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Who We Are

Many of the topics you will find on this Web site are designed for people who do not know much about our church or who are newcomers to it and wish to learn more. Feel free to explore as deeply as you wish. Each section provides a brief explanation. At the end of each section are links to other sites which cover the topic in far greater detail. See also the Links section for a compendium of all such links.

How old is the Unitarian Church?

The first people that we honour as Unitarians emerged during the sixteenth century during the religious ferment of the Protestant Reformation. In the United States the first Unitarian Church was started in Philadelphia in 1794. In Canada the first Unitarian group met in Montreal in 1832.

How many Unitarian Universalists are there in Canada?

From coast to coast we have 5,000 members in about 45 churches and fellowships. A fellowship (often entirely lay-led) is usually a smaller group which meets to provide a focus for liberal religion in a community.

What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist?

Here are some of the leading principles:

  • We speak of religion as our response to basic questions of life: What is the nature of God? What is the purpose of our lives? How do we create meaningful lives for ourselves?
  • None of us is self-sufficient. We all need companionship and support. Our church is a place where we find that.
  • Our personal integrity is of supreme importance. We are unique persons walking our individual paths in life with an important contribution to make.
  • A religious community needs to combine the shared aspirations and efforts of the group, with a respect for individual differences. We will not freeze religion into creeds and commandments because we feel that firm beliefs do not have to be fixed beliefs. We need room to continue growing.
  • We develop and reconsider our ideas and actions, in dialogue with those who take other points of view. We reflect upon what has been said and done by those past and present, who have shown their ability to live deeply and fully.
  • Our doors are open to all who wish to share in this experience, no matter what religious affiliation they may have.
  • We call ourselves Unitarian Universalist because we see a basic unity underlying all diversities. We strive to create harmony between all aspects of our lives.

The Unitarian Universalist way of life is considered more fully in a book written by Unitarian Church of Vancouver Minister Emeritus, Phillip Hewett, The Unitarian Way, available from our church library.

Where do the names Unitarian and Universalist come from?

Originally, the Unitarians and the Universalists were two separate liberal Christian denominations. The Unitarians were disenchanted with the harshness of Calvinism and wanted a God they could love and respect with their heads as well as their hearts. The name Unitarian comes from their original commitment to the Bible as a source of truth not to be filtered by religious institutions. Unitarians were committed to a vision of God as a Unity.

The Universalists were another strong liberal Christian denomination. Their name comes from a belief in the universal "Good." This was another group that found the harshness and the emphasis on "sin, evil, and guilt" of Calvinism unacceptable. They believed there was a divine spark of God in every soul and that everyone, in the end, would be saved.

Universalists and Unitarians were both focused on doing good works in the world. They believed in our personal responsibility to care for each other as human beings and to create the conditions where the good in each of us may bloom and grow.

In 1961, in the United States, the Unitarians and the Universalists merged into one denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Soon afterwards in Canada there was also a merger of Unitarian Universalist congregations into the Canadian Unitarian Council. Now, Canadian churches and fellowships are affiliated with the CUC and U.S. churches and fellowships are affiliated with the UUA.

The story of the Unitarian movement in this country is told by Unitarian Church of Vancouver Minister Emeritus, Phillip Hewett, in Unitarians In Canada, and is available from our church library or for sale at our literature table.

What are the wider affiliations of Beacon Unitarian Church?

Beacon is a member of the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC), its national organization.

Beacon receives many support services from the CUC, and Beacon provides financial support to it, as do all Canadian Unitarian congregations.

Both the CUC (representing Canadians) and the UUA (representing Americans only), in turn, are members of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. They are also members of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), an organization that includes the liberal wings of many faiths.

We all thrive on the exchange of ideas, energy and wisdom that we get when we participate in denominational events. Members of Beacon have occupied leadership positions in many of them.

Do these affiliates dictate policy to Beacon Unitarian Church?

No they do not. While we are members or supporters to these wider organizations, Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships are structured so that each congregation is legally and religiously independent, in charge of itself. Our leaders serve us and guide us when we ask them but they are not in charge of us. Each church is responsible to set its own mission and vision and to select its own minister (if it chooses to have one) and to finance itself and make a contribution to the wider movement. If you would like to explore further, try from the menu above - Unitarian Universalist Beliefs and UU History or the following links:


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