The Six UU Sources
The living tradition we share draws from many sources. They include:
- 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;
- 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;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- 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;
- 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.
UU Seven Principles
Unitarian Universalists covenant with each other to affirm and promote:
• The inherent worth and dignity of every person
•Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations
•Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
•A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
•The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
•The goal of world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all
•Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
UU Beliefs and Principles
Unitarian Universalism is a faith tradition which encourages each individual to develop a personal faith. It draws from many different religions, in the belief that no one religion has all the answers and that most have something to teach us.
From Judeo-Christian heritage, we take the teachings of the bible and Jesus. From Buddhism we take the power of meditation. From Judaism we take the belief that working together we can achieve peace and justice. From Native American and other earth-centered traditions we take respect for the earth and reverence for natural cycles. From Humanism, we take the belief in reason and direct experience of the sacred.
Unitarian Universalism is a way of being religious rather than embracing a specific religious doctrine. For us, religion is an ongoing search for meaning, purpose, value and spiritual depth in one’s life. We believe that individuals are entitled to make their own search, and that not all persons are going to share the same beliefs. We believe there is wisdom and value in most all religions, but that no one religion has all the answers. We believe in an inner harmony that will lead to ethical action.
Unitarian Universalists believe in individual responsibility to search for and form their own beliefs and as a result many of them may believe different things. What holds UUs together is not common belief, but common experience and a common approach to life.
Unitarian Universalists believe in the Golden Rule, loving our neighbors as ourselves, working for a better world, searching for truth with an open mind, using reason to help us explore religious ideas, and granting everyone the right to choose their own beliefs.
An excellent resource about Unitarian Universalism is the book A Chosen Faith by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church.
The History of the Flaming Chalice
At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of our denomination. It unites our members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of our work.
The chalice and the flame were brought together as a Unitarian symbol by an Austrian artist, Hans Deutsch, in 1941. Living in Paris during the 1930’s Deutsch drew critical cartoons of Adolf Hitler. When the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940, he abandoned all he had and fled to the South of France, then to Spain, and finally, with an altered passport, into Portugal.
There, he met the Reverend Charles Joy, executive director of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC). The Service Committee was new, founded in Boston to assist Eastern Europeans, among them Unitarians as well as Jews, who needed to escape Nazi persecution. From his Lisbon headquarters, Joy oversaw a secret network of couriers and agents.
Charles Joy felt that this new, unknown organization needed some visual image to represent Unitarianism to the world, especially when dealing with government agencies abroad.
“There is something that urges me to tell you… how much I admire your utter self denial [and] readiness to serve, to sacrifice all, your time, your health, your well being, to help, help, help.
“I am not what you may actually call a believer. But if your kind of life is the profession of your faith—as it is, I feel sure—then religion, ceasing to be magic and mysticism, becomes confession to practical philosophy and—what is more- –to active, really useful social work. And this religion— with or without a heading—is one to which even a `godless’ fellow like myself can say wholeheartedly, Yes!”
The USC was an unknown organization in 1941. This was a special handicap in the cloak-and-dagger world, where establishing trust quickly across barriers of language, nationality, and faith could mean life instead of death. Disguises, signs and countersigns, and midnight runs across guarded borders were the means of freedom in those days. Joy asked Deutsch to create a symbol for their papers “to make them look official, to give dignity and importance to them, and at the same time to symbolize the spirit of our work…. When a document may keep a man out of jail, give him standing with governments and police, it is important that it look important.”
Thus, Hans Deutsch made his lasting contribution to the USC and, as it turned out, to Unitarian Universalism. With pencil and ink he drew a chalice with a flame. It was, Joy wrote his board in Boston, “a chalice with a flame, the kind of chalice which the Greeks and Romans put on their altars. The holy oil burning in it is a symbol of helpfulness and sacrifice…. This was in the mind of the artist. The fact, however, that it remotely suggests a cross was not in his mind, but to me this also has its merit. We do not limit our work to Christians. Indeed, at the present moment, our work is nine-tenths for the Jews, yet we do stem from the Christian tradition, and the cross does symbolize Christianity and its central theme of sacrificial love.”
The flaming chalice design was made into a seal for papers and a badge for agents moving refugees to freedom. In time it became a symbol of Unitarian Universalism all around the world.
The story of Hans Deutsch reminds us that the symbol of a flaming chalice stood in the beginning for a life of service. When Deutsch designed the flaming chalice, he had never seen a Unitarian or Universalist church or heard a sermon. What he had seen was faith in action—people who were willing to risk all for others in a time of urgent need.
Today, the flaming chalice is the official symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Officially or unofficially, it functions as a logo for hundreds of congregations. A version of the symbol was adopted by the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in Britain. It has since been used by Unitarian churches in other parts of the world. Perhaps most importantly, it has become a focal point for worship. No one meaning or interpretation is official. The flaming chalice, like our faith, stands open to receive new truths that pass the tests of reason, justice, and compassion.
Purchase paper copies of the “The Flaming Chalice” pamphlet from the UUA Bookstore for distribution or display.
Unitarian Universalist Association at www.uua.org
Church of the Larger Fellowship at www.clf.uua.org (has children’s activities too!)
UU books for all ages at www.uua.org/publications/skinnerhouse and www.beacon.org