The most UU thing ever, MMXVII edition

A young woman lights the Chalice at the 2014 UUA General Assembly.

UU World’s annual contest to crown the most UU thing ever depends on your vote.

Image: Is anything more UU than lighting the chalice? (© Nancy Pierce)

© 2014 Nancy Pierce


Skip ahead to vote or meet the contestants. Meet the quarterfinalists.

Which is more Unitarian Universalist, the nineteenth-century Transcendentalists or Mary Oliver’s poetry?

That’s not the start of a UU joke, although it could be! A year ago, UU World editors decided to hold a lighthearted competition on our website in which you, dear reader, could help select the Most UU Thing of All Time. Hundreds participated, and in the final round, Lighting the Chalice outlasted “Spirit of Life” to win the title—and a three-month supply of fair trade coffee.

By popular demand, we’ve created a 2017 version. The question is simple: What’s the most UU thing of all time? We’ve nominated sixteen Really UU Things, from our willingness to clap on, around, and far away from the beat to the quirky, spiritually powerful experience of our annual General Assembly, and set the first matchups. The contestants—including last year’s two finalists—are ranked 1 to 16 by our esti­mation of each one’s chances to win it all.

This year, we’ve added a beautiful print bracket for you to fill out. Learn more about each contestant, debate their merits (one thing we UUs do exceedingly well!), and cast your votes starting March 6 at You can also download more copies of the bracket below.

Download and print the brackets as they appear in the Spring 2017 issue of UU World:

Printable brackets

© UU World

Bracket 1

Lighting the chalice
© Nancy Pierce

(1) Lighting the chalice. Most UU communities do this simple ritual every week. Will this UU staple repeat its 2016 championship as Most UU Thing Ever, or will our anti-institutional streak topple it?

tie-dye conference T-shirt
UU Fellowship of Redwood City, California

(16) Conference tie-dye shirts. I have so many camp and youth con shirts, many of them in tie-dye, that my non-UU friends sometimes wonder if we double as Grateful Dead fanatics. Well . . .

Bracket 2

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Public domain

(8) Transcendentalists. Leave your best “So William Ellery Channing, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, and Ralph Waldo Emerson walk into a bar” jokes in the comments.

wild geese
© Liz West CC BY 20

(9) Mary Oliver’s poetry. We may not be able to agree about God or church architecture, but we’re pretty clear that it’s important to “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Bracket 3

Older adults with coffee cups
© kali9/iStock

(5) 9:45 a.m. Forum in the Margaret Fuller Room. As a kid, I wondered why some of the adults at church showed up for the forum but then left before worship. I’m more the worship type—but there’s more than one way to be UU!

young women hugging
© LaraBelova/iStock

(12) That “Take Courage” reading by Wayne Arnason. Approximately 172.63 percent of Unitarian Universalists shared Arnason’s moving benediction on social media during or right after Election Day.

Bracket 4

General Assembly banners
© Nancy Pierce

(4) General Assembly. My dream is one day to publish a “UU GA Fashion Guide” highlighting the sock-and-sandal combos, fanny packs, and terrific hats we wear to our annual convention. The worship, preaching, and music are SO good, though!

Pete Seeger
© Nancy Pierce

(13) Pete Seeger. And all the other UU folk singers whose interactive songs—like “If I Had A Hammer” and Fred Small’s “Everything Possible”—have made so many worships so memorable.

Bracket 5

Martha and Waitstill Sharp
UUSC Archives

(3) Defying the Nazis. Martha and Waitstill Sharps’ mission to rescue refugees from the Nazis—the subject of Ken Burns’s documentary—was one of our faith’s finest hours. UU children know that our flaming chalice symbol comes from these times as well.

© william87/iStock

(14) Adventurous clapping. Anytime I see someone at a local concert clapping off-beat, I’m tempted to ask them, “So, which UU church do you go to?”

Bracket 6

seizing microphones at 1969 General Assembly
© 1969 Steven H. Hansen/UUA

(6) Black empowerment controversy. Many black UUs and other UUs of color argue the late 1960s hold painful and revealing truths about our faith. Black Lives of UU helps us learn from those mistakes in the Black Lives Matter era.

theatre masks
© gldburger/iStock

(11) Going to plays and musicals. If it’s not Sunday morning, you can find your fellow UUs at a show—or quite possibly in the show!

Bracket 7

Eleanor Elizabeth Gordon
UUA Archives/Andover-Harvard Theological Library CC BY-NC-SA 20

(7) The Iowa Sisterhood. Few know about one of the most remarkable parts of our faith’s history: the women who served, officially and unofficially, as clergy in the midwest in the nineteenth century. Cynthia Grant Tucker’s Prophetic Sisterhood tells their stories.

Chalica candles
© Lisa Romantum Schwartz

(10) Chalica. Our very own seven-day winter holiday honors a different UU Principle each night.

Bracket 8

Hymn 123
© Christopher L. Walton

(2) “Spirit of Life.” Kimberly French wrote about the 2016 runner-up: “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.”

holding hands
© franckreporter/iStock

(15) Holding hands for the Benediction. And squeeze after!