In part 1 of this my bio of modern-day Unitarian Universalism (UU) I said that what I love most about UUism was not don at UU congregations on Sunday mornings during their weekly service and its accompanying fellowship hour. I also stated that it can be fond in Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU), which is the current youth organization within UUism. I ended with saying this “So what are the key features of this brand of UU? How dos it differ from other forms of UU?” which is exactly what I will be delving into here in part 2.
The brand of UU I like the one practised by most of the youth and many of the young adults within UU, the one with its roots in the culture and ways of YRUU, I have heard it called “UU ecstatic traditions”. Ecstatic traditions because it is a set of linked traditions that leave the folks involved in them feeling highly exhilarated and UU because they arose out of UUism itself. On the other hand the one you find described on UU web sites and practised by most of the adult population within UU, the one that is most dominant within UU is what could accurately be called “intellectual UU” because it has intellectual reasoning at its core and UU because it is native to UU. I would say these are the two main forms of UU and the best way to understand them, including understanding how they differ would be to take a look at how they do group worship.
Group worship is the central element within must if not all religious and spiritual traditions and UUism is no exception. At the heart of what I have called intellectual UU is the group worship style that has been described as “UU pew-and-pulpit worship” It’s the one don in all UU communities (churches, fellowships and societies) most every Sunday, usually all year round. UU pew-and-pulpit worship also happens to be the predominant form of group worship within UUim. But amongst the practitioners of UU ecstatic traditions is the group worship style that has been referred to as “UU circle worship” and it’s common at UU youth and young adult conferences and summer camps usually taking place late at night. UU pew-and-pulpit worship resemble a worship service in a liberal Christian church except instead of a sermon that is always devoted to teachings or passage from the bible it has one that delves into the thoughts of the presenter (minister, lay presenter or invited guest) on for example such subjects as the United Nations, peace, neopaganism, the environment, and politics. On the other hand UU circle worship is a form of worship that isn’t based around a delivered talk by a presenter that the gathered audience reflects on during and after the preceding, but rather on a set of activities that are designed to invite those present, including those who have planed and are leading the service to engage with and be moved by the service. So one can say that UU pew-and-pulpit worship is intellectually centred whereas UU circle worship is experientially driven. UU circle worship is usually the form of worship learnt by those UUs that grew up in UU community, especially those that have gone through YRUU, whereas UU pew-and-pulpit worship is the form of worship that is most comfortable to the majority of the adult UU population. It should be noted that most of the adults in UU grew up in a different religious community, usually one of the varying Christian denominations so this could and I would say dos explain their preference for UU pew-and-pulpit worship.
As you can see UU ecstatic traditions has experience as a key element and aim of their group worship practice. Whereas intellectual UU’s group worship practice UU pew-and-pulpit worship has the aim of getting those in attendance to reflect and analyze on what they are hearing using intellectual reasoning. I know I am generalizing a bit but I would say that this is generally the case. So how has this affected UU today? Well that is to come in part 3.