New Unitarian Universalist group on campus

Melody Moberg

On a late Thursday afternoon, five students, a LU professor, Unitarian Universalist minister Dottie Matthews and several members of the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship sat on the comfortable furniture of the Colman lobby around a chalice – the symbol of Unitarian Universalism – and several battery-operated, fire-safe “candles.” They shared joys and concerns, a reading, some cookies, and enthusiasm for their group newly approved by LUCC: the Lawrence University Unitarian Universalist Student Group.
“I am not sure what direction the group will go in,” admitted junior and student president Stacy Klemme, “but all of the directions look positive.”
Klemme had been considering founding a Unitarian Universalist group since her freshman year. While working on campus this summer, things finally started falling into place. She began regularly attending the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, where she was approached by the Fellowship’s two ministers, the Reverend Dottie Matthews and the Reverend Roger Bertschausen, about starting a student group. Klemme worked with Matthews, Bertschausen and LUCC to make the group a reality.
Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religious community which does not identify with any one faith. Unitarian Universalists include Buddhists, Christians, atheists, agnostics, and other individuals with diverse and divergent spiritual inclinations. UUs meet together to enrich their personal spirituality and to promote social justice, through an open, respectful community exploring comparative religious beliefs, encouraging independent thinking and promoting tolerance.
Unitarian Universalism is the result of the 1961 merger of the Universalists and the Unitarians — two denominations of Christianity with extensive histories which, when transplanted in the United States, became increasingly liberal. The merger occurred partially because the beliefs and practices of their members became so similar. Unitarianism is based on a rejection of the trinity and the promotion of a singular God while Universalism professed universal salvation.
Today, Unitarian Universalism is no longer considered a Christian denomination. It is very anti-Dogmatic, asserting that no one has a monopoly on truth and that most beliefs should be respected. There are seven principles affirmed by Unitarian Universalists, including “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” and “justice, equity and compassion in human relationships.”
The Lawrence University Unitarian Universalist Student Group is geared toward students. Klemme and the ministers decided to keep the group’s structure fluid so it can cater to the needs and interests of its members.
Meetings should last about one hour, and either Matthews or Bertschausen will be present. Judging from the interest in the first meeting, meetings will involve the ritual of the chalice lighting, sharing of joys and concerns, and conversations about spirituality. Ultimately, the structure depends on what the students want.
Overall, the group hopes to connect UUs on campus, and to provide a space for spiritual discussion and acceptance, both within and transcending the “Lawrence Bubble.”
The group also hopes to connect UU students to the Unitarian Universalist community in the Fox Valley. The group is looking into creating a carpool so students without transportation can attend services. However, the student group is also meant to be self-sufficient — attending Sunday services is by no means required.
The group is still in the process of finding a time and location for its meetings. LUUUSG has a group on facebook with more information.
Those familiar and unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalism are invited to attend, as long as they are respectful. “There is no right and wrong in Unitarian Universalism,” Klemme explained. “Well, there is — it’s just vaguer. The most important thing is to be respectful of other people’s beliefs.