What is the most UU thing of all time?

What is the most UU thing of all time?

Just in time for March Madness, we need you to decide which of these sixteen Really UU Things deserves the title.

Kenny Wiley
Person with flaming chalice shaved into their hair

What really UU thing would you shave into your hair? (© 2014 Nancy Pierce)

© Nancy Pierce


It’s March Madness time, when millions of folks fill out brackets for the NCAA basketball tournaments—and then debate their predictions with other fans. For days, we speculate: Can anyone stop the UCONN women’s team? (Spoiler: No.) Will the Duke men win their second consecutive title?

In that spirit of healthy banter, your UU World editors thought it’d be fun to get Unitarian Universalists in on the action. The question is simple: What’s the Most UU Thing of All Time? (Voting in the quarterfinals has begun.)

We’ve narrowed it down to sixteen Really UU Things—from lighting the chalice to your minister’s skillful avoidance of the word “God”—and set the first matchups. The items are ranked 1 to 16 by our estimation of each one’s chances to win it all.

Cast your vote in the first round between March 7 and March 13 below, and join the conversation about your choices on our Facebook Page, where we’ll feature one matchup each weekday. Our hope is that the conversation online will be as passionate and faith-filled as a Thursday night board meeting.

We’ll whittle it down to eight, then four (starting March 17), then two (March 21), before you, dear souls, get to choose The Most UU Thing of All Time. (I’m betting 45 percent of my inherent worth and dignity on “Spirit of Life,” but don’t let that sway you.)

Bracket 1

(1) “Spirit of Life”

© Christopher L. Walton“No other song, no other prayer, no other piece of liturgy is so well known and loved in Unitarian Universalism as ‘Spirit of Life’ by Carolyn McDade.” —Kimberly French

(16) NPR Voice

NPR microphoneHow is it that, from Mississippi to Maine, we all intone Responsive Readings with the same cadence and inflection? Does it have something to do with “All Things Considered”?

Bracket 2

(8) Selma

© Christopher L. WaltonA few times in our history—most notably in support of the civil rights movement in Selma in 1965, where two UUs were killed—UUs really showed up for racial justice. Are we rising up again with Black Lives Matter?

(9) Boston

© Christopher L. WaltonNo other city squeezes so much UU history into so few square miles. And from 1886 until 2013, the headquarters of the American Unitarian Association (later the UUA) stood right next to the gold-domed State House.

Bracket 3

(4) Youth Cons/Rallies

© Melissa BishopThere’s something about singing “Gathered Here” at 1 a.m. in candlelight with 85 of your closest, sleep-deprived friends.


(13) So-and-So Was Actually a UU


Thomas JeffersonA hopeful interpretation of a tenuous connection? A legend that will not die? A religious education lesson gone virally wrong? Don’t worry: We’ll still put ’em on a T-shirt!

Bracket 4

(5) Women in Ministry

© Nancy PierceStudying UU history means reading a lot about Dead White Guys from the nineteenth century—but now in the twenty-first century, a majority of UU ministers are women!

(12) Coffee Hour

© iStockphoto/MargoeEdwardsIn the immortal words of the Rev. Christopher Raible, “Though all else we scoff we / Come to church for Coffee; / If we’re late to congregate, / we come in time for thee.”

Bracket 5

(2) LGBTQ Advocacy

© UUAOur support for marriage equality and LGBTQ lives has deep roots and gave us the “Standing on the Side of Love” rallying cry we use for public witness.

(15) Arguing about Joys and Concerns

© iStockphoto/Joe CicakSome UUs are sure that sharing individual joys and concerns in worship builds community; others insist that open-mic time in worship keeps us small.

Bracket 6

(7) Congregational Polity

sculpture of 17th-century signers of congregational covenantOtherwise known as “How We Do Things and Why We (Think We) Get to Complain about the UUA and/or Our Minister.” (Seriously, though.)

(10) Committees

© iStockphoto/IlexImageI think the wonderful church I attended in college had me signed up for the Worship Committee before announcements were over.

Bracket 7

(3) Seven Principles (Six Sources)

calligraphy of 'We the member congregations' by Margaret Shepherd (detail)They’re not a creed because they’re ethical commitments, not beliefs, and we could change them if we wanted to, which we don’t.

class="clearfix"(14) Creative Ways Not to Say “God”

© Christopher L. WaltonIf anyone ever makes a “Stuff Unitarian Universalists Say” video, I hope they keep cutting back to a minister who never gets past the start of their prayer, “O wise soul of good great holy goodness . . .”

Bracket 8

(6) Lighting the Chalice

© August MillerThe flaming chalice symbol used by the Unitarian Service Committee while rescuing refugees in World War II evolved into the ritual that starts UU gatherings large and small.

(11) Water Ceremony

© Colin MacMillanWe return to church in September with small containers of water from our summer sojourns. Does it symbolize “As many streams that meet and merge” or simply enable vacation bragging?

How to play: Log in to your Facebook account before you cast your vote in this contest. (One ballot per person!) When you click "Start Voting" below, you'll see two images in each round, from the list above. Make your selection to go on to the next round. Enter your name after the last round and click "Enter" to record your vote.