First Unitarian Church of Providence
our faith & uu history
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2016-2017 Resource Book

our faith & uu history

Welcome to the First Unitarian Church of Providence, or as we often call it, “First U.” We were gathered as a congregational society in 1723. From the beginning, our community was part of the liberal wave of New England religion. Our first minister was condemned for preaching “damnable good works,” our sixth minister was sent by our congregation as their representative to the ordination of Jared Sparks in Baltimore, an event marked by William Ellery Channing’s famous sermon “On Unitarian Christianity,” and which many count as the formal beginning of our spiritual movement. Our fourteenth minister was a scholar of world religions and a Buddhist practitioner, as is our current, seventeenth minister.

In 1961 the two great streams of North American liberal religion, the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association, consolidated their efforts—creating the Unitarian Universalist Association. This brought together the current of wisdom explored at great depth by the Unitarians, expressed in the motto “salvation by character,” and the current of love explored at great depth by the Universalists, expressed in the motto “love over creed.” While originally a liberal Christian phenomenon, the UUA might today be more accurately described as a liberal religion with Christians. And Jews. And Humanists. And the Earth-centered. And Buddhists. And many, many others.

Today we are a vital community of more than 800 children, youth and adults, members and participating friends. We are single, in various forms of relationship, and married. We actively embrace people of all races, ethnic origins and without regard for sexual or affectional orientation. While mostly middle class, and highly educated, we are conscious of a need to be broadly inclusive and are committed to being as open as humanly possible, striving to transcend the class boundaries that divide too many spiritual communities.

We are committed to growing a spiritual home, a great bush with many branches and leaves for, as the Western scriptures say, “the birds of heaven” to find their rest. Our birds come in many shapes and colorations, we are theologically diverse, although we also share the traditional marks of liberal religion in our respect for reason and the depths of the mind as well as the mystical currents of the universalist heart. We are committed not simply to grow a place of rest, but to grow a place where we can find wisdom, love and engagement. Our project is to help ourselves, our children and the world, as well. In order to accomplish this goal, we know we need each other. And we hope you will consider whether we are your spiritual home.

We invite you to explore this website to learn more about First U and our work together. Please feel free to contact our minister, James Ford, and our Director of Religious Education, Cathy Seggel, with any questions you might have. To learn more about the history of our church, our staff, and who we are as a congregation, visit our about us pages.

To learn more about our Unitarian Universalism tradition, visit our denominational website: