Coming to Unitarianism from another church?
Slideshow of images
Many people have joined the Unitarians having left another denomination. They do this for many reasons including: their beliefs changing and them no longer feeling able subscribe to a particular creed or statement of faith; finding that questioning was not encouraged in their previous denomination; wanting a more open and free religious community; being hurt by their previous church experience; being made to feel unwelcome because of their gender or sexuality.
WHO AND WHAT ARE UNITARIANS AND FREE CHRISTIANS?
Our churches and chapels are places where people worship with others whilst exploring their spirituality. The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches was formed in 1928 by the union of two movements. On the one hand, Unitarians have historically asserted the unity of God and humanity of Jesus, while Free Christians have been open to both Unitarian and Trinitarian understandings of God.
Our congregations offer a welcome to those who might wish to join us. Today, some of our congregations are Christian, while others are more humanist or embrace many faiths. You can often get a sense of the flavour of a congregation by visiting its website.
We won’t tell you what you must or should believe, but we do have a rich religious heritage to tap into, including:
- An open and expansive view of what God can be (we don’t put people or God into boxes!)
- The belief that spirituality is grounded in everyday experience.
- A liberal form of Christianity that has a positive view of humanity, taking Jesus as a great example, and viewing God primarily as the source of all love.
- A tradition of questioning and encouraging people to explore what they believe and why.
- Inspiration drawn from different faith traditions, beyond Christianity.
- An opportunity to be in community and worship with those who find their inspiration within Christianity and also with those whose faith expression draws from other traditions, a blend, or those who hold a religious humanist perspective.
- A long record of working for social justice and inclusion. We believe in putting our faith into action.
UNITARIAN WORSHIP, CEREMONIES AND MINISTRY
Unitarians and Free Christians enjoy worshipping together. As each congregation is different the form of worship can vary. We sing hymns from the wider Christian tradition, as well as our own uniquely Unitarian hymns and songs. There will usually be periods of silence for reflection, a time for meditation or prayer and, in some congregations, the saying or singing of The Lord’s Prayer. Readings may come from the Bible, from poetry, or other faith traditions. An address or sermon is usually offered. Many congregations also provide a time for candles to be lit as a visible expression of our prayers and concern for others.
Some Unitarian congregations offer a Communion Service, either as part of their Sunday worship or as a separate act of worship. Some congregations rarely or never offer Communion. Unitarians see power in religious ritual and enjoy creating religious ritual in innovative and alternative ways.
Most Unitarian congregations observe the main Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter, whilst also having the freedom to observe festivals from other faith traditions too.
Our congregations meet in grand church buildings, simple chapels, and in rented spaces. Depending on the location and tradition of the congregation you may find yourself seated in a pew in an historic building, on a comfortable chair in newer place of worship, seated in a circle in a rented room, or worshipping online. What is important is that the community can gather and that everyone is welcome.
Unitarian and Free Christian congregations may be served by a professional Minister, a Lay Person in Charge, or be totally lay-led. We believe that many of us have the ability to lead services and we offer training & support for those who would like to lead Unitarian worship. The Unitarian denomination has always valued a well-trained professional Ministry, but this does not preclude lay persons from leading worship and being fully involved in the life of the congregation.
Unitarian congregations are pleased to offer baptisms, child namings, weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. We work with people to create a ceremony that is meaningful to them, whether that is in a traditional style or more modern.
We enjoy links of friendship with the Quakers and other liberal religious denominations. At local and national levels, we work closely in ecumenical and interfaith organisations.
FIND OUT MORE
To find out more, you can visit the website of the Unitarian Christian Association, check out these Unitarian blogs, and take a look at these books: Unitarian? What’s That? (2018) by Cliff Reed, Understanding Unitarians (1992) by Philip Hewett, Our Christian Faith (2015) by the Unitarian Christian Association, and Christian Voices in Unitarian Universalism (2006), edited by Kathleen Roleenz.
You may also be interested in the International Association for Religious Freedom (which has strong Unitarian links), the Progressive Christianity Network, the Sea of Faith network, and the World Community for Christian Meditation.