Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: The New UU: A Program for Welcoming Newcomers to Unitarian Universalist Congregations


Part of The New UU

People come to our congregations in many ways. Some research carefully, devouring every word on a congregation's website before entering the building. Some are drawn in by a newspaper story or an event poster, and decide to come and check the congregation out. Some have been wounded in their former faith communities and seek a community more in line with their values and theology. Some have never belonged to any faith community, and are longing for spirituality and community. Some seek religious education for their children and youth that teaches strong values while allowing for theological diversity. Some want to be part of a faith community that believes social justice work is at the heart of what it means to be religious. Others long for worship that moves their spirits and engages both heart and mind. All of these people, and many more, come to our Unitarian Universalist congregations hungry for what we offer.

The New UU program provides important tools to help congregations welcome, orient, and integrate newcomers into their faith communities. The program addresses the needs of newcomers who want to know more about who we are and what we believe. It provides opportunities for members of your congregation to share with newcomers what it means to them to be a Unitarian Universalist. It gives newcomers a chance to examine their own personal stories in the light of our Unitarian Universalist tradition and heritage. It provides a chance for newcomers to the congregation and long-timers to connect. It provides an explicit invitation to become a member.

As one in the Tapestry of Faith series of curricula for adults, The New UU weaves Unitarian Universalist values, Principles, and Sources with four strands: spiritual development, ethical development, Unitarian Universalist identity development, and faith development:

Spiritual Development. In Everyday Spiritual Practice, Scott Alexander defines spirituality as our relationship with the Spirit of Life, however we understand it. Our spirituality is our deep, reflective, and expressed response to the awe, wonder, joy, pain, and grief of being alive. Tapestry of Faith programs seek to form children, youth, and adults who:

  • Know they are lovable beings of infinite worth, imbued with powers of the soul, and obligated to use their gifts, talents, and potentials in the service of life
  • Appreciate the value of spiritual practice as a means of deepening faith and integrating beliefs and values with everyday life.

Ethical Development. When we develop our ethics, we develop our moral values—our sense of what is right and wrong. We also enhance our ability to act on those values, overcoming oppressions and despair. Tapestry of Faith programs seek to form children, youth, and adults who:

  • Realize they are moral agents, capable of making a difference in the lives of other people, challenging structures of social and political oppression, and promoting the health and well-being of the planet
  • Accept that they are responsible for the stewardship and creative transformation of their religious heritage and community of faith in the service of diversity, justice, and compassion.

Unitarian Universalist Identity Development. Participation in a Unitarian Universalist congregation does not automatically create a Unitarian Universalist identity. Personal identification with Unitarian Universalism begins when individuals start to call themselves Unitarian Universalist and truly feel a part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation or community. Identity is strengthened as individuals discover and resonate with the stories, symbols, and practices of Unitarian Universalism. Tapestry of Faith programs develop children, youth, and adults who:

  • Affirm they are part of a Unitarian Universalist religious heritage and community of faith that has value and provides resources for living
  • Recognize the need for community, affirming the importance of families, relationships, and connections between and among generations
  • Accept that they are responsible for the stewardship and creative transformation of their religious heritage and community of faith in the service of diversity, justice, and compassion.

Faith Development. When we develop in faith, we develop as meaning-makers. Faith is about embracing life's possibilities, growing in our sense of being "at home in the universe." Faith is practiced in relationships with others. While faith has aspects that are internal and personal, it is best supported in a community with shared symbols, stories, traditions and values. Unitarian Universalist faith development emphasizes each person's religious journey, each person's lifelong process of bringing head, heart, and hands to seeking and knowing ultimate meaning.

Each New UU workshop weaves these strands together to help participants learn more about what it means to be Unitarian Universalist and give them the tools they need to make a clear decision about membership in a congregation. May our faith come to life through your enthusiastic facilitation of these workshops. May you create an opportunity for newcomers to bring their stories, their spirits, their minds, and their hearts to this inquiry about who we are, what we believe, and what we are called to do in this world.

— Gail Forsyth-Vail, Unitarian Universalist Association Adult Programs Director