Saturday, 15 September 2012

U+ A Unitarian way of life

Please note that a few changes and updates have been made to this plan and these can be found on the New Unity web site here.  Other resources:


What follows is an early version of a project that I have been working on with a dedicated member of my congregation. We have both noted in ourselves and others a desire for a more rigorous way of living as a Unitarian (or Unitarian Universalist). This is what we've come up with so far. We would love to hear your comments and suggestions. 

I do want to emphasize again and again that THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! If you don't want to do it, that's fine. Our hope is for it to be a strengthening and enlivening path that suits only a minority of people. That doesn't mean we don't want comments however. It means that we are not keen to ease this in a way where it becomes toothless and excessively vague - the very challenges it is meant to address!

Please note: I know that Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists will be tempted to modify this to suit themselves and/or their congregations. YPlou are, of course, free to do that. If you modify the programme, please do not use the name 'U+' for it. I ask this solely because I hope that a network of mutually supportive U+ groups might eventually emerge. This will be stymied if U+ is significantly different in different places. 

A worksheet is now available to facilitate your U+ practice. Click here.

Click here for the U+ followers and explorers Facebook mutual support group

A rigorous Unitarian spiritual path


Unitarianism is a faith that embraces a very broad range of people. The inclusiveness of our faith is one of its great strengths; there is a place for everyone of open heart and mind to find an appropriate path and to journey together, supported and loved in community

One of the concerns often heard in such diverse communities is that it can be hard to find a deeper, more rigorous path - that the diversity has a tendency to keep people at a broad but somewhat superficial level.

U+ is intended to address that specific concern and provide a deeper, more disciplined path for those who desire it.

As such, U+ is not for everyone! It is not expected to appeal to most Unitarians. It is for those who have surveyed the worlds of religion and spirituality and are prepared to make a more exacting way of living their faith.

U+ is not a club or a badge to be won. We envision that U+ groups might form in some congregations to support those on the U+ path. Networking between U+ groups would further support U+ followers. Individual groups may choose their own approaches to determining group membership; they may be open to all who wish to join or the group may choose to impose some kind of criteria for group membership based on adherence to U+ practices. In all cases, we would strongly urge that group membership involves a commitment to the practice and to one another.

The authors of this plan offer it freely to Unitarianism. We hope that it helps to provide a unique depth path within our faith’s rich diversity.


  1. Embrace life whole: The Sacred or Divine, the Precious and Profound, are made evident, not only in the extraordinary events of our lives, but in the simple and the everyday;  The best way to live is to strive to embrace life fully - engaging our spirits with all of the highs and lows life naturally brings
  2. Potential for goodness: There is goodness in each of us. It can be helped to grow in communities of mutual love, acceptance, and support
  3. There is no complete answer: The universe is too grand to be encompassed in any one perspective or truth. Freedom of belief and diversity of perspective are thus to be treasured and encouraged.
  4. Seek relationship: Relationship between us and with other beings is our primary teacher of how to be fully human. Through the support and the challenges of communication and interchange, we grow toward our potential.
  5. That which is sacred everywhere: The sacred in life is everywhere, including within each of us. It emerges in relationship and is most evident in our love. In striving to bring forth the sacred wherever it may be found, we serve all beings.
  6. Wisdom is everywhere: Wisdom has been uncovered by many people in many different times and traditions. The wise person searches broadly and is open to many influences.
  7. We are one: We are interconnected and interdependent beings - part of a greater unity of which we are usually unaware. We must seek an appreciation of our deep interdependence and relatedness.
  8. Justice: We are obligated by our unity and our love to work for a more just world where each person has an opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Central Practices

  1. Dietary responsibility: Adopt a just and compassionate diet.(1)
  2. Responsible consumption: Adopt a just and compassionate approach to sourcing clothing, goods and resources.(2)
  3. Reduce impact: Be kind to the earth and others by recycling, reducing waste, sharing and donating the goods we have
  4. Generosity: Help the wider community
                 a.  donate generously to charitable causes (3)
                 b.  engage in social action or social justice, on an ongoing basis (4)

  1. Community: Join a Unitarian congregation  
    1. attend services and other events regularly
    2. gIve generously of your time and talents to cultivate the community
    3. financially support the community and its programmes
  2. Serve your community: Take on service roles in your congregational community (5)
  3. Care for your physical self: Adopt a wholesome lifestyle, avoiding substances and practices that would injure you or lessen your abilities and seeking those that strengthen.(6)
  4. Exploration in relationship: Belong to (or lead) at least one ongoing congregational small group each year that gathers regularly for mutual support and spiritual growth
  5. Individual exploration: Actively and deliberately examine your beliefs and values
    1. Work on a course or programme such as ‘building your own theology’
    2. Work on unpacking problematic ideas, angst, or frustrations individually, within a group.
  6. Spiritual practice: Adopt one or more daily spiritual practices (7)
  7. Annual renewal time: For two or more consecutive weeks each year live a more disciplined spiritual life, preferably with others in your community. This may include spiritual practices, charity work, and adhering to extra dietary restrictions.
  8. Pilgrimage: Take on an immersive experience in the world at least once every five years. This may serve as a ‘pilgrimage’ to a ‘spiritual site.’ (8)

(1) This practice, which calls us to make ethical decisions in the food we consume, may be observed in many ways. For some, it will involve a vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian diet. For others, purchasing only ethically-sourced meat and other food may be a viable option. The range of options is very broad, including freeganism, fruitarian, etc.

(2) This means to avoid products that are produced through cruelty or exploitation or that are destructive of the environment. Examples of this practice would include using Fair-Trade and products and to avoid any products whose purchase encourages or supports worker exploitation

(3) We consider the Muslim requirement of giving 2.5% of accumulated net worth annually to be a fair and generally feasible goal. The objects of your giving should include your Unitarian community.

(4) As a guideline, try to devote at least 70 hours per year to social justice/social action work.

(5) There are many ways in which this practice may be carried out. For example, consider roles as recognised service readers, chalice lighters, storytellers, team-leader/members, hospitality, care-giving, and nurturing and mentoring others

(6) Moderation in drink and food are recommended. Other examples include avoiding smoking, drugs, and excessive sun exposure, and adopting a sensible programme of physical exercise.

(7) Spiritual disciplines are essential to spiritual and personal growth. Among the many ways to carry out this practice are meditation or prayer, mindfulness practices, and cultivating compassion. It is strongly recommended that time is set aside as a ‘protected’ space in the day for spiritual practice.

(8) Note that a ‘spiritual site’ need not be one recognised by others as ‘spiritual’ nor need it require a long physical journey to reach.


  1. That's an impressive vision of 'doing Unitarianism' - I like it a lot ('like' probably not being the right word). I'd be interested to see this blogged about as people take part.

  2. And an impressive vision of being truly human. I very much like its holistic approach: no compartmentalization between the 'spiritual' and real life. This is spirituality-in-action.

  3. I am a relatively new UU (2008). However I do most of this - and what I don't do is mostly dictated by lack of money. I buy organic and free-trade when possible (and the more people buy - the cheaper it gets) and I buy Made in the USA when feasible too. I am a little lacking in the spiritual practices - so that will be my goal. The volunteerism aspect - I am already at my limit (or beyond).

  4. I am glad that Rev. Pakula has fleshed out a path with some rigor.

    I find one critical lack, for my own commitment, and frankly I feel for UUism as well, and that is located in both Teachings and Practices: Transformational (Revolutionary) Political Engagement. "Working for a more just world," as an expression of the necessary inclusion of action for a "just world," is not direct, nor specific, nor appropriate enough for our times. The Global Storm is great, and it calls us to disciplined engagement that, for me, cannot be separated from my spiritual practice.

    I also find a further addition in regarding the same due to the llimitation of the definiton to the opportunity for "each person" has an opportunity to fulfill their potential: Commitment to understanding/analysis of human systems that have contributed to our global unraveling and working for their transformation/dismantling.

    I'd be interested to know, Andy, what your thoughts are about what I am raising.

  5. I think this is fantastic. I am seriously going to think about offering this up to my congregation. I would love to see you develop a more formal program to help people work towards these goals. I have been wanting something like this for a long time. Thank you for making it happen!

  6. Impressive. This has much to offer. Hope this spreads far and wide. A worthy approach to life and the bigger questions therein. -- Bill

  7. I am going to try this again. I wrote a comment yesterday, but it seems that it did not "take." I appreciate this site and think it is long needed, particularly since the Congregation of Abraxas has long passed.

    One concern I have, however, and one that I think is relevant for UUism in general is the lack of a cogent commitment to political analyis and structural dismantling/transformation of the institutions that are so repressive today. This lack it evident in the "Teachings" here which encourage the idea that it is the individual ("each person") who we support in our justice work. The times are too difficult, and too thoroughly dominated by vast institutions (corporations, e.g.) to imagine that our focus for justice must be to liberate individuals.
    Further,in Practices, I believe that a deeply spiritual path must include some kind of regular engagement in the work of social/economic/political transformation. I doubt that 70 hours per year is adequate.
    I plan on connecting on this site--and I will add in those commitments on my own path.
    Blessings, Rev. Kurt A. Kuhwald

    1. Kurt

      I think you're correct. Dismantling repressive institutions must be our goal if justice is our vision. I think the justice teaching is could be strengthened to make that point explicit and the practices need to be updated with a greater emphasis on justice and especially the systematic causes of injustice.

      Many thanks for that helpful comment.


  8. I think that this is an excellent approach for many. I probably couldn't subscribe because of the placement of dietary restrictions in the number one spot. But that should not deter others. I am mildly troubled by the insistence on Unitarian--a passing nod in the introductory material to Unitarian Universalism not withstanding. Is this just lazy shorthand because out name is such a mouthful, or is it a spiritual statement of its own? Actually a lot of what is described is equally empowered by our Universalist heritage, particularly as it evolved to embrace and respect world religious and spiritual practices in the 20th Century. Unitarians, fixated so long on Humanism, were actually slower to embrace spiritual practices.

  9. Hi Patrick. The order of practices is not meant to imply their importance. They are all essential parts of the puzzle.

    I say Unitarian because I serve in the UK, where there is no Unitarian Universalism. There was never a strong Universalist movement with which to merge!

    Feel free to change Unitarian to Unitarian Universalist - search and replace! I'd ask that the name be kept U+, rather than UU+. I like the sound-alike between 'U+' and 'You+' - the potential to be 'you' and so much more!


  10. Thanks for posting this. Our small group is going to discuss U+ next week as our topic. I hope it will inspire us to live more deeply and intentionally.