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World Religion Report - Unitarian Universalism

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Unitarian Universalism, also known as UUA, is a religious movement that welcomes pluralism and diversity in its members' beliefs and practices. Unitarian Universalism was formed in the early 1960s when the Unitarian and Universalism denominations merged. Both Unitarianism and Universalism are originally rooted from Protestant Christianity but Unitarian Universalists do not regard their faith as such. There are currently approximately 800,000 Unitarian Universalists worldwide, most of which reside in the United States. Many people turn to Unitarian Universalism because there is a religious structure while still allowing members to have an open mind and different personal beliefs (Religion Facts, n.d.).

Unitarianism and Universalism were formed at two separate times. Unitarianism was formed in the early 16th century in both Romania and Poland based on the rejection of the Trinity. The Trinity is a Christian belief in "God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," three divinities for worship. One man, Michael Servetus, was actually burned at the stake in the mid-1500s for his Unitarian beliefs. A Unitarian movement did not rise in the United States until the late 1700s and in 1825 the American Unitarian Association (AUA) was formed (Religion Facts n.d. para. 11).

Universalism on the other hand, has a much longer history. Universalism has been appearing in Christian history since the early times of the church. Universalism became its own denomination in the United States in 1793. The church was known as the Universalist Church of American (UCA) (Religion Facts n.d. para 10). Universalism separated from Christianity because of its difference in beliefs regarding the salvation of humanity and the existence of Hell. Christians believe that only Christians will spend eternity in Heaven with Christ and all others will go to Hell. Universalists believe that all humans will have salvation and that Hell does not exist (Universalism, n.d.).

I made a visit to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Surprise. The service started with announcements from congregation members about what the church is doing for the community. First time visitors are then given the chance to introduce themselves to the congregation. Members are also given a chance to share their personal joys and sorrows with the congregation and a moment of silence is held for those people. Children are included in the first part of the service while the minister tells a story complete with props. The remainder of the service is similar to Christian services. Prayers are held, a sermon is given, tithing is collected, and a choir sings at the end of the service. Coffee is offered after the service for members and visitors to socialize. Visitors are asked to use a different colored cup than regular members so they can be recognized and welcomed by members. One of the ministers, Walter Wieder, also hosts a radio show on Sunday afternoons called A Different View that is broadcast on both an AM radio station and the Internet for those who miss the morning service.

To Serve the People

To worship God is nothing other than to serve the people. It does not need rosaries, prayer carpets, or robes. All people are members of the same body, created from one essence. If fate brings suffering to one member, the others cannot stay at rest. - SAADI (Singing the Living Tradition Hymnal, 1994)

After the service, I was able to sit down with two of the church's ministers. The first of the two was Walter Wieder. Wieder did not specify his religious background but is currently an intellectual agnostic and functional atheist. The second was Patty Willis. Willis is an intern at the church and was raised as a Mormon.

Wieder states that following Unitarian Universalism has kept him engaged and social with the world. Joining the Unitarian Universalist has allowed Wieder to become a minister and deepened his compassion for people. Wieder chose to follow Unitarian Universalism because this religion allows him to use his life experiences in religion and allows others to do the same. Working as a minister of a Unitarian Universalist church allows Wieder to lead others without having to tell others what to think. Wieder discovered Unitarian Universalism in college while dating someone who attended a Unitarian Universalist church and he decided to continue on the path afterward. Wieder believes the challenges to following Unitarian Universalism are that no one is around to tell him what to believe or not to believe. Wieder says that Unitarian Universalism members have freedom and some do not use the freedom they are given. Given that Wieder is an agnostic/atheist, he does not believe in life after death not does he believe that any sort of faith will protect him. Wieder believes that a person does the best they can in life and deal with things as they come (W. Wieder, personal communication, September 12, 2010).

Willis believes that Unitarian Universalism has given



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