UU or Pagan: Pick One?

UU or Pagan: Pick One? July 26, 2018

It’s been a month of blog posts about how UU and Pagan can and do fit together. Here’s my little bit.

Yesterday I took a couple of online tests. One quiz rated me theologically 100% Neo-pagan. Another quiz directed me to join a UU congregation. Yep. Exactly. UU and Pagan!

The Search

I spent over 20 years attempting to find or create consistent community, institutional consistency, strength, scientific and academic integrity, serious minded respect, respect for diversity and reliable structure among Pagan groups. Finding a religious home that included many of those things AND welcomed my Pagan spiritual path was sweet. I had been Gardnerian, Wiccan, Reclaiming, eclectic, Dianic… Nothing fit. UU did. That was my personal journey.

Solstice at Ithaca UU Fellowship

IthaCUUPS

On a broader level… The Pagans of IthaCuups at my congregation in Ithaca NY were a major force in creating Pagan Pride Day. UU was the ecumenical force among the often fundamentalist subgroups of Pagans in Ithaca at the time. And the CUUPS group grew the congregation, in size and in spiritual maturity. It took some work, by the pantheists, pan-entheists, Christians, and Pagans, to help the congregation become more comfortable with spiritual topics and expressions in Ithaca. That was good work.

The Jewish congregation that met at our UU congregation’s building was welcome and appreciated. If a Pagan congregation/coven/grove/blot/fill-in-the-blank had wanted to enter into the same sort of partnership I like to think they would have been welcomed. UU congregations are equipped with our principles and purposes to enter into inter-religious partnerships like that.

One person’s dating of religions. Do  not read as a progression.
Can you pick out which are Earth-honoring/ Deities-relating/Indigenous/Pagan? Name some that are missing?

CUUPS

CUUPS is for those who are UUs who feel their theology would be called Pagan or Earth-honoring/Deities-relating, or vice versa. At the annual General Assembly of UUs the Earth-honoring UUs often share booth space with the Jewish UUs, Mystic UUs, Christian UUs, Buddhist UUs…, etc. We have friendly connections with Ministry for the Earth (which emerged in many ways from CUUPS) and the UU Women and Religion group (that was closely identified with CUUPS through the 70’s.)

In congregations, many Buddhist UU groups host Buddhist gatherings at their home congregations, or even Sufi-appreciating UUs invite folks to lead Dances of Universal Peace at their congregations, just as Pagan UUs host gatherings where all Pagans are welcome.

I realize that not all congregations are fully on board with all the theologies that fit under the UU roof. Educating and developing mutually respectful relationships across faith differences is a learning edge. This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts to the world that Unitarian Universalism has to offer: Our striving, (and failing, and striving again) to move forward with an inclusive sense of Inherent worth and respect for the interconnections of life. Let us hope that congregations continue to learn and grow and that our neighbors continue to feel welcome and neighborly.

Portland, Oregon

Tilikum Crossing “people’s bridge”
downtown Portland (Chinook word for friend)

Then I moved to Portland, Oregon. I was thrilled to find most West Coast congregations embrace Earth-honoring and Pagan spirituality. I was confused by the antipathy of Pagans toward congregations of all kinds, including UU. Old wounds run deep. It is healing for indigenous and Pagan folks to experience Unitarian Universalism. No, we don’t burn witches, we ask them to help with the kids and on the worship team and on the grounds team.

The benefits to and from UUs and Pagans run both ways. Earth-honoring folks in UU congregations can help wean their congregations from such fierce adherence to the trappings of Christianity in the worship style. Future UU Pagans would love to be a part of a congregation that offered worship/ritual and study/growth. I celebrate our Christian heritage. Christian UUs find that Pagan UUs are in alignment with them on some important things. Humanist UUs discover the same thing!

Coexist

At about 12% of the population those of us
in the “other” category need each other to survive

UU’s aspire to tolerance, ecumenism, diversity, and respect. The world needs this desperately. UUs actively practice (and fail) and practice these things. Pagan traditions with strong belief structures or hierarchies or “ways of doing ritual” need this UU superpower too. It’s a good thing when we can spread the saving practices of respect for the inherent worth of all people to other faith traditions.

