The Religion Called
UNIVERSALISM

Universalism is a liberal religion, embodying principles compatible with the discoveries and methods of science and employing the methods of education. Universalism is a total approach to life, drawing inspiration and knowledge from the arts, sciences, and religions of the world, and knowing no parochialism or partialism. Naturalistic in orientation, it represents a valid alternative to orthodoxy in every form. It aims to assist each human being in achieving a full, mature and wholesome life. The response throughout the world to the liberal church commends a study of this pamphlet by you.

AN EVOLVING RELIGION

The Universalist idea has an honored tradition. Its evolutionary process may be traced back throughout recorded history: to Ikhnaton, the 14th century B.C. Egyptian pharoah; Moses, the Hebrew monotheist; Socrates, the Greek individualist; Lao-tze, the Chinese mystic; Amos, Hosea, Micah, Jewish prophets of justice, love and charity; Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, men of hope and compassion; Gandhi, Hindu saint; Schweitzer, Christian physician; to Protagoras, Ingersoll, Galileo, Erasmus, Emerson, Sophocles, Thoreau, Origen, Milton, Darwin, Freud, Whittier, Da Vinci, Copernicus, Lincoln, Paine, Spencer, Russell, Jefferson, Mill - to countless men, contemporary with us and of generations past, who have sensed the spiritual truths and world hope in Universalism.

Universalism is a body of principles and attitudes among which are these:

- The universe is a natural process, a dynamic unity.
- The life-force, or impulse, of which man is a product, is one aspect of the natural universal process.
-Man is an evolving creature, potentially markedly different from other creaturesyet, too, brother of the dust with them-in that his ability to reason, to transmit his accumulated knowledge from generation to generation, and to plan for the future enables him to exercise a measure of control over his destiny.
- Man's hope lies in his ability to translate his great ideals into action.
- His knowledge and inspiration are drawn from countless ages and many traditions, tested by his experience, and fused into a "one world view."
- The Universalist is not a partialist-he knows but one human race of brothers; is not dogmatic-more truths are to be discovered; does not divide his world into the sacred and the secular-his faith is involved in all the arenas of life.
-He is a firm believer in freedom, the educational and scientific methods, and individual responsibility.

This is honest religion, facing up to life as it is and prepared to meet the strenuous demands of this age. Universalism is always contemporary because it is always growing, always alert to the advances of human knowledge and understanding in every age.

A WORLD MOVEMENT

Throughout the world - in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas - there are groups of liberals drawn together by a common desire to share their points of view and to work toward a better humanity and world.

KOREA

The tragedies of war have greatly affected Universalist activity in Korea. Here a Korean Universalist teaches a church school class in braille.

JAPAN

Officers of a Japanese Universalist group get ready to make their plans.

The Universalist Church of America is such an organization on the North American continent and has been organized here, in fact, since before the American Revolution. The Universalist minister, John Murray of Gloucester, was the Chaplain for the armies of Generals Washington and Greene. Generations ago American Universalists guided the organization of the Dojin Shadan (the Universalist Church of Japan); within recent years they have assisted in the organization of the Universalist Church of the Philippines. Other countries have Universalist movements with whom are enjoyed fraternal relations: Korea, England, Holland, and so forth.

PHILIPPINES

A fellowship in the Philippines where Universalists now number over 2,000.

In the United States and Canada, The Universalist Church of America is one of the smaller of the large denominations, or one of the larger small denominations, depending upon one's perspective. As of this writing some 70,000 persons give formal affiliation to Universalist principles.

IN YOUR COMMUNITY

There may be a Universalist Church in your community. If so, its address is imprinted on the last page of this pamphlet. You are invited to request information about the church and to visit it and its people.

Because the Universalist Church is a free church, local parishes vary from location to location as each group engages in the search for truth and meaning according to its own interests and experiences. No denominational authority compels conformity either to practices or state
ments of belief. The forms of worship, the manner of stating ideals, the specifics of approach are left to these free churches to determine for themselves.

In many communities where no Universalist Church exists groups of liberals have gathered together into so-called "Fellowships." Again; if such a group does exist in your community, its address is imprinted on the last page of this pamphlet.

The Fellowship program is an expanding program involving many hundreds of religious liberals the world over. If neither a church nor a fellowship exists in your community you may want to give particular attention to the possibility of initiating such a program as outlined below.

THE "FELLOWSHIP" IDEA

Many thousands of people are Universalists in spirit and practice. Many of them have been universalists, with a small "u," for years. In recent years a significant number of such persons have come to realize the importance of joining their fellow liberals in some kind of primary, face-to-face, group relationship.

As a result of this movement Universalists have embarked on a "Fellowship" program, assisting in the organization of groups of religious liberals in communities where no Universalist Church exists. Any group of 10 or more persons may gain affiliation as a Universalist Fellowship with The Universalist Church of America or with one of its affiliated state organizations.

