How can deepening your knowledge of our faith inspire you? How does education motivate action in our community? Congregant and lay leader Serethiel Freeman shares their experience in Adult Religious Education. 

After just a month of consistently coming to UUCA, I could tell you exactly what made UUCA different from other churches I have attended. I love this community’s dedication to art and social justice. This space holds inspiration and education, room for rest, and dedication to growth.

After over a year of attending services, however, I’m not sure I could have told you what makes Unitarian Universalism different from other religions. I have appreciated that I don’t feel out of place even though my knowledge of our faith and its history has been quite limited. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been learning more about UU history from the Adult Religious Education Team’s latest series.

Did you know that both Unitarianism and Universalism were originally Christian sects? Each faith group experienced its own transformation from an offshoot of Christianity to a non-doctrinal faith group.

Early in the Protestant Reformation, Unitarianism began to develop. Michael Servetus was an anti-Trinitarian in Spain at that time and was killed by the church for speaking his convictions about Unitarian theology. I was called to wonder how my conscience impacts my choices and what beliefs are important enough to speak up for, no matter the cost.

I learned about a prominent Universalist figure living in America in the mid-1700s: George de Benneville. He consistently lived out his beliefs in action, and he coined the phrase “deeds, not creeds” to talk about this action-centered faith. He displayed care and love even to his enemies. I was called to wonder how often my beliefs remain intangible for me. How can I transform my beliefs into tangible love and action?

As Unitarianism developed, the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century started to shift the faith from its doctrinal roots. Ralph Waldo Emerson and other Transcendentalist thinkers started to consider how our direct experiences in the world should impact our faith. The influence of scripture was balanced with the influence of what we experience day to day.

Continuing the shift towards real-world impact in the 19th century, we learned about Olympia Brown, a Universalist who worked for women’s rights, and Theodore Parker, a Unitarian who worked for the abolition of slavery. Brown and Parker were called by their faith to social justice and pushed through intimidating obstacles to bring their beliefs to life in the real world. I felt called to continue the work of living out my faith to create a more just society.

While Unitarianism and Universalism were different theological traditions (and still are), they joined together in 1961 in hopes that becoming a larger community would broaden the impact of their work. While we are an action-centered community, striving to live out our principles, we are also a spiritual community. The last session in this series highlighted how Unitarian Universalism holds space for many theological traditions.

This series called me to a deeper theological understanding that might fuel my actions in the world. What overflowing source of love do I turn to when my cup is empty? What passionate energy do I find to power my social justice work? Where do I find my sense of self?

I have been inspired by how UUism is a living tradition that is impacted by my participation. I have been educated about my faith and called to new action and a deeper understanding of what I believe.

This is the part where I say that I’m actually on the Adult Religious Education Team. Please do not feel like you missed out if you could not attend this awesome series! We meet almost every Sunday at 10 am. Each series will challenge you to grow in your knowledge, faith, and self-awareness while getting you connected with other members of UUCA. All of our sessions are drop-in friendly, so I hope to see you there even if you can’t attend a full series. I’m almost always in class, and I’d love to meet and grow with you.

Our upcoming series starts on Sunday, February 25th, and will cover the history of UUCA. I call you to meet us just as you are, and I know this space will be here for you whenever you arrive.