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Thousands of Unitarian Universalists recently descended upon Minneapolis for their General Assembly, an annual event where "UUs" tend to a mix of congregational business, learning, worship, and fun.

On the first evening of festivities, we put several questions to about a dozen attendees:

  1. What's a Unitarian Universalist, based on your lived experience?
  2. How did you come to this tradition?
  3. Why are you here?

We thought we'd change up our usual, straight-forward approach to video editing for this two-minute segment featured here. We'll be posting a longer version of this footage next week, including a procession of UUs carrying stunning, hand-crafted banners representing their home congregations — from Bismarck/Mandan, North Dakota to Brooklyn, New York.

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13 Comments

Delightful diversity!

There is theology, scripture, analysis... Then there is the reality of an actual community. Would be interesting to see similar treatments of other current instances of global traditions.

I am a UU (currently at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton) and I've never been to GA. It's great to see this clip and here other UU's talk about what our faith means to them. You've captured how hard it is to describe. I hope people who would like a non-traditional spiritual home, one that teaches and practices love, tolerance, and openness to varied beliefs, can see that this might be a place for them. I can't wait to see the longer piece next week. Thanks for posting this.

Beautiful. I love being part of a faith community that explores and grows and adapts. Thanks for helping us to share who we are! I appreciate SOF and all you do.

I noticed you interviewed several youth. Our church (I am also a UU) has a different perspective on youth empowerment than I see in the more obey-oriented approaches taken by my evangelical cousins & brothers. You might find that interesting show-fodder. Also, I wonder whether you might not want to do several shows on religious education generally & just what it's all supposed to lead to. When I observe my relatives with their children, I always am wondering how "obedience" as a value is supposed to work, because obedience without an object -- i.e., obedient to whom? to what? -- seems impossible to imagine. If children are inculcated to obey whomever chooses to order them around, that would seem dangerous from a Christian point of view -- wouldn't such children be vulnerable to cults? To crowds? To criminals? That is a specific question I have, but I am interested generally in how religions impart values to their children.

I am concerned that sometimes we UUs get a bit too smug & act as if we are the only church that allows its people to think (I saw a hint or two of that in the video) -- that's not fair or true -- I was raised United Methodist & we were surely encourage to study & learn. The conflict comes if -- as a result of your experiences, learning, questions, &, by the way, feelings -- you cease to accept the raison d'etre of the religion in which you were raised (e.g., Christ's divinity, theism, etc.). If you cannot accept the raison d'etre for any organization, you usually part company (as much because of your own disinclination to stay as much as the organization's desire to bid you adieu). But that experience of coming to disagree with the organizing principles of a particular relgion is not the same as that religion not allowing you to think. UUism's raison d'etre is open enough to welcome sincerely questioning souls who may not feel at home in other communities. (But how did you manage to show so many UUs without coffee?)

Well, I am a Unitarian and do get frustrated at the lack of understanding about the actual theology in the current umbrella denomination we call "UU". The Unitarian theology came about with the anti-Trinitarian Protestants in the 16th century, and the Universalists came about in reaction to the Calvinists - they preached universal salvation. It so influenced American ideas of religious freedom that President Jefferson said, "there is not a young man living today in the United States who will not die a Unitarian." (so much for that prediction) Humanism dominated in much of the denomination in the mid-20th century, and we developed into an umbrella sort of faith, without worrying too much about the words one uses to describe a faith, and more on what one actually does. Now we have a resurgence of spirituality and a connection to the traditional Unitarian churches in Romania and Hungary. So that is a bit much to express quickly. Generally we just try to say the 7 principles, that it is out of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and many paths lead to God. Or the interconnected web of existence. Or enlightenment. Or Love. Or.......
And yes, being at a General Assembly is absolutely a fabulous experience! So many people trying to do good in the world, all in one place!

In response to two of posts here, I'd like to mention a couple of things, by way of information. While the video here shows significant diversity, it's a bit misleading. UU's are overwhelmingly white. 89% according to the UUworld magazine. And, on the subject of of uu youth, I've been hearing that the majority leave and don't come back. I love being a UU and I loved the video, but it does seem to present us as who we'd like to be, rather than who we are. These are issues that need to be addressed within the organization.

In our church, we have noticed that a good deal of our children/young people, leave get married and join another denomination. We feel that we have shown them acceptance and they choose to "follow" the path of their marriage partner.

So very true. 
If two people join to make a family and one belongs to a gang (country, religion, etc.) that has one of them convinced that their children will be castigated, incomplete, and/or tortured forever if they do not perpetuate the rules, myths, superstitions, etc. of that gang, then it is very difficult to break away with nothing but love and rationality.  My money is on the psychosis of the god-fearing sects, countries with wmd's, et al.

I'm glad that the SOF crew got to spend some time at the UU General Assembly. SOF and UU share lots of common subject matter...science & morality, discovering and re-discovering scriptures in different lights, ethical eating, social justice as a religious movement, living religious principals in our daily behavior. SOF is quoted and discussed at coffee hours and covenant groups.

Great video. it gives me such a feeling of being home. this is who i am. i only wish i had found out earlier. i also wish this generous way of spiritual life/religion on anyone so fortunate as to find it. GO UUs!

I'm a Unitarian but grew up happy as an Episcopalian and attend Reformed church to keep the Christ in me. Galen G the minister at All Souls and Forrest Church both deliver/delivered excellent messages without the focus just to please all. Unlike current Marble collegiate Reformed sermons, during the elections, Unitarians dont need to be politically current.,
All Souls NYC, www.allsoulsnyc.org preaches peace, civil living and kindness....translated in my book as love. I never say, I love icecream.

Unitarian Universalist do not believe what they want to be believe are faith is grounded is respect for other lives both human and non human. You can fin meaning and purpose from various religious traditions. Just wanted to bring this out.

the interviews are a true representation of the thoughtful people who attend General Assembly-- as a UU (from Reading, PA area), I thank you for that!