Here’s this beautiful thing I’ve noticed happening. Now that I am deeply in this UU context, I have been expanding my understanding of what Earth-honoring paths there might be. I’m exploring which ones connect to my heart most strongly. Explorations of my own indigenous heritage(s) is exciting and full of joy. The cool thing is that the commitment to racial justice work (that came to me through my family and my congregation) has contributed to this renewal of my spiritual seeking.

I think I’ve found a really great spiritual home. Unitarian Universalism fits this earth-honoring UU quite well!

 

N.B. IthaCUUPS folded some time around 2011. Good news though! The congregation still exists. Ithaca UUF is open to the next Earth-honoring or Pagan UUs who want to be a part of the community!

About Amy Beltaine
Rev. Amy travels West of the Rockies providing spiritual mentoring to helpers and justice seekers who are depleted or disconnected through preaching, worship leading, one-on-one meetings and workshops. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I. H. Hagar

    CUUPs and UU have a long way to go to be called inclusive. Four years ago I volunteered to help put on a Witches Ball for the CUUPs group at the UU community hall. I went to the meetings and tried to make suggestions. This CUUPs group was made up of mid-thirty to mid-forty year olds with ties to the military. I was a sixty-five year old solitary who was looking for a little community and sense of belonging. I have been a Pagan for close to fifty years. Unfortunately the leader is a lady that has a lot of issues. She takes on more then she can handle and she does not like to delegate. Things are done her way or not done at all. She is insecure and resents people that might know more then she does. The theme of the ball was going to be the Renaissance. That part of history is a hobby of mine and I made suggestions about the food. They were filed in the trash can. The same thing happened with the music I had found on YouTube. So I just started doing what I was ordered and didn’t have a very fulfilling time. I stayed with the group and attended some open circles. For the Beltane celebration a certain park and a certain hour were chosen. At the last minute the leader changed the plans. I was the only one not told of the change. There were other things where I was made to feel like I didn’t belong. I over heard her say to another member one day that I wanted to take over the group. At sixty something I had no desire to do that. I just wanted to belong to a community and share whatever knowledge I had acquired in my fifty years of study and practice. I finally understood and accepted that I was not wanted and stopped going. It really hurt my spirit but I had been a solitary all my life and I got over not being in a group. This woman also tried running the Pagan Pride Day which is held in a neighboring city and that died two years ago (they are trying again this year with NEW leadership). The Witches ball is no longer put on and the FaceBook page for this group has not been updated since earlier this year. I don’t know why I did not fit in. I was too old, I was not military, or was it because I am of Mexican ethnicity. You see all this group is white except for two black women who are military. Four years after I stopped going I still feel the hurt. I just wanted to celebrate my faith with some like minded people but I did not fit in.

  • I am very eclectic and a member of CUUPS because it is the closest to my believe system I enjoy being around others who generally believe similar to what I do. Basically my personal group I have founded is TempleUVUP which stand for United Vampyrian Unitarian Pagan so yes it fits…

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I stay a solitary for many reasons myself. I knew i didnt fit in, ever since i was a teen there were no groups to call my own. Now, im 40 and i really dont care much, because some of the people i could hang out with i dont much care for.

  • It is absolutely hard work to be in community. It is worth-while work though. putting our principles into practice, exercising those community building muscles, with groups who are welcoming to us, helps us to use those skills in diverse community… like your city or county. This is a set of skills that we desperately need in the US of A, and I suspect many other places in the world as well.

  • Sounds like your journey of finding your community where you are challenged and welcomed is not yet over. May your journey go well, and may you find communities that work for you along the way!

  • No group of humans is immune to bad behavior! I’m so very sorry that this group of Pagans did not have the welcoming skills you yearned for. That sounds very lonely and frustrating. I wonder if you approached the spiritual leader of the community (the called minister) to discuss your experience? This is the sort of thing that the leadership of the congregation does not want to have happening! I’ll also point out that groups that have poor welcoming skills have a tendency to have rapid membership changes so you might discover a completely different community if you went back! LOL In any case, I’m sorry that your experience was painful, and I wish for you joyful welcoming and inclusion in the spiritual community that is out there for you! Blessings, Amy