The Fellowships are unique in that they are usually led and planned by the lay persons themselves. The Fellowship exists for its members, to meet their religious needs as they determine them. Existing Fellowships are frankly experi mental. Few of the mores of the prevalent orthodox churches hamper these groups. Since the essence of Universalism is the search for better or alternative understandings of life and man, one may raise questions and express ideas that are prohibited elsewhere.

Too, a dynamic Universalism must have the best thinking of men and women of science, of labor, of art and literature, from all ethnic strains, those experienced in theory, those close to the soil. The Fellowship is a democratic forum in which no one's ideas are scoffed at or unimportant.

16 ACRES, SPRINGFIELD, MASS.
A large house, a spacious living room, a fireplace -this fellowship has an ideal setting. A converted three-car garage gives additional church school space.

The give and take of regular exchange is an important aspect of the Fellowship program. Members may also want to set aside times for worship, daring to experiment with new forms and expressions compatible with their ideas. Perhaps they will want to extend a platform to persons whose special knowledge or talents will cast needed light amid the darkness. Some members discover community projects begging for leadership from those with idealism and aspirations. Nor will many Fellowships long neglect the opportunity present for the religious education of its children-one which harmonizes with democratic principles and the natural world about us.

Thus far most Fellowships have had their beginning in someone's living-room or basement playroom. Later, they move to rented quarters, and some eventually purchase or build permanent meetinghouses. The essential qualities, however, are not lost in growth. Wherever they meet and regardless of size, the program is always one which will meet the original purposes-a common search of the good life, a sharing of hopes, interests and faiths, a unison attempt to contribute to the uplifting of human dignity and aspiration.

No two Universalist Fellowships are quite the same, nor are any two at exactly the same state of growth. Some have hired ministers, built
churches and reorganized themselves as Universalist Churches. Some have more elaborate structuring or programming than others. Some are in large metropolitan centers, some on college campuses, others in the suburbs, a few in rural areas. Some are made up of specialized scientists, others are more cosmopolitan. All of them are fun.

They are fun because they are dynamic. Something happens which is worthwhile, whether it be while enjoying a high-flying panel of one's peers or a cook-out. One's faith comes alive. There is no longer a feeling of being a liberal by oneself. There is a new sense of significance in belonging to a movement made up of people who are not afraid to face up to life and who are not afraid to stand off from the status-quo.

ORGANIZING A FELLOWSHIP

Gathering a group of liberals into a Universalist Fellowship is not difficult. Moreover, it is a project which brings one a sense of worth and pleasure. Briefly:

- Write to the Director of Extension, The Universalist Church of America, 16 Beacon Street, Boston 8, Massachusetts, indicating your interest and describing the area in which you hope to contact potential members. The Director will either plan for assistance by regional workers or from himself. -Ask for Universalist literature, organizational guides, religious educational materials, promotional items.
- Use the outline in the organizational guide, or one of your own, for the formation of a Fellowship. Write often to the Director for suggestions and guidance.
-In personal contact stress potential existing for religious education, forums, discussion, freedom and integrity in religious beliefs.
-If a Universalist minister or layman is desired for initial or subsequent meetings, every effort will be made to supply you.

The organizational guide, "A Universalist Fellowship," is a 250-page handbook containing detailed information about organization, program, religious education, adult activities, newspaper and other promotional media, and a variety of other important items. Questions not
answered or areas inadequately treated should be brought to the attention of the Director since new material is continually being developed.

Further, several men and women are constantly "in the field" serving Universalist Churches and Fellowships in all areas of program and organization. One or more persons will be in your area each year. If you would like their assistance, every effort will be made to meet your requirements.

THE IMPORTANT THING

The important thing, of course, is you. The Universalist Church of America exists only to serve you and to assist you in the discovery of ideals and their implementation. As an institution, it is a service agency for the furtherance of the most important basic human ideals and aspirations. The church does not formulate beliefs; you do that. It does not tell you what to believe; you arrive at your beliefs through your own experiences and reasoning ability. A Church or a Fellowship is not a building, or by-laws, or doctrines; it is people who believe in the potential goodness of man, in the scientific search, in the educational process, in freedom, in the democratic approach to decision, in art, poetry, literature, history, music, drama, the physical and social sciences as being contributors to knowledge; it is people who have grown up from the ages of superstitution and primitive theologies and who search for the intelligent alternatives to orthodoxies of all kinds.

As with any growth, the growth toward Universalism is exciting, fun, and rewarding. It is an adventure in life where the ending need not be pessimistic. This faith can be yours.


Cover Photo Credit:
The cover photo is the Worship Center of the Charles Street Universalist Meeting House, Boston, Mass.

Department of Extension
The Universalist Church of America
10-59-I0M
16, Beacon Street Boston 8, Massachusetts

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This page was last modified Monday 13 November 2006.  Copyright 19992006 Rev. Alicia McNary Forsey, Ph.D.
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