7 Customs, Ceremonies, Celebrations

Is ceremony part of your tradition?

Birth, marriage, death -- we mark all of these occasions with ceremony. These ceremonies are not considered sacraments. The minister tailors each service to the people personally involved, so that the ceremony will be especially appropriate to them.

Do you have a baptism ceremony?

We have a Dedication and Naming ceremony performed at the same age that children in other religions are baptized or christened. The parents and sponsors (or godparents) promise to provide the child a healthful upbringing -- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Water is often used (a few drops on the child's head) as a symbol of the renewal and regeneration of life, which the child represents so well.

Is there an induction ceremony for new members?

The type of ceremony varies by congregation; there is no officially sanctioned induction ceremony. Two or three times each year, many congregations conduct an informal ceremony as part of a Sunday service in which new members are formally welcomed to the church.

Do UUs celebrate Christmas and Easter?

Yes, we do. The difference may be that we tie these holidays more to the changing seasons than we do to traditional Christian themes. They are honored as celebrations of the winter solstice and the spring equinox -- the hope and promise symbolized by the lengthening of the daylight hours in December, and the renewal of life in spring after the winter season of darkness.

The traditional accounts of the birth of Jesus and of the Resurrection are sometimes included in these celebrations and cited as myths which contain a positive message about human life. The birth of a child, for example, represents the hope and promise found in each new life. The crucifixion and Resurrection are symbolic of how new life can emerge even after a time of pain and suffering. As with the Bible itself, these stories are not taken literally but for what they symbolically tell us about human life.

We celebrate Easter as the return of spring and the renewal of life; in this respect we draw more on the pagan rather than the Christian origin of this holiday. The New Testament accounts of the Resurrection may be cited as a symbol of the strength, power and renewal of life. We do not accept the idea of a physical resurrection.

Most UUs regard Jesus as one of a number of especially gifted, insightful teachers of humanity. These leaders have emerged over the course of history to teach us how we should live and be at peace with ourselves and each other. Jesus is not considered unique in this respect.

His death reflects a tragic and painful end of life. Because UUs have long rejected the idea of Original Sin, the belief that Jesus atoned for the sins of the world by his death has little relevance for us. Even when Unitarianism and Universalism were clearly Christian faiths, they still rejected this doctrine of atonement.

Do you accept cremation?

We view cremation as an accepted form of burial and it is widely chosen by UUs.

Do you pray during the service, and if so, to whom?

This varies by congregation. Most Sunday services have a time for meditation, often preceded by spoken words from the minister. In a theistic congregation, prayers will be addressed to a deity; in a humanist congregation, prayers will take the form of personal reflection and meditation.

Do you pray at home?

It is entirely up to the individual. Although more UUs are seeking ways to cultivate a spiritual life, few would characterize prayer as a personal relationship with a Supreme Being.

Prayer for UUs is a way of getting in touch with one's self.

Do UUs participate in prescribed rites and sacraments such as the Lord's Supper, confirmation, confession and last rites?

No. Although we have appropriate ceremonies for important events, we do not consider them sacraments.

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