What is a Unitarian Universalist? It’s a question I’ve had come up numerous times, even more so since I became a minister in the faith as the natural next question after you tell a curious acquaintance you’re a Unitarian Universalist minister is, “What’s that?”
It’s so common that, as a seminary student, I was advised to come up with an elevator speech about my faith — a way of telling people what we believe that is no longer than the time it takes to ride in an elevator.
Since I moved to Auburn at the end of July and really started to get to know the folks around here, it’s come up more times than I can count.
Suffice it to say, I’ve never found an adequate elevator speech. After all, do I emphasize our over 500 years of international heritage, or do I focus more on the here and now? What I usually end up emphasizing are two things — our openness to differing people and beliefs and our work to make the world a better place.
Unitarian Universalism is a faith where what you do is more important than what you believe. In my congregation, you will find Christians, but you will also find Atheists, Humanists, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, Muslims, Religious Naturalists, and some people who aren’t quite sure where they fit. We disagree on a lot of things. What we have in common is a desire to come together in common expression of our shared values.
We come together on Sundays in common worship to affirm our common values. And we are people of differing races, ethnicities, sexes, classes, romantic and sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, ages, abilities and ages, finding strength in diversity, working to make the world a better place.
Which brings me to my second point: We are constantly striving to make the world a better place. Where there is injustice, you will find Unitarian Universalists at the forefront of calling for equity in our human relations. Whether it’s marching for workers’ rights, working for the liberation of racial, ethnic, sexual, gender, disabled and other minorities, or calling for immediate action on our current climate crisis, you will find Unitarian Universalists striving to make sure the world we leave our children is a sustainable one, hopefully better than the one we inherited.
I am a Unitarian Universalist both because the person I am is affirmed and because I am part of a movement that lives my values in the world. I am part of a faith that doesn’t ask me to deny my beliefs as I grow in order to continue to be a part, or to deny any part of who I am. And, while being spiritually fed, I find the strength to go on in an often-uncertain world.
Or, to quote Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams, “Church is a place where you get to practice what it means to be human.” And, in the end, isn’t that what we’re all doing on our spiritual journeys — practicing how to be a better person in a world so often broken and polarized, learning how to make the world better, one person at a time?
Rev. Chris Rothbauer (they/them/their) is minister of Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. A native of Southern Indiana, they live in Auburn with their partner, a senior rescue beagle, and a spoiled rotten cat. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.