About Unitarian Universalism at Gaia Community

Gaia Community is a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, an association of liberal religious congregations around the world. Unitarian Universalism defines itself by a covenant rather than a creed. This means that in order to be a Unitarian Universalist, there is no specific dogma or belief that you must hold, but rather a set of guiding principles you agree to act upon in your life.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources, including:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
    These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

    Another hallmark of Unitarian Universalism is the tenet of "congregational polity". Congregational polity means that each congregation within the UUA has the right and duty to conduct itself as it sees fit. This gives Gaia Community the right to focus primarily on the Sixth Source listed above, the spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions, in its worship, while allowing other congregations to follow a liberal Christian path, hold services dedicated to the ability of human beings to change the world, provide space for Buddhist meditations, or worship in any other way that serves the needs of that individual congregation. Congregational polity also allows us to conduct our business under a model of consensus where other churches would vote, and to generally organize ourselves in a way that works for us.

    Although each congregation is highly unique, Unitarian Universalists tend to share a number of values and commitments. We are likely to be passionately involved in social justice efforts including work towards equality, civil rights, and fair and ethical business and political practices. The history of progressive social movements in the United States is peppered with the names of Unitarians and Universalists: Susan B. Anthony, Clarence Darrow, Dorothea Dix, Julia Ward Howe, and Whitney Young were all members of our shared tradition. We are enthusiastic environmentalists, drawing on the Seventh Principle for our inspiration. We are involved in fair trade movements and the struggle for the right of same-sex couples to marry. We stand against imperialism and global exploitation. We seek to heal the rifts between religious movements in the world, and increase peace, tolerance, and understanding.

    The symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the flaming chalice, is rooted in these commitments. The original symbol was designed by Austrian artist Hans Deutsch, who was inspired by his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II. At that time, the USC was involved in the effort to help Jews and other enemies of the Nazis to escape from Germany and other threatened areas of Europe. An oil lamp burning in the window was a way that USC members designated their homes and businesses as places of safety. Today's chalice symbol often includes two rings around the chalice to represent the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist faith in 1961. Gaia Community uses a variant of the chalice symbol in which the flame is replaced by a green growing vine, representing our connection to the spark of life expressed in the natural world. Other congregations and organizations also may alter the chalice symbol to better represent themselves.

    For more information about the Unitarian Universalist Association and its history, please visit the UUA website.