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

Handout 1: A Universal Religion

The Community Church is an institution of religion dedicated to the service of humanity... It substitutes for a private group of persons held together by common theological beliefs or viewpoints, the public group of citizens held together by common social interests... It substitutes for restrictions of creed, ritual, or ecclesiastical organization, the free spirit. It relegates all matters of theology and worship where they belong — to the unfettered thought and conviction of the individual... It substitutes for Christianity as a religion of special revelation, the idea of universal religion. It regards the religious instinct as inherent in human nature, and all religions as contributions to the fulfillment of man's higher life... — John Haynes Holmes, I Speak for Myself, 1958

The experiments at the Charles Street Meeting House, Unitarian Universalist, in Boston, Massachusetts, attempt to combine the art, literature, idealism, philosophies, music, and symbolism of all the world's religions into a religion for one world. Although we are ill educated and naive, our intentions are creative and honest... Relatedness of ideas and convictions can flourish between people of widely separated traditions. The earth has become one neighborhood, and we have brothers in thought and attitude everywhere. We hope to bring this potential fellowship into communication and cooperation, whereby a universal religion, with organization in all countries, on all continents, will one day come into being. — Kenneth L. Patton, A Religion for One World, 1964

Our Principles and Purposes affirm that "the tradition we share draws from many sources," including "wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life." And it certainly is true that almost all religions have borrowed heavily from others blending and combining religions or aspects of religions. Over time and with exposure to various religious peoples and ideas our original Unitarian Universalist traditions adopted their present pluralistic theological positions... As our worship increasingly incorporates ritual and spirituality from other cultures, concerns are raised about whether it is possible for Unitarian Universalists to authentically incorporate rituals, symbols, and artifacts from many of the world's cultures and traditions. And we hear concerns about the implications of racism inherent in cross-cultural 'borrowing' of various spiritual rituals and traditions. — Jacqui James, "Reckless Borrowing or Appropriate Cultural Sharing", 2001