Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults


We can choose between hating our neighbors or feeling kindly toward them. We can avenge or forgive. We can participate in political life; we can also leave politics to the demagogues. We can help the suffering, the ill, the unfortunate; we can let them die. We can encourage the search for truth and free expression of ideas or we can join in the clamor for suppression of all with which we disagree. We can work toward a united world community, or we can work for American dominion or isolation. These are all fateful choices, and it is our duty to choose. — The Rev. Howard Brooks, Unitarian Service Committee staff, 1949.

Freedom is a value integral to the Unitarian Universalist tradition. As a people of faith, we have had many opportunities in history to represent this value in the wider world. Does valuing freedom primarily mean that we uphold the right to individual stances in religious, social, or political life? Or does it call us to movements of liberation for all who are oppressed? Unitarian and Universalist individuals and institutions played a variety of roles in many important social justice struggles within our faith communities and in the broader society. This workshop explores key moments in our history when questions of freedom and justice were in the forefront of our movement. It shines an honest light on ways our forebears sometimes contributed to oppression as well as worked for liberation.

Before leading this workshop, review the Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters in the program Introduction and make any preparations needed to accommodate individuals who may be in the group.


This workshop will:

  • Present stories of several key moments in our history in which social justice was a primary concern
  • Explore the roles Unitarian Universalism, and Unitarian Universalists, have played in those stories
  • Invite participants to consider how best to heed the pull of our religious tradition and work toward freedom and justice in our congregations and in our world.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Learn about times when Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist individuals and groups perceived "freedom" as a religious imperative and describe how they worked toward it
  • Explore stances taken by the Unitarian Universalist individuals and congregations in response to our own contemporary social issues
  • Consider the ways in which our religious tradition calls us to active engagement on behalf of freedom and liberation
  • Consider ways to commit to "peace, liberty and justice for all" as a way of life.