Who We Are
We are a congregation of about 170 members. Our goal might be described as the happiness, helpfulness, and fulfillment for ourselves and earthkind, by means of our continued growth, understanding, caring, and community.
The activities of our church help us toward this goal. We encourage and support one another on our individual spiritual journeys. We seek wisdom about life and about how to live from every source we know, including: (1) our companions and communities, (2) all the world’s religions, (3) the sciences, arts, and humanities, and (4) reflection on our own direct personal experiences.
As a congregation in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, we do not have a creed or required set of beliefs. Instead we agree to act with reverence toward all things as best we understand, to enhance the well-being of one another and our widening circles of community.
We welcome as members and seek community with all people equally, regardless of beliefs, gender, race, nationality, orientation, or background. We become companions for our journeys in our Sunday service gatherings and in gathering for study, discussion, life sharing, social activities, and social justice.
Our congregation is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), which includes about 1000 congregations in the United States. The UUA is a merger of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations into one denomination. By 1961 the two had grown alike in their understanding of religious purpose and practice and found it good to merge.
The UU Church of St. Petersburg was founded in 1915 by a Universalist family and a Unitarian family. We built our sanctuary and social hall on Mirror Lake in 1929. We added a building for office space and religious education in 1967. Click here to read about our congregation’s history.
Today’s Unitarian Universalists
Most of today’s Unitarian Universalists were raised in Christian or Jewish families or in families without religious affiliation. Most of us stopped identifying only with those traditions as we explored, experienced, and reflected on what life is and how best to live it.
At some point, most of us likely recognized the benefit of having a community which encourages and supports our explorations and fulfillment of our potentials. And at some point, we likely discovered that local Unitarian Universalist congregations are just such supportive communities, encouraging the use of many wisdom sources – from reason and intuition to empirical science to the inspiration of all the world’s religions and philosophies.
Whether or not you identify with the label “Unitarian Universalist,” you are a kindred spirit once you recognize, in yourself and humankind, your enormous potentials for understanding, caring, and community.
Today’s Unitarian Universalism aims to help all individuals and all communities fulfill their potentials for wisdom and well-being. It holds that humankind has great innate potentials for ever-expanding understanding, caring, and community – and with them, the capacity to transcend the divisions and conflicts that cause so much suffering in our lives and world. The pursuit of fulfilling these potentials is the core purpose and practice of our religious movement.
The Unitarian Tradition
In early Christianity, Church theologians debated whether Jesus was an exemplary human being who had fulfilled humankind’s highest potentials (early unitarianism) or whether he was God self-incarnated for the salvation of what was thought to be a sinful, helpless humankind (early trinitarianism).
In Reformation Europe and colonial America, some reasserted the idea that the holiness of Jesus’ life is to serve as the human model for our lives. They rejected the Trinitarian idea of God as Father/Son/Holy Spirt in favor of seeing God as unitary (hence, Unitarianism).
By the 1820s in America, Unitarian Christianity became a recognized denomination, with its goal being for each to achieve “likeness to God” following Jesus as model.
By the 1840s in America, borrowing from Hinduism and Native American spirituality, many Unitarians thought of God and Nature as one, with fulfillment of human potential experienced in godly (unconditional) caring for all life.
By the early 1900s, most Unitarians accepted science, reason, intuition, and the arts, along with the world’s religious traditions, as the resources for growing in understanding about life and how to live.
The Universalist Tradition
In early Christianity, Christian theologians also debated whether Jesus’ death and resurrection served for the salvation only of God’s chosen (predestination) or only of those who professed faith in Jesus as savior God or of all souls as unconditionally beloved of God. Unconditionally loving salvation of all souls was called universal salvation (hence, Universalism).
In medieval Christianity and Reformation Europe, Universalism was considered a heresy (along with Unitarianism). Its advocates were persecuted by the Church. But it flourished in several European nations from time to time, especially England in the mid 1700s.
In colonial America and up to the Civil War, Universalism flourished and peaked. But its growth was thereafter curtailed by the devastating impact of the Civil War and subsequent world wars on the psyches of the nation.
Instead of being a creedal religion (based on an authoritative set of beliefs about reality and morality), Unitarian Universalists recognize the authority of the individual conscience in sensitive, respectful, democratic relationship with the wider community.
The UUA as a denomination has developed a covenant of general purpose and practice in which UU congregations join. The full Covenant of UU Congregations is printed below. A summary statement of the Covenant is, We strive to help all persons fully develop their potentials for understanding, caring, and community as the path to happiness and fulfillment.
Our congregation begins each Sunday service with the recitation of a covenant statement by James Vila Blake from our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal: Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law. This is our covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.
As we say these words, we light a flame in a chalice bowl which remain lit through the service. The “flaming chalice” or “chalice lamp” can be interpreted to signify the philosopher’s lamp of truth, or the spirit of life rising from the cup of grace, or all souls in just and caring communion, or perhaps other interpretations that help symbolize our best hopes and ways.
The Mission Statement of our St. Pete congregation currently is phrased as follows: Our mission is to be an inclusive, evolving religious community that inspires spiritual and intellectual growth to make our world a better place. We bring our mission to life through our wide range of shared ministries, including spiritual reflection, religious study, pastoral care, community building, and social justice.
The life of a UU congregation is centered on helping each person grow and fulfill the human spiritual potentials with which all are endowed. The Unitarian Universalist Association within which UU congregations covenant for mutual support describe these potentials with seven affirmations. They are:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations,
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations,
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning,
- The right of conscience and use of democratic process in our congregations and in society at large,
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all,
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The sources of understanding our congregations draw on for promoting such growth are described in the UUA covenant as follows:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life,
- Jewish & Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves,
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit,
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.