Here are some answers to questions you might have before your first visit to All Souls.
1. What should my children and I wear to this church?
Wear what you will be comfortable wearing. Members of our congregation wear a variety of styles of clothing, running the gamut from traditional “Sunday best” to shorts and sandals, and everything in between. Children should dress in something that is comfortable for play, as our Religious Education classes may often include active games, outdoor activities and a certain amount of “creative messiness.”
2. What programming is available for my children on Sunday morning?
Our children and youth join all of us at the 11:00 AM worship service, where children and youth stay with their parents and guardians for the first 15 or 20 minutes and then go to their Religious Education classes for the duration of the service. Our children and youth join us during the first part of the 11:00 AM service to remind us that we are a totally intergenerational religious community.
Religious Education classes are available for Preschool (beginning at age 3) through High School. Nursery care for infants and toddlers under age 3 is available from 11:00 AM till 12:30 PM. On selected Sundays (see our church calendar for details), our children and youth remain for the entire 11:00 AM service for a completely intergenerational worship.
We are flexible with children making the transition from nursery to preschool, realizing that some young three year olds and even older two year olds are more than ready, while some three year olds need a little more time to adjust. We work with children and their parents at the child’s own pace. See question #3 for additional information.
3. If my child isn’t ready to leave me, can my child stay with me in the service?
Yes, absolutely! We only ask that you be mindful of your child’s attention span and ability to respect this time and space as set aside for worship. Our Director of Religious Education and our Religious Education teachers are also willing to work with you on helping your child integrate into Religious Education activities, always taking your child’s cues and moving at your child’s pace.
4. Are people of all races welcome in this congregation?
Yes, resoundingly! In our worship, in our religious education programming, in the causes we support, and in all aspects of congregational life; we strive to respect and affirm racial diversity and acceptance. We always welcome suggestions for making our congregation and our denomination more racially and economically inclusive.
5. Are bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people welcome in this congregation?
Yes, wholeheartedly! They are a vital part of our congregational life. Knowing that church should be a safe and supportive spiritual haven for all who attend, and also knowing that for many bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people, their past church experience has been anything but that, we strive to be a sanctuary of love and acceptance.
We are also one of few denominations who formally recognize and celebrate same-sex unions, and who formally ordain non-celibate bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender clergy. We take enormous pride in the fact that for more than 30 years, Unitarian Universalism has been an advocate of acceptance and justice for all.
6. If I am Wiccan and my partner is Christian, will we both be accepted in your church? Are interfaith/multifaith relationships accepted in your church?
Yes, unconditionally! Many individuals in multi-faith relationships and families find our church an ideal place to be together and grow spiritually without forcing any one individual to give up a personal religious path.
We are a covenantal church rather than a creedal one. Our members represent a wide variety of spiritual paths (Agnostics, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Pagans, Humanists, Atheists, Wiccans, etc.) but we come together in community around a covenant or mutual agreement based on our Seven Principles to support others in their individual faith journeys. We find our shared belief in how we treat one another and relate to each other in our congregational community.
7. What goes on during the worship services?
As in many Unitarian Universalist congregations, our services vary in both content and character, and we often encourage newcomers to attend at least five or six services in order to experience fully the practice of worship at All Souls. Generally, however, the weekly format of our services is very similar to that of a liberal Protestant congregation.
We always light the chalice, the symbol of our faith, to begin the service, which includes a Unison Affirmation, various readings, hymns, prayer or meditation, and a central sermon or message — delivered by our minister Rev. Barbara Jarrell, a lay reader, or a guest speaker.
Readings come from various sources, including the Bible and the scriptures of other traditions, but may also include poetry, literature, philosophy, science, or even the morning newspaper, depending on the theme of the service. Hymns and special music selections are also likely to come from a variety of sources and styles.
8. What will my child be learning in Religious Education classes?
Religious Education (commonly referred to as “RE”) at All Souls is a combination of worship, classroom, social action and recreational experiences built around five major themes, or “Pillars”:
- Unitarian Universalist Identity
- Jewish and Christian Heritage
- World Religions
- Peace, Social Justice and the Interdependent Web
- Personal Spiritual Growth
9. Are you a Christian church?
The short answer is “Yes and No.”
Yes, we are “Christian” in the sense that our faith is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. We respect and honor that tradition as well as the Jewish tradition that gave birth to Christianity and continued its independent growth alongside Christianity. We celebrate its holidays and teach our children its stories. We attempt to follow Jesus’ teachings and examples in how we interact with others both within our congregation and in the wider community.
No, we are not “Christian” in the sense that we would ask all prospective members to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in order to achieve salvation. Our views on the concept of “salvation,” even on the meaning of the word itself, are as numerous as our members, and we feel that our coming together in community enhances and enriches our individual faith journeys
Judaism and Christianity are just two of the many sources of our living tradition:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
We do have members who identify themselves as Christian, and even some who have had a personal conversion experience. They are here because they appreciate the accepting, inclusive, and justice-affirming attitudes of our church.
However, many of our members are not Christian. Although they may acknowledge the Christian history of our faith, Christian stories and symbols are no longer primary for them. They draw their personal faith from many sources: nature, intuition, other cultures, science, civil liberation movements, and so on. We cherish the rich tapestry created through our shared vision and our personal spiritual journeys in our community where those who are Christian and non-Christian work together for the greater good.
10. I want to know more about Unitarian Universalism? Where can I learn more?
- “100 Questions that Non-Members Ask About Unitarian Universalism” (copyright 1994-2000, Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, NH)
- Unitarian Universalist Association (Denominational Web site)
- Southwest Unitarian Universalist Conference (Regional Denominational Body)
And you can always contact the All Souls Office by phone (318-868-3313) or by email if this “frequently asked question” resource doesn’t answer your questions. We are more than happy to help you. Please contact us if you need any more information.
(Updated – 29 May 2011)