Just the facts on religion.

Unitarian Universalist practices

Unitarian Universalist (UU) practices are a combination of Protestant Christian forms and content from a variety of religious traditions.

Religious services are usually held on Sundays and generally resemble Protestant services in outward forms. The service usually includes a sermon (by either a minister or lay leader), singing of hymns, a time of sharing "joys and concerns," and prayer/meditation/silence. UU publishes its own hymnals and songbooks; most songs are original compositions, while others are derived from Christian, Native American, Buddhist or other traditions.

Life events such as child dedication, coming of age, marriage and death are marked with special ceremonies which vary in their content. Baptism is not generally practiced. Coming of age ceremonies often involve the young person developing his or own belief statement.

Holidays from various religions may be celebrated at a Unitarian Universalist church:

Though practices vary in our congregations and change over time, UUs celebrate many of the great religious holidays with enthusiasm. Whether we gather to celebrate Christmas, Passover, or the Hindu holiday Divali, we do so in a universal context, recognizing and honoring religious observances and festivals as innate and needful in all human cultures.{1}

Communion (or Eucharist) is also not often found in Unitarian Universalist congregations. Replacing the traditional Christian communion of bread and wine are two original Unitarian Universalist rituals: Flower Communion and Water Communion, each of which is celebrated annually.

Flower Communion is usually held in the spring. Each member of the congregation is asked to bring a fresh flower to the service, which they place it in a large vase upon arriving. The flowers are consecrated by the minister during the service. Upon leaving the church, each person takes a flower other than the one they had brought.

Flower Communion was created by Norbert Capek (1870-1942), who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia, and was first celebrated in 1923. The symbolic meaning of the ritual is generally understood as follows (though individuals are, of course, free to find their own meaning in it):

The significance of the flower communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make. Together the different flowers form a beautiful bouquet. Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and thus it is with our church community, it would not be the same without each and every one of us. Thus this service is a statement of our community. By exchanging flowers, we show our willingness to walk together in our Search for truth, disregarding all that might divide us. Each person takes home a flower brought by someone else - thus symbolizing our shared celebration in community. This communion of sharing is essential to a free people of a free religion.{2}

Water Communion is not as central as Flower Communion, but still common; it was first celebrated in 1980. It is held in the fall and marks the reunion of a congregation that is often scattered over the summer. Throughout the year, members of the congregation collect small amounts of water from various places they have been, including their homes and far-off travel destinations. During the service, there is a time of sharing in which each person adds their small bit of water to a bowl and briefly describes where the water came from.

The resulting bowl of water represents the comingled lives of the congregation, and a small part of it is reserved for ceremonial purposes throughout the year. Another part is saved for next year's Water Communion, symbolizing the connection of lives over the years.{3}

References & Sources

  1. "Frequently Asked Questions: Ceremonies" - Unitarian Universalist Association
  2. "About UU: Flower Communion" - Unitarian Universalist Assocation
  3. "Traditions" - First Parish Church, Plymouth, MA