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

Alternate Activity 2: Unitarian Universalist Principles

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 5.
  • Write on newsprint, and post:
    • Do these statements of Unitarian Universalist Principles constitute a covenant? Why or why not?
    • Are they statements of belief, or do they in any way fulfill the role of such a statement? Why or why not?

Description of Activity

Distribute Handout 5, The Unitarian Universalist Principles. Explain that the handout shows two versions of the Unitarian Universalist Principles. The first version was adopted at the consolidation of the two denominations in 1961 and the second was adopted by the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1985 and amended in 1995.

Invite participants to read the handout. When everyone has done so, take ten minutes to lead a discussion of the questions you have posted on newsprint.

Next, read this excerpt from the Commission on Appraisal's 2005 report Engaging Our Theological Diversity:

The exceptional popularity of the Principles as a guiding statement of common commitment among individual Unitarian Universalists has been surprising. The committee that steered the process leading to the near-unanimous adoption of the Principles and Purposes never anticipated the various uses to which their work would be put. Their charge was simply to propose an amended statement of purpose for the Bylaws, replacing the statement adopted at the time of consolidation in 1961-a document that many denominational activists had come to view as dated in terms of language and political fashion. However, as Warren Ross comments in The Premise and the Promise, "To an astonishing extent today's Principles and Purposes... have won a lasting place in Unitarian Universalist hearts and have been woven intimately into the fabric of our denominational life."

Invite participants to move into groups of four and discuss how they feel about the Principles and Sources, as a covenant, as a statement of belief, and as a religious document. Allow ten minutes for group conversations. Then re-gather the large group and invite small groups to share briefly.

Explain that although the Principles are an important guiding document, they were never meant to be carved in stone for all time, and, in fact, a review of the Principles began in 2008. Ask participants to consider the thoughts expressed in their small group discussions and reflect on what changes they would wish to see in a revision of the Principles.