Lists of Lists

Here's a list of a dozen lists for understanding Unitarian Universalism and for our shared congregational life.

#1. The Seven Principles

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Source: Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association

#2. The Six Sources

The living tradition we share draws from many sources:
  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. 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;
  6. 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.
Source: Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association

#3. The Four Functions of Faith Community
  1. Worship and Celebration. The Sunday service centers congregational life.
  2. Religious Education. Learning and growing together -- for both children and adults.
  3. Caring for Each Other. The church has a pastoral function.
  4. Social Justice. Acting together as a people of faith to promote peace and justice in the world.
These are the reasons a church exists. It does many other things -- elect officers, make and amend bylaws, make a budget, maintain a building and grounds, produce newsletters. These things are not the reason the church exists. They are necessary to enable the church to carry out its four functions, but they are not themselves reasons for the church's existence. Worshiping, learning, loving one another, and working for justice are.

Source: Rev. Richard S. Gilbert (UU Minister), The Prophetic Imperative: Social Gospel in Theory and Practice, (2000).

#4. The Four P's: Expectations of Membership

Membership in a Unitarian Universalist congregation, I explain to prospective members and current members alike, comes with certain expectations.
  1. Presence. Membership calls for a commitment to show up, if at all possible, for weekly Sunday worship, and for your monthly "Journey Group" (a small group of 9-16 members). Without a commitment to attendance at these two, membership isn't very meaningful.
  2. Participation. Take part in the running of the church. Various items come before the membership for a vote: participate in the discussion, engage the issues, and cast your vote. "Participation" also includes taking part in the programs of the church, helping with various tasks, servng on committees, taking a turn teaching kids' R.E. from time to time.
  3. Pledge. The church requires your financial support to sustain itself, of course. More importantly -- since we are a faith organization for nurturing your spirit -- generosity and gratitude are the most basic practices for cultivating spiritual growth.
  4. Practice. Practice Unitarian Universalist values and spirituality throughout your life. If you were accused of being a Unitarian Universalist -- and if the evidence of your presence, participation, and pledge were inadmissable -- would there still be enough evidence for a conviction? "Practice" also involves taking up the intentional discipline of a spiritual practice, of which there are many forms.
Source: The basic four P's came to me through Rev. Kathleen Rolenz (UU Minister) at the annual assembly of Tennessee UU congregations, 1997. Adapted.

#5. The Four Types of Church Growth

A church must be growing -- and growing in four different ways.
  1. Numerical growth. Growth in membership numbers (including also number of kids registered for RE and average Sunday attendance of adults and kids), and in budget numbers.
  2. Maturational growth. The growth of the members of the church in the maturity of their faith, the depth of their spiritual roots, and the breadth of their religious imaginations.
  3. Organic growth. The growth of the church considered as an organism. A healthy organism requires healthy internal organization. For a church, this means policies, processes, practices, programs; practices of leadership recruitment and succession planning; evaluation mechanisms for programs, volunteers, and paid staff; structures for dealing with conflict openly and honestly.
  4. Incarnational growth. The growth of the church as the embodiment of its values, hence, it's growth as a presence in the community and in serving needs outside itself.
Source: Loren Mead. A variety of UUA materials utilize this typology (for one online example, click here.)

#6. The Three Constituents of Religion

When I'm asked what Unitarian Universalists believe, I frequently reply, "What Unitarian Universalists believe is that your religion isn't about what you believe." So what is religion about?
  1. Religion is about the way you live: the ethics and values that guide your life.
  2. Religion is about community: the people with whom you choose to join in faith community, and the rituals, songs, and stories that affirm and strengthen community connection.
  3. Religion is about experience: the experiences of moments of transcendence, awe, mystery, wonder, beauty, interconnection and oneness.
A church is for bringing these three very different things together in such a way that each one can reinforce the other two: so that the values we live by can also help us be in community, and facilitate more frequent and deeper religious experience; so that the community we join can strengthen us in our values and help us make enduring meaning of the moments of religious experience; so that the breakthrough moments of spiritual experience will deepen commitment and understanding of our values, ethical commitments, and appreciation of one another in community.

Source: Meredith Garmon (but see also Phyllis Tickle [religion scholar]: religion is a "cable of meaning" composed of three strands: spirituality, corporeality [i.e., the apparatus of community], and morality).

