If Unitarian Universalism is so great, Why am I 'still' a Pagan?

In some Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations, and in some chapters of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS), Imbolc is a time for the Burning of the Greens. We symbolize our willingness to let go of the beauties of last year by burning the boughs and garlands of Yuletide. We symbolize our trust that new green, new growth, will come — even though the landscape we see may be covered in snow.

Artwork by Maggie Beaumont
Artwork by Maggie Beaumont

In some traditions, Imbolc can be a time of Initiation. In Circle, we may ask each other:

What opens now for you?

What Work do you begin at this time?

What will you call into Being in the coming year?

What do we begin, here on this blog? I think we’re beginning a public exploration of Unitarian Universalist Paganism – identifying the various entwined strands of UUism and Paganism, and perhaps an ecumenical or interfaith look at how they combine, the colors and patterns that they make.

What will we call into Being? Maybe a deeper dialog, with a more strongly UU-Pagan flavor, on topics that have long been close to our hearts – as UUs, as Pagans, and as CUUPSfolk.

Why I Am Still A Unitarian Universalist

Not long ago I was asked why I was ‘still’ a Unitarian Universalist? Leaving aside the fact that I’m much more of a ‘universalist’ than I am a ‘unitarian’ – that’s another post on a different day – it turns out that I have many answers:

Because in the “free and responsible search for meaning” I can be myself, just as I am, without fear of censure or expectation of favor.

Because I draw my own personal theology and cosmology from the same Six Sources (and maybe a few more).

Because I agree with the same Seven Principles (well, except that I truly prefer consensus process to democratic process, when it’s skillfully done. But democratic process done well is much better than consensus process done badly).

Because I love the fact that theological debate occurs right alongside caring for one another in times of grief and joy.

Because, with Freedom of the Pulpit, I can occasionally speak my own truth in a louder way. (Full disclosure: I’ve given perhaps a dozen sermons in the past 15 years, but none in the past couple.)

Because UUs organize for justice, equity, fairness – and have done so for many years – without requiring any of their allies to sign on to a particular dogma or theology.

Because UUism is a big tent – big enough to support the spiritual traditions of both sides of a mixed marriage; big enough to celebrate the holy days of religious traditions from around the globe; big enough to provide a place for dialog among secular Humanists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Pagans, Agnostics, Atheists, and many others.

Because a UU congregation can be a safe place for people who seek community while in recovery from a spiritual injury in a previous tradition. (Not that UUs are immune to spiritual injury, nor even that our congregations are always 100% safe places; only that we can recognize the damage caused by feeling spiritually or religiously betrayed, and can offer a place to heal from that.)

Because (with apologies for the theological language) for the UU tradition, revelation is not ‘closed.’ In my own experience Whatever The Divine Is speaks to me all the time, not just in books written down by people long dead; I appreciate a religious tradition that doesn’t try to muzzle That.

Because UUism offers an umbrella safe enough to protect all of us from the worst abuses of groups that would like their religion to be the only religion.

Because in my UU congregations (fifteen years in one, and then a geographic move, and not quite a year in a new one) I feel welcome, safe to be myself, integrated and whole.

Because in my UU congregations I feel led, taught, comforted when I’m afflicted, and afflicted in my comfort zone by turns … and always find something of value in the interaction.

Because UU congregations are engaged, explicitly, in building the Beloved Community: supporting, teaching, learning from, caring for one another.

Why I Am Still a Pagan

But, if UUism is so great, why am I ‘still’ a Pagan?

The Witch stands at the window, aware that every action has power. That everything she does changes something – and sometimes changes everything.
She pauses, allowing thoughts to bubble up, waiting for them to come into focus. She speaks:

Because I bring all of mySelf to Circle. Because in Circle we worship with hands, heart, song, breath, body and rhythm.

Because I honor the Five Elements. Because I honor the power in the Heart of the Witch.

Because the cycles of the natural world have important things to teach, and I would learn.

Because I choose to live fully, all the way until I die.

Because I have important relationships with some few of the thirty-three million Gods (of whatever Gender They choose to be), and in circle can speak with each of them directly, at different times.

