In this lesson, you will find:
- What the 7 UU Principles are and how they came to be
- Resources for adults and youth to dig deeper into the meaning of the 7 Principles
- Resources for families with children
- Suggestions on how you can create your own visual representation of the 7 Principles to display in your home
Once you have worked through this lesson and made your own visual representation of the 7 Principles, please share your work with us by sending a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. (If you already have a display of the 7 Principles in your home, we would love for you to share that, too.) Click here to see a gallery of images shared by the GUUF community in response to this lesson.
What are the 7 Principles?
The 7 Principles are values and moral guides shared by Unitarian Universalist congregations and codified as part of the Unitarian Universalist Association Bylaws. They should not be considered a creed or dogma, but a living covenant guiding how Unitarian Universalists can participate in UU communities and in the world. Unitarian Universalists affirmed these principles through democratic processes.
The 7 Principles are not set in stone, but represent a living tradition of wisdom. They have been revised over the years to reflect the UUA’s evolving commitments to inclusion and social and environmental justice.
When Unitarians and Universalists first consolidated to form the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961, they established six principles to guide the association, which you can read HERE. The current form of the principles was established in 1985, and appears in Article II of the UUA bylaws as follows:
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
(Note: Article II of the UUA bylaws also includes the six sources of Unitarian Universalism, which we will cover in more depth in Being UU at Home Lesson 6: Building a Wisdom Library.)
