Advice about Unitarian Universalist Churches
Look into Unitarian Universalism. Not sure where our Bay Area congregations are, but we welcome ALL individuals of any race, ethnicity, faith (or lack thereof), gender identity, social status, family makeup, etc. who seek a path of truth for themselves. As a former Catholic and Episcopalian, I have always felt at home there, most likely you will feel at home there too, as we strive to provide appropriate lifelong education on how all faiths are valid and honored. Youth groups typically engage in civil activism and charity activism. It's great for networking with other parents regardless of your child's age, there will always be parents "in the same boat" (whatever boat that may be at the time). It comes out of the Judeo-Christian tradition, with a few set liturgical practices, but mostly everything is very free and easy. It originated in Transylvania as Universalism - the idea that there is universal salvation for all those who seek it, regardless of the path chosen. UUs have been and are currently very active in civil rights -- from Black Lives Matter to immigration reform to bail/jail reform, we are in a lot of fights and we encourage our youth to participate as much as possible. Good luck, Peace and let us know what works out for you!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
|Questions||Unitarian Churches with Reviews|
I am a middle-aged agnostic/atheist with 2 two kids who is looking for a religious community in the Berkeley area that is not focused on a ''higher power'' or on Jesus. I was raised a Catholic but abandoned organized religion many years ago because I did not believe most of the teachings and wanted to think for myself. I am also increasingly disturbed by the conservative Christian efforts to undermine science (creationism, intelligent design), but must admit that since having kids, I miss the community and the shared rituals that come with belonging to a religious community. (My husband escaped from a strict fundamentalist Christian upbringing). I would like my kids to have some kind of spiritual education but not a traditional one. I am looking for a group that is more pantheistic, or perhaps humanistic. I have read that some Unitarian churches are this way, e.g., more egalitarian, encourging their members to discuss the big issues, but that others are barely distinguishable from main-line Protestant churches. What are the Bay Area Unitarian churches like? How do they compare to the secular, humanistic Jewish temple (Kol Hadash)? I would be interested in checking out Kol Hadash, but did not grow up in a Jewish household and don't know if this would put our family at a disadvantage. scientist mom
In my experience, all UU churches are respectful of agnostics and atheists (and, for that matter, of Jews, fundamentalists and Catholics). A central tenet of the religion is that every individual has a right to develop his/her own beliefs. The UU Berkeley church (in Kensington) actually has an atheist subgroup that meets regularly. You might try there first UU for 25 years
Re: Raised Catholic, looking at other churches, help us choose (Feb 2005)
Your post touched me because I spent a long time looking for which religion was right for me and my family. After trying several different things, I was disappointed because everything seemed exclusionary in some way to some gender, culture or way of thinking. Everything seemed to promote an ''us vs. them'' sort of thinking. Then, I went to a wedding led by a Unitarian minister. I was really impressed by the things he said and so we checked out the local UU church and it was great. Here's the UU list of principals and purposes:
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to 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.
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
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.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.
Anyway, there is a huge emphasis on community service and involvement. Since moving to Oakland, we've been going to the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. It seemed a little more vibrant and young than the one in Berkeley. There is also a wonderful education program there for children.
Take a look at www.uua.org if you are interested.
Good Luck. Lynn
I think I want to join a Unitarian Universalist Church. I've checked the archives and it looks like there are 2 in Berkeley, 1 in Oakland, and 1 in Walnut Creek. My understanding is that churches vary a bit in their congregations and how Christian or not they are, so I'm hoping someone can help me figure out which church might be the one for my family. We are atheists, but believe the world's religions have a lot to teach us. We'd like our kindergartener to attend a religion education program to learn more about the world's religions, and participate in community service. A children's choir would be nice too. We'd like to join a community of people who want to do good in the world, and not necesarily because they feel God wants them to (though that's OK too!) but because they know it is the right thing to do. I've been reading up on UUism on the web, and I think a UU church is the place for this (please tell me if you think I'm barking up the wrong tree!) but I'm wondering which of the 4 churches around us might be the best fit, since we are openly atheist. (Just to be clear, we know that UUs come from a variety of religious backgrounds and we respect that. We just hope to find a place where being atheist is OK too, and we wouldn't be the only ones.) searching for the right church
- First Unitarian Church of Oakland (2)
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley (4)
I think you'll probably have to go and visit them, one at a time. You're right that each has a 'feel' all their own, and only you can judge which is the most comfortable for your and your family. I attend the Oakland church, and I love it for the terrific music, the religious education, and the thought- provoking sermons, as well as the community. As far as I know, there are plenty of atheists there, as well as others who lean towards one or another religion, like Christians, Buddists, and Jews. I think that's pretty standard for UUs. There is also a strong social justice component, as well as wonderful shared ministry at the Oakland church, so check it out! And then check the other ones... Bonnie
It seems to me that you've done all the right research to find the church that will suit your family. I think now's the time to start visiting those 4 UU churches to see which one *feels* right to you. The Berkeley Parents Network is a wide and diverse group and you might get advice/recommendations that are all over the map, so I suggest that you make this final winnowing based on your own experience. Letitia
I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley. The other UU group in Berkeley is the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists on Cedar Street. They are a smaller, lay- led congregation. Being smaller, they don't offer as many programs as UUCB, but they do have a children's program and an active Social Justice group.
I suggest that you attend a service at each of the UU congregations in the area, and then decide which feels most congenial to you. I am certain that you and your family will be welcome at all of them. Elizabeth
You should really visit First Church of Religious Science - 5000 Clarewood Drive, Oakland. Religious Science is derived from the Unitarian (NOT scientology...). It's a great congregation and has a great message, very much as you're describing. Services on Sunday at 9am and 11am. David
I am a life-long Unitarian Universalist and a minister (though not affiliated with any of the Bay Area congregations). The short answer to your question is ''Yes.'' Our congregations are filled with a wide range of theological beliefs -- atheists (who don't believe in God), theists (who do) and agnostics (who are comfortably undecided.) You will hear God-language -- words like ''God'', ''Holy'', ''Spirit of Life.'' As we value the variety of religious searches so too do we value the many metaphors which attempt to give words to those experiences that are ineffable and often described as ''spiritual.''
I would like to add a couple of thoughts for consideration, though. Whether people identify as atheist, theist or agnostic, I am always more interested in the question ''Who do you think God is?'' There is a good chance that the atheist doesn't believe in a personal God up in the heavens who micromanages everyone's life. But there is also a good chance that the theist doesn't believe in that kind of a God as well.
In addition, while you and your husband are atheists, there is a very good chance that your daughter (as most children) will have questions about God and may have her own experience and/or relationship of God. This can be startling for parents who do not have that experience or relationship and being part of a religious community that values a diversity of religious experience can be really helpful!
I'd encourage you to check out the various congregations in the Bay Area. Call to see if there are choirs, etc. and then visit a couple of times and get a sense of how they feel for your family. Best wishes in your search and Welcome!