A few weeks ago, I did a Question Box service, which gave y’all an opportunity to submit questions for me to answer in place of a sermon. It’s not something I’ve done before, as I was always a little reluctant to put myself “on the spot” in that way, but I con-fess that I had fun doing it! Thanks to all who submitted questions, and all who were with us for the service.
Of the questions submitted, one was asked 4 or 5 times, and then after the service, a whole bunch of you asked me if I could share my answer with them for reference, so I decided to write it up for all of you! I hope you find it useful.
The question was some version of “What’s the best UU elevator speech you’ve ever heard?” An elevator speech, you may recall, is a short statement that individuals can prepare to be ready to answer the question “What is Unitarian Universalism?” when you are asked in casual conversation. The idea is that you only have the time that it takes an elevator to get from the lobby to your exit floor, so you must be concise and specific.
Here is my answer:
I don’t actually have one straight up memorized elevator speech. I tend to tailor my respond to my audience, and try to pay attention to what the person is asking. Some people just want to know if I go to church. Others want to know the basic values of our religious community. Instead of having a single speech that I repeat, I have four essential concepts that I try to include. Sometimes I’ll focus more on one or another, and sometimes I’ll include all four. Depends on how many floors in the building!
• Our roots are firmly planted in liberal Christianity – Unitarianism and Universalism as theological positions can be found in the earliest days of Christian history, and in the Protestant Reformation. Unitarian refers to the unity of God (as opposed to the trinity, in which Jesus is one of three divine parts of God). Universalism refers to the idea that all souls are saved (as opposed to predestination, in which only a few are chosen)
• We are a religiously pluralistic faith tradition – Since the two denominations consolidated in 1961, we are no longer specifically Christian, but embrace and learn from many different religious traditions.
• We are a relational faith, a people of covenant – Rather than requiring adherence to a creed to hold us together and stipulate who can be a member, we rely on our relationships. We commit to a covenant which lays out the expectations of relationship and holds us accountable to one another.
• We are committed to working toward justice and freedom for all – Throughout the history of this movement, Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists have been found at the center of most of the major social and civil rights movements. This continues today in our commitments to anti-oppression, dismantling racism and white supremacy, economic and environmental justice, and more.
One way to use these notes is to combine the bolded sentences into one short statement you can memorize, and then be prepared to answer more questions if there is time or interest. Another is to remember the general concepts, doing your own research and figuring out what bits are most important to your story. Either way, I hope they will be helpful to you in clarifying your own speech about this beloved faith tradition of ours.