Unitarian Universalism has no creed. We don’t have an oath to an outside power. There is no pledge to a single entity, concept, or ideal. What then does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist?
We do have Principles. But those still aren’t really what defines us as a movement.
Our Principles are all phrased in a way that they seem like things we do with or for other people. The way they are recorded in the bylaws is every exothermic; the energy would seem to always be going out. Many UUs do grab on to the 4th Principle to demand freedom in their search for truth and meaning (though we sometimes gloss over the responsible part). Still, the wording is a promise to each of us that we will respect the freedom of others (within undefined limits of the word “responsible”)
Of course, it is also said over and over that these are guidelines and aspirations, not a creed. In fact, the relationship of the individual to the Principles can be murky; there is no UUA-level requirement that individuals make any commitment to them.
We Choose to be UU, Over and Over.
Tucked into the middle of the Principles is a word that, for me, really encapsulates what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. I already gave away my choice: Growth. We have a commitment to encourage spiritual growth in one another. To me that means a de facto agreement that to be a UU is to consent to being constantly encouraged; to constantly consider our own growth. Since our Principles are aspirational, and none of us are expected to get them right daily, “growth” then means, in part, doing each of those things better as time passes. Personal growth, spiritual growth, is the core of what it means to me to be UU.
The word “spiritual” trips up some people. If we agree, though that our Principles are religious in nature we have an interpretation which covers the humanist definitions of Spiritual. Leaning into our Principles as a better way to live is spiritual growth. That is the choice we make over and over. This commitment is why we come together. It is why we listen to stories of wisdom and wonder and share our joys and sorrows with one another. It is so that we can continue to receive the encouragement and support we need to be better versions of ourselves.
Doing This Work Together Makes It Easier.
By sharing our successes and failures, we encourage others. By naming those times when we struggle with our Principles, we remember that we are all doing this work together. We do the work on ourselves in order to change the world a little bit at a time.
The I Am UU project is here to encourage us all every week. We are able to do this work because the community supports it with constructive feedback, social media shares, and financial contributions. If you find value in this ministry, please consider buying a cup of coffee, a lunch, or a month of web hosting as you can afford.