There are many different paths into the rich and diverse faith of Unitarian Universalism.
In fact, there are as many ways into the faith as there are expressions of faith and spiritual belief within it. Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths—diversity of thought, diversity of self-expression, diversity of identity. Some Unitarian Universalists were raised in the faith; many found it while searching for a liberal religious tradition that connected with their personal values and beliefs; some left it and have come back. Unitarian Universalism has open arms for them all. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many UUs found added impetus for reflection about what the faith means to them, and how they came to find it. Here, four UU voices share their journey into and within the faith.
Reflections of a Universalist
I would like to tell you why I love Unitarian Universalism and why it is my chosen faith.
Once I was established in my career as a professor of educational leadership in my 40s, I needed a community beyond my work, so I began searching for a spiritual home. I am extremely grateful to have found Universalism in particular. Unitarian Universalism is a faith for all of us who are comfortable thinking for ourselves and who recognize that life experience influences our beliefs more than anything.
"Unitarian Universalism is a faith for all of us who are comfortable thinking for ourselves and who recognize that life experience influences our beliefs more than anything."
I believe, as a religious community, that we have diverse life experiences, yet we find ways to love one another. I delight that we are people of many beliefs and backgrounds, and we come from diverse religious practices. Some of us believe in a God, some of us do not, and some of us are still trying to figure out what we believe.
In this Beloved Community I have met brave, curious, and compassionate people who live their lives boldly, out loud and who spread hope and love throughout our communities. From my early days as a UU, I was encouraged to serve my congregation in various leadership roles to put my new faith to work in the wider world.
I am grateful that I have been welcomed into this denomination where I can express my true, whole self with all my doubts and worries, and where I have been able to share hopes and dreams. I love this place, where I am enveloped by the precious spirit of life and love.
Seeking a Supportive Community
My wife Candice, the child of Filipino immigrants in Queens, New York, was raised in a conservative Filipino church but never felt at home. I was born in a white family with intergenerational wealth and grew up in Westchester, New York, close to Queens but a world away culturally. Raised Episcopalian, I have fond memories of church. However, the rigid doctrine never quite fit.
As a couple, we initially found the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Colorado, online. We Zoomed into services as the COVID-19 pandemic raged. Candice lost her grandmother in New York to COVID and sought support from the congregation to cope with the pain of not being able to return home. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and the UU community eased my fears.
"In the UU community we have found boundless love, support, and acceptance."
As the world started to reopen, we lost focus on our faith. We worked hard on our careers and started the process of building a family. When I became pregnant, we brainstormed what was missing from our lives and who we wanted to be as a family. We finally wandered into the UU Church of Boulder for the first time in person!
As the pregnancy has progressed, our connection to the congregation has strengthened. We have become involved in the community garden, planted a raspberry bramble, and dream that our son will someday sit in the garden and eat raspberries. In the UU community we have found boundless love, support, and acceptance. We are investing in our future as part of a community united not by doctrine, but by shared values. We are excited to raise our son in this supportive community.
—Candice and Martha Bautista-Biddle
Faith, Within and Beyond My Calling
Having been born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Shirley Mae Jones Long and Bang Long Jr., on April 24, 1968, a mere twenty days after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in that city, I often wonder if this has led to the life of faith I now lead as an out-as-gay, proud Unitarian Universalist for twenty-three years, and as an ordained UU minister for fourteen years.
My mother was of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion religious tradition, and my father was of the Black Roman Catholic tradition. I was steeped both in going to Mass, and sometimes the AME Zion churches, on any given weekend. My mother passed when I was a year old. My father remarried when I was about 10, thus introducing me to the Black Baptist religious tradition of Delois Harris Adams Long, his new wife.
"It was then that my faith shifted towards imagining more of what is possible in the world."
These were the faith traditions of my formative religious and lived experiences well into my early 30s, when I encountered Unitarian Universalism in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1999. It was then that my faith shifted towards imagining more of what is possible in the world. Even as I continue to honor some of the gifts of my faith foundation, meeting Unitarian Universalism—and graduating from Starr King School for the Ministry in 2009—has created a feeling of liberation.
For me, the power of my UU faith rests not only in what it teaches me about working to build more of the Beloved Community within and well beyond my life’s calling—it also asks that I work and live in the spirit of transformative love.
—Rev. Chris Long