Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: What We Choose: An Adult Program on Ethics for Unitarian Universalists


Part of What We Choose

The Program

A people and their religion must be judged by social standards based on social ethics. No other standard would have any meaning if religion is held to be a necessary good for the well-being of the people. — B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, philosopher, writer, orator, and civil rights activist who fought against the Hindu caste system

Unitarian Universalism is grounded in the understanding that our actions speak louder than our words or beliefs. Faithful living for us includes discerning the course of action that best reflects our beliefs and values and then acting or choosing accordingly. As inheritors of a faith tradition that honors a wide variety of sources of religious understanding and authority, our big questions are: How do we discern the moral course of action in a particular circumstance? To what source(s) of authority do we turn for help—personal experience, community wisdom, conscience, religious texts, the words and deeds of prophetic people, reason, science, God? If we are intentional in developing a personal ethical framework to live by, then the behavioral choices we make and the actions we do or do not take can reflect our most deeply held values.

Development, clarification, refinement, and expansion of our ethical thinking often occur in the midst of crisis or in response to an event or relationship that calls our world view into question. However, this program offers an intentional process of engagement with others in examining ethical concepts, dilemmas, and questions to help participants clarify and expand their ethical understanding independent of a personal crisis. Participants examine how they have arrived at ethical positions that they hold dear. They explore new perspectives, identify areas for further questions and exploration, and perhaps more fully embrace ethical positions they reach through careful discernment. This program will deepen and expand participants' knowledge and skills for a process of ethical reflection that is central to living our Unitarian Universalist faith.

This program uses the words ethics and morality. While often used interchangeably, the two words point to different ways of describing the choices we make. Morality has to do with adherence to behavioral codes that come from religion or philosophy. Ethics describes the obligations we have to one another and to the natural world and the behaviors dictated by those obligations. Morality refers to rules of right conduct while ethics refers to a system of moral principles.


  • Introduce different philosophical frameworks for ethics
  • Engage participants to work with ethical dilemmas as presented in scenarios and stories
  • Guide participants to examine their own ethical and moral frameworks and clarify and expand them after reflecting on different perspectives
  • Deeply ground participants in their faith through exploration of Unitarian Universalist values and ethical ideas
  • Build participants' capacity to live more fully as Unitarian Universalists by enhancing their understanding and skills for applying ethical frameworks to their lives.


A team of two or more adults, either lay leaders or religious professionals, should facilitate these workshops. While consistent leadership offers many advantages, the same facilitators need not lead every workshop.

Knowledge of ethics frameworks is helpful, but not required to effectively lead this program. Seek leaders who are:

  • Knowledgeable about Unitarian Universalism
  • Committed to the Unitarian Universalist Principles, the congregation, and the faith development components of this program
  • Willing and able to thoroughly prepare for each workshop
  • Effective at speaking, teaching, and facilitating group process
  • Flexible, and willing to modify workshop plans to support the full inclusion of all participants
  • Able to listen deeply and to encourage participation of all individuals
  • Able to demonstrate respect for individuals, regardless of age, race/ethnicity, social class, gender identity, and sexual orientation
  • Able to honor the life experiences each participant will bring to the program.


This program is intended for adults. The workshops are equally suitable for first-time visitors and long-time Unitarian Universalists.

Workshops can accommodate any number of participants. Workshops of fewer than six can do small group activities in the full group, or skip some small group activities. If the group has more than 25, you will need at least three facilitators.

Integrating All Participants

People with obvious and not-so-obvious disabilities may need accommodation in order to participate fully. In addition to accommodating the accessibility needs of participants who request them, you are urged to follow these basic Accessibility Guidelines for Adult Workshop Presenters.

The Unitarian Universalist Association website and staff can offer guidance for including people with specific disabilities; consult the Disability & Accessibility page on

Participants bring a wide range of learning styles and preferences. With this in mind, the workshops offer a variety of activities. Review each workshop's Alternate Activities. Plan each workshop to best suit the group.