#7. The Five Smooth Stones of Liberalism

The preceding "Three Constituents of Religion" apply to any religion, liberal or conservative. What qualities, then, make a religious approach liberal? The great 20th-century Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams (1901 - 1996) articulated these "five smooth stones" of liberalism:
  1. Growth. "Religious liberalism depends first on the principle that revelation is continuous. Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete, and thus nothing is exempt from criticism." Our religious tradition is a living tradition because we are always learning.
  2. Freedom. "All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion." We freely choose to enter into relationship with one another.
  3. Justice. We are morally obligated to direct our "effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which makes the role of the prophet central and indispensable in liberalism."
  4. Social Incarnation. Religious liberals "deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation." Developing just institutions involves the messiness of claiming our power amid conflicting perspectives and needs, rather than the purity of ahistorical, decontextualized ideals.
  5. Hope. "The resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism."
Source: James Luther Adams, "Guiding Principles for a Free Faith," On Being Human Religiously. (CLICK HERE)

#8. The "Four Noble Truths" of Unitarian Universalism
  1. It's a blessing you were born.
  2. It matters what you do.
  3. Your experience of the divine is true.
  4. You don't have to go it alone.
Source: adapted from lyrics by Laila Ibrahim for a "Chalice Camp" children's song.

#9. The Three Sub-measures of Spirituality

The "Temperament and Character Inventory" (TCI) measures "self-transcendence" (a.k.a. spirituality) as the sum of three submeasures:
  1. Self-forgetfulness. The proclivity for becoming so immersed in an activity that the boundary between self and other seems to fall away.
  2. Transpersonal identification. Recognizing oneself in others -- and others in oneself.
  3. Acceptance. The ability to accept and affirm reality just as it is, even the hard parts, even the painful and tragic parts.
Source: Robert Cloninger (psychologist, creator of the TCI), adapted.

#10. The Five Foundational Spiritual Practices

Whatever your primary spiritual practice may be -- playing music, hiking, quilting, gardening, or any of myriad other possibilities -- your practice will benefit from also taking up these five practices to provide a solid foundation for your spiritual growth.
  1. Study. Daily. Choose writings that seem to you to offer spiritual wisdom and insight. Spend some time studying them every day for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Journal. Daily. Journal about your reflections on spiritual subjects, your experiences of the last day and what they meant to you, and what you're grateful for. Journal every day for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Silence. Daily. Sit still and quiet. Bring your attention to the sensations of your breath coming in and going out. When thoughts arise, make a note of what sort of thought it was, and then return to awareness of the sensations of breathing. Set aside some time -- at least 15 minutes -- every day to experience stillness and silence.
  4. Group meeting. Monthly, at least; fortnightly or weekly, if do-able. Meeting regularly with a group that shares your spiritual practice provides additional insights and helps maintain the motivation for practice. We need to have friends along the path.
  5. Resolve for mindfulness. Continuously. Throughout the day, keep bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Source: Meredith Garmon

#11. The Seven Dimensions of Religion
  1. Ritual: Forms and orders of cermonies (private or public or both)(often regarded as revealed)
  2. Narrative and Mythic: Stories (often regarded as revealed) that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and humans' place in it.
  3. Experiential and Emotional: Dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss (private)
  4. Social and Institutional: Belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identifying community membership and participation (public)
  5. Ethical and Legal: Rules about human behavior (often regarded as revealed from supernatural realm)
  6. Doctrinal and Philosophical: Systematic formaulation of religious teachings in an intellectually coherent form.
  7. Material: Ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred of supernatural.
Source: Ninian Smart

#12. The Six Stages of Faith Development

Congregations can't make people advance to higher stages of faith development, nor can they even test with much accuracy who is at what stage. Nevertheless, nurturing and encouraging people toward greater faith development is the function of a faith institution.

Stage 1 – "Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns. [1] Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with.

Stage 2 – "Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic. During this time metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and are taken literally.

Stage 3 – "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one's beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.

Stage 4 – "Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one's own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one's belief.

Stage 5 – "Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent "truth" that cannot be explained by any particular statement.

Stage 6 – "Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment." The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

Source: James Fowler (summary from Wikipedia).

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