Because my Wiccan practice feeds my soul.

And both together keep me whole.

 

The turning Wheel has brought us to this night
To honor our True Words, to dare, to dance;
In darkest night our coven’s heart shines bright.

 

Each one declares intentions through this rite,

Revealing strengths and talents we’ll enhance.
In magick’s home we raise our gifts, our might.

–Maggie Beaumont. Blessed Be.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Guest

    Great column! Thank you.

  • UU doesn’t work for me, but I am happy for you that you have found a place.

  • Sarah

    thank you!

  • maggiebea

    Thanks for this. Proves once again that we always need one more pair of eyes before publishing. I think I’ve fixed it; let me know if the error is still there when you refresh the page.

  • Rory

    .

  • Lorraine Ellis

    Perfect.

  • theEndofpeace

    I can identify with all of this but even referring to myself as a pagan seems strange. I just have a strong moral code and a natural belief in God that’s never had a trademark name that I could define it with. Doesn’t matter what anyone is though as long as they are good people…Lovely piece here!

  • T R

    It’s great that Paganism works for you. As I UUer, I always smile when I get to read about the things people believe, and I love it that we can embrace so many different approaches to spiritual fulfillment.

  • Elizabeth Dale

    I’m not still a Pagan. But I am still a UU. If anything I’m a pantheist, with a huge love for the wheel of the year, but not for magic. My beliefs have evolved over the last 20 years or so. I decided that like that black feather in the movie Dumbo, I didn’t need magic. Also, I’m still a UU because my kids are welcome there, but seldom are they welcome in Pagan spaces.

  • maggiebea

    My experience also is that beliefs evolve over time; we are not the people we were a dozen years ago, any of us. I appreciate that you bring up the issue of children in these spaces. One of the misfortunes of our years in the ‘broom closet’ is the legacy of declaring so many Pagan spaces not open to children. While I understand the roots of that — and indeed, in some parts of the United States people have lost custody of their children for including them in Pagan worship (no matter how circumspect) because of the religious prejudices of their communities — I still feel it as a loss. A loss both for the children themselves and for us, their parents.

    That said, I’ll mention that I’ve never found children to be excluded from CUUPS spaces. Perhaps other commenters would chime in about CUUPS gatherings in their communities?

  • maggiebea

    I agree – I love that we can embrace so many different approaches. Some of my favorite fellow congregants have been people whose spiritual practice and theological ideas were entirely different from mine, except for our agreement on the Seven Principles.

  • maggiebea

    Thanks for the kind words! I suspect that one way we could divide the world into two kinds of people is: those of us who like labels, and those who don’t.

  • maggiebea

    Glad to see this exchange resolve so beautifully — and deeply sorry that you’ve had to spend so much time standing up for your faith. I definitely get what you mean and am glad that lately I’m having to do that less and less.

  • maggiebea

    Thanks!

  • maggiebea

    You’re welcome!

  • maggiebea

    In a pluralistic universe, it’s a great thing that no one religion has to work for everyone. Thanks for being here to read me, and thanks for being happy.

  • What a wonderful post. I considered myself a Wiccan/Pagan for 19 years but after experiencing close-mindedness from my fellow pagan community when I began working with Jesus as a patron god, I felt I needed to find a group more open-minded. This led me to UU but I felt conflicted about whether or not to consider myself a UU or a Pagan still. This post helped assure me I can be both! Blessed be!

  • danielle8508

    I love this article and it completely describes the reasons why I am a Unitarian Universalist Pagan witch myself! I love my congregation so much and the time I spend with them and my C.U.U.P’s group is very sacred and special to me. I love being in such an open and accepting spiritual home. Where I can help to make the world a better place for everyone. Blessed Be!

  • Tiberius Gracchus

    We have the most interesting discussions at my local UU congregation than I have had at any church. I found Paganism through the church. Basically I agree with the UU principals. If you agree with them then I would consider joining a UU congregation because they really are a wonderful group of people. I know many pagans don’t like the idea of going to church on Sunday, but trust me, it is not that kind of church 😉