Unitarian Q&A

So what does ‘Unitarian’ mean?

Historically, Unitarianism was a nonconformist religion that rejected the notion of the Trinity: God was seen as a single unitary entity. Nowadays the term tends to refer to more general concepts of oneness: the holistic unity of the Universe, for example, or the interconnectedness of all humankind.

So are you a Christian church, then?

All Unitarian congregations are different and some still refer to themselves as ‘Free Christian’, in that they primarily follow the moral and spiritual guidance of Christ’s teaching, though they do not see Jesus as divine. Others are more post-Christian and espouse a wider range of religious beliefs, as well as humanism, agnosticism and atheism. All Unitarians are open to the wisdom of other faiths as well as the work of secular thinkers. Here at Richmond we are very pluralist and open-minded on this matter: some of our congregation identify as Christians, many don’t.

You don’t tell people what to believe … ?

No. We don’t prescribe beliefs. We recognise that there are many spiritual paths and none has a monopoly on truth. We support each other on our individual spiritual journeys. We are perhaps best understood as sharing general values and recognising a spiritual aspect to life, however variously that might be defined by different people.

Some churches have a problem with gay people. Do you?

We recognise the inherent dignity and worth of all people, irrespective of race, social status, gender or sexual orientation. For example, we are one of the few denominations in the UK that offer same-sex church weddings. Nor do we regard women as having a secondary status; on the contrary, we have had female ministers in our church for well over 100 years.

You won’t tell me how to lead my life?

We don’t do ‘sin’ and ‘damnation’. That’s not to say we aren’t passionate about moral questions, about the ethics of how we deal with each other and interact with our planet, about social justice and how to achieve it. You cannot have a spiritual view of the world that excludes questions of right and wrong and the need to care for others. We simply believe in the power of individual conscience.

What do you do at your services?

There is no single set form for a Unitarian service, and these can vary greatly. See our services page for more information.

So I can just turn up one Sunday, can I?

You can just turn up, yes, and you’ll be very welcome. We’ll even offer you a cup of coffee afterwards …

To find out a bit more, watch this video on our main Unitarian website.