Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Introduction to Unitarian Universalism and UUSS

What is Unitarian Universalism now?

1.         An association of 1,048 autonomous congregations in the US, Canada, & Philippines

2.         A non-creedal religious movement which promotes freedom of conscience, tolerance of differences, respect for diversity, the practices of reasoning together and compassion.

3.         A community of free minds and open hearts who commit generously to the hard work of democratic governance, mutual support, and continuous learning from one another.

4.         An institution dedicated to enhancing individual dignity and promoting spiritual growth.

What was it originally?              Two ancient Christian heresies:  Unitarianism (Arianism, the humanity of Jesus); Universalism (Arminianism, universal salvation).

1.  Major Events in our Liberal Religious Heritage                

1.  European History

1531 Michael Servetus published On the Errors of the Trinity (burned at stake 1553)

1585 Polish Socinians founded Rakow press, the 1st official Unitarian press

1568 King John Sigismund of Transylvania issues Edict of Religious Toleration

1654  John Biddle, founder British Unitarianism, banished to Scilly Islands

1723  Theophilus Lindsey born; 1733 Joseph Priestly born, immigrated to US 1794

1750 British Evangelist James Relly becomes independent Universalist preacher

2.                  New England Origins

a.                   1805 Unitarian vs. Puritan Controversy:  elite, educated, formal

1819 “Unitarian Christianity” sermon preached by Wm. Ellery Channing

1836 Emerson publishes Nature; Theodore Parker, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, transcendentalism:  direct intuition, individualism, social reform

b.                  Universalist movement:  rural, uneducated/self-taught, very pious & spirited

1770 widowed Englander John Murray’s boat ran ashore in NJ, where Thomas Potter awaited a minister to preach a distinctive Christian message;

Anti-Calvinist in theology:  1805 Hosea Ballou’s Treatise on Atonement

3.                  Westward Movement

a.                   1844 Meadville Theological School founded in Western PA; 1926 it moved to Chicago

b.                  1870s-1920s:  Iowa Sisterhood:  liberal women ministers established Unitarian churches in Midwest & plains states (e.g., Mary A. Safford, Eleanor Gordon)

c.                   1834 Wm Greenleaf Eliot took Unitarianism to St. Louis, founded Wash. Univ.

d.                  1860-64 Thomas Starr King, New England Universalist, came to San Fran’s 1st Unitarian; saved CA for the Union, raised $1.5 million for precursor to Red Cross.

e.         1904 Starr King School for the Ministry founded in Berkeley, CA

4.                  Radicals, Conservatives & Religious Humanism

a.                   1857 radical New England Unitarians formed the Free Religious Assn.

b.                  1852 Unitarian missionaries formed Western Unitarian Assn., Chicago;

its anti-creedal leaders made it theologically radical in 1870s-80s

c.                   1894 harmony achieved by unanimous declaration of non-creedalism

d.                  1933   The Humanist Manifesto signed by academics & Unitarian clergy


UU Social Action and Congregational Governance

5.                  Social Action—personal crusades or institutional stands, inspired by UU principles

a.         1800s:  leaders of abolitionist, women’s suffrage, and temperance movements

b.         1917:  Prof. Clarence Skinner’s Declaration of Social Principles adopted by Universalist denomination; he calls for “a this-worldly Universalism”

c.         1930s-40s refugee & relief efforts by Service Committees of both denominations

d.         1950-90s activism:  civil liberties, civil rights, Vietnam War protests, conscientious objector help, now more women in ministry than any other denomination, abortion rights, lesbian/gay rights, human rights worldwide. Standing on the Side of Love campaign 2009.

e.         Beacon Press, owned by the UUA, publishes books relevant to UU purposes

f.          UU Legislative Ministry of California founded by local and statewide UUs in 2001.

6.         The UUA Merger, the Statements of Principles and Sources, UU Church of the PhilippinesMajor Events in our Liberal Religious Heritage

a.                   1930s first of many merger talks occur; some denominational programs merge

b.                  1955  f irst contact between a Filipino pastor (Negros Island) and American Universalists

c.                   1961  formal merger of American Unitarian Association & Universalist Church in America

d.                  1984  UUA General Assembly adopts “Principles & Purposes” and “Sources” of UUism

e.                   1988  UUA bylaws change makes UU Church of the Philippines member of the UUA

f.                    1993  an updated UUA hymnal published:  Singing the Living Tradition

e.         1995  a close vote at GA adds “earth-based traditions” to the list of “Sources” of  UUism

7.         History and Organization of the UU Society of Sacramento

a.         1860 first Unitarian meetings held in Sacramento; 1865: $100,000 raised for Unitarian outreach in N. California.  First Unitarian Church of Sacramento founded in 1868 with 17 families.  But from 1873-87 no records of church activity!  In 1892 First Unitarian Society founded.  From 1901-11, there was minimal church activity!

In 1915 church building was built at 1415 27th St., in Midtown.  Stayed there 45 years.

c.  1960: church moved to new, modern campus, buildings designed by John Harvey Carter at 2425 Sierra Blvd.   2008:  Long Range Plan adopted.  2012:  congregation members unanimously an architectural master plan for the building and grounds for the next fifty years.  Capital fund raising campaign in fall 2012.

d.                  From 1971-83:  Rev. Ted Webb served  here, is now minister emeritus.  1976:  church name changed to UU Society.  1982:  world religions/cultures banners were hung.  2000:  Rev. Doug Kraft was called by a congregational vote.  2008:  Board hired Rev. Roger Jones on a yearly contract.  2012:   the congregation voted to call Roger as Associate Minister.

e.                    Budget of revenues/expenses approved at every May congregational meeting; month-to-month business is entrusted to elected volunteer Board of Trustees, meeting monthly.

f.                   Funding for our ministries, staff, programs, and services comes from pledged donations by members & friends, fundraising events, visitors’ offerings, and property rental revenue.

g.                   UUSS is a member of the local UU Pacific Central District (38 congregations) and the national Unitarian Universalist Association (1,048 congregations).  We provide voluntary annual dues to District & UUA (full rate is about $100/member; budgeted amount varies)

h.       Every church sends delegates to UUA General Assembly in late June:  2012 in Phoenix, 2013 in Louisville.  PCD District Assembly is on a weekend every April, usually in the Bay Area.

Revised 05/04/2012


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