Religion at Mac – Unitarian Universalism: the shared search for something meaningful


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“It’s the only church I’ve been to that had a stain glass window with rocketships,” noted James Specter-Bishop ’18. Spector-Bishop, the leader of the Macalester Unitarian Universalists (UUs) added, “And [it’s the only church] where you can believe anything you want.” Sound like your kind of religion? Welcome to Unitarian Universalism and our very own Macalester UUs.

Unitarian Universalism is a post-Christian religion, founded in 1963 with the merging of two former Christian denominations. UU doctrine essentially consists of seven principles that promote justice, equality, liberty, compassion and dignity, but the rest is pretty fluid.
“One of the things that makes Unitarian Universalism unique is the sense of welcome whether you have convictions of a divine being or not,” said Chaplain Kelly Stone. “UUs have a diversity of ideas about the divine.” Indeed, they can be atheist, agnostic or theistic. Spector-Bishop explained that UUs are unified through their shared search for something meaningful in life and are looking to improve the world through advocacy and social justice.

According to Spector-Bishop, Macalester UUs use these core concepts to guide meetings while also making them fun. A UU meeting is certainly not a standard religious service. Instead, imagine people sitting on pillows in a circle singing and talking; that’s a typical Macalester UU meeting. To begin the session, someone lights a candle inside of a chalice, which symbolizes the light of community. After an introduction and a song, each participant lights a candle for a joy or concern from the week, and a group discussion ensues. Additionally, every week someone brings some sort of reading, whether a poem or an article, for reflection and discussion.

“Anyone could walk in and feel welcome and be there without feeling uncomfortable,” Stone said of the UU meetings. Stone spoke of a true feeling of acceptance present at the UU meetings, regardless of an individual’s past religious experiences or personal beliefs. Karlyn Russell ’17 wrote that although she just joined the Macalester UUs this year, it has been really nice to have a UU connection at Macalester in addition to her church back home.

Specter-Bishop commented that UU meetings provide a space where many people could find a home and a sense of peace. Stone agreed; she believes Unitarian Universalism is a great fit for Macalester students because the religion often draws from intellectual communities. Specter-Bishop added that the UUs are always looking to introduce new activities and gain new members. The group is considering hosting a bonfire for everyone to write a personal worry on a wood chip and then toss it into the fire ­— ­stay tuned for details.

UU meets Mondays at 6 p.m. in the chapel.