Last Saturday, the Rev. Jon Luopa took those of us gathered at the District Assembly on a romp through contemporary UU history. It was brilliant. Below are some of my notes.

1920’s – 1930’s

  • Unitarians were embroiled in the “humanist vs. theist” controversy.
  • Was God necessary?
  • The focus of Unitarianism at that time was on the ethical.

1940’s – 1950’s

  • This was the period of our largest growth
  • Unitarian unity was based on social issues
  • Sermon content shifted from the theological to the political
  • Congregations became homogeneous: Democrats and Independents


  • Fellowship movement starts with little Unitarian congregations without ministers
  • These were entirely lay led and took hold in academic communities
  • Tension Arose that Reflected Our 300 Year History
  • The commitment to individualism vs. the commitment to community and keeping communities together
  • We have been a “church” that has not wanted to be a church


  • Consolidation of Unitarians and Universalists into UU Association of Congregations
  • This consolidation had been in the works for 100 years
  • It looked toward the future
  • Did not want to lose the past but had no way to consolidate the past
  • Unitarian Universalism had no theological resonance
  • The question asked was, “To what extent do we want to belong to a religious tradition?”


  • There was enormous theological diversity in UUism
  • The philosopher John Dewey said that humanism is not a religion
  • Yet humanists act religiously in that they hold certain principles as their truths and gather in community


A UU study of members showed that the majority of members were not “birthright” UU’s but “come outers” of other denominations


  • Great issues of our time dominated our pulpits
  • The social issues of the time undermined faith in the institutions of the day; institutions like the church
  • UU’s were trying to be an institution when no one trusted the institution
  • When the political and some social issues were resolved, people left UU churches
  • UU’s were asking, “What is the purpose of the church?” “What is the theological nature of UUism?”


  • UUism looks nothing like UUism 50 years ago
  • It is a totally new religion
  • Jon defines UUism as spiritual humanism
  • Instead of “come outers” filling our churches, now we have folks who have never been involved in organized religion filling our churches
  • How do we integrate these folks?
  • We have a multi-hued language rather than a common language
  • Question: why aren’t there more folks who want to be UU?!!!

Going Forward

  • People are coming to church to connect with something deeper in their lives
  • They are looking for meaningful relationships
  • They are looking for a way back into the covenant of Life
  • Purpose of the church: to build Beloved Community
  • What is “Saving” About Our UU Faith?
  • We are called to bless the world with our gifts. It is not enough to do that alone. We must bless the world together, in community

What to explore any of this further? Let me know!

Peace, Shalom, Salaam,