusion that, “There is grandeur in this view of life. From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
The constructive work of reason and science involves synthesis, seeking order out of chaos. At the deepest level, this is the search for unity. And this often results in surprise and paradox. Danish physicist Neils Bohr captured this when he said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
Our sixth source: 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.
Annie Dillard writes, “At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, ‘Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive.’ You empty yourself and wait, listening.” Dillard knew what our forebears, the Transcendentalists, knew: nature itself is a scripture to be read, studied, and understood. The cathedral that provided them with the most profound inspiration was the world of nature.
Creation did not end on the sixth day as the story in Genesis would have us believe. It is a continuous process and we have become co-creators with nature. Our appropriate role is not to dominate the earth, but to use our technology to allow us to live human lives with dignity and meaning within the earth’s ecological means.
The first step in changing our relationship with the earth is to awaken in us and in all humanity a reverence for the earth. May this reverence lead us to honor the earth. May it deepen into something so profound that the earth becomes sacred to us. May this deep reverence transform our actions, so that our very living becomes a touch that caresses the earth.
Our seventh source: Our own religious tradition with its theology of one light, Unitarianism, and many windows, Universalism, offers promise to the world. This includes the promise of hope, healing, and transformation.
In her sermon at the installation of the Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich as the senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church on October 28, 2007, Diana Eck, a professor at Harvard and one of the world’s leading scholars of religion, said, in referring to Unitarian Universalism, “If there ever were a time that we need to spin out a new fabric of belonging and a wider sense of ‘we’ for the human community, it is certainly now…. Developing a consciousness of our growing religious inter-relatedness, developing a moral compass that will give us guidance in the years ahead—these are certainly among the most important tasks of our time. …you have a theological orientation toward the oneness and mystery of God that is essential for the world of religious difference in which we live…
“You are, in my estimation, the church of the new millennium. In this era, Unitarian Universalism is not the lowest common denominator, but the highest common calling… In a world divided by race and by religion and ideology, the very presence of a church like this, committed to the oneness of God, the love of God, the love of neighbor and service to humanity is a beacon. The Unitarian theology, and yes you have one, does not reduce the mystery of the divine, the transcendent, but amplifies it, broadens it to include the investigation of the many, many ways in which the divine is known and yet unknown… You do have a mission. The world is in need of your theology.”
In a mid-week email series, we share inspirational words from the previous Sunday service and a suggested spiritual practice or action to build on the theme and sustain our commitment throughout the week. Subscribe to our email list to receive this series and our other updates.