Advice about Unitarian Universalist Churches

Parent Q&A

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  • I'm starting to look for a place where my family can join in community with others who share similar values (i.e. liberal, progressive) and my kids can learn from others about shared humanity, compassion, kindness, etc, in a way that is not heavily focused on any particular Christian denomination. I was raised Catholic but no longer practicing (and don't intend to start again). My husband's family is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association. We went to the UUCB in Kensington, and my kids really enjoyed going to the kids program during the service. I really like the values and principles. However, most of the people in attendance were much older and there were very few kids. Are there any families on here who are part of UUCB that can provide input? I'm tempted to try the Mt Diablo UU to see if there are younger families there. Also interested in any other suggestions for congregation-based gatherings for liberal families that aren't focused on Christian denominations per say.

    I highly recommend Unity of Walnut Creek.  The youth leader is fun, engaging and is also a reiki master pagan.  I previously attended the Mount Diablo Unitarian Church and it wasn't for me - I found the music there to be boring and the congregation too politically focused.  Unity of Walnut Creek offers a non-demoninational positive path to spiritual living. The music is warm, lively and engaging and the message each week focuses on the core values of love, connection, service and wisdom. Check out the website and give it a try!

    I am actually on the same journey as you. I am also looking for an inclusive community ideally with lots of kids for my 4yr old to grow up with. I love the tradition of having a group of people you can count on seeing on a regular basis without having to text ten times for an hour visit. Also love the idea of promoting deeper elements of the human experience.

    If you live near Berkeley perhaps we can join the search together and at least have playmates for our little ones?

    Hi! We started attending UUCB in Kensington a few years before the pandemic, after we moved to the Bay Area. We visited several places and ended up becoming members at UUCB. One of the reasons was that our then 8 year old really liked the children's programming, and there were quite a few families to connect with. Now, my child is in the youth group as a high schooler. The pandemic has changed things (especially for families!), but I have seen a recent increase in families who used to attend starting to return, as well as some new families coming to check us out. We also have a new Director of Family Ministry who is looking to grow the program. So, from my perspective, I think while the numbers of families and kids at UUCB might be smaller now, it has not always been that way, and is starting to grow again. Feel free to contact me directly if you'd like to chat. :)

    I just want to suggest not focusing on the number of kids in the congregation and instead find a community that feels right to you. My church doesn't have a lot of kids, which means my son gets a ton of attention and love. I remember one Sunday where no other kids came to church and my son got to have a one-on-one Sunday School session with the kids Sunday School teacher, a beloved public school teacher who chooses to spend more time with kids at church. Even with only one child there, she still "took him to Sunday School" and he was beaming afterwards about reading books just him and her. I joined my church because it was a fit for ME: progressive theology, racially and economically diverse, on the traditional-side liturgically (I prefer hymns and organs to powerpoint slides and praise bands) and I'm grateful to be sharing it with my son. Of course, older churches benefit from having young families join, but I feel like we are benefitting so much more by having access to a congregation full of adoptive aunties, uncles, and grandparents. I've been at my church since I was in my 20's almost 15 years ago and seen kids grow from children to teens to young adults in the church, and I see them getting a lot of mentorship and opportunities to be involved in service and worship that I didn't get in the larger, more kid-packed church I grew up in. 

    HI I went through a similar process about 8 years back. I was raised Catholic (including Catholic school) and knew that my husband I would not want to raise our kids Catholic given some challenges with our more progressive values (openness to gay marriage, belief women should have roles in church etc...). We are also also an interracial couple so having a place that is welcoming was important to us.   In our search we visited a few different denominations to understand fit for us and openness of the congregation.  If you feel your kids enjoyed UUCB in Kensington it might be a good fit for you even if there are not many kids.  We did several different congregation visits before we landed on St. Johns Episcopal Church in Montclair (; I highly recommend for families there is a positive energy in the parish and they are very welcoming.  There are a handful of children who show up regularly (we all seem to have different sport or activity schedules) - so don't let low child attendance scare you at UUCB Kensington.  At St. John's, there are a lot of older and middle aged parishioners, however the community and youth minister  have been absolutely amazing for the kids and very welcoming.   Best of luck in your family's spiritual journey. 

  • Hi all - we will be spending our 4th summer in Oakland - Rockridge neighborhood. My girls are 14 and 16, and I'm wondering if there are any Unitarian Universalist youth groups or anything connected to UU for youth for them to possibly check out? Just looking for some social opportunities, and also possibly volunteer opportunities. Thanks!

    Hi!  I'm a member of First Unitarian Oakland.  A good person to contact is Rev. Sheri Prudhomme at the church.  She runs Chalice Camp in the summer for one week and the teens o four local congregations can be CITs.  She would also know if there are other things to plug your teens into.  

Parent Reviews

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

Unitarian church for agnostic family

Aug 2005

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

Looking for a church

Feb 2005

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 if you are interested.

Good Luck. Lynn

I think I want to join a Unitarian Universalist Church.

Sept 2004

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)

    More Advice:

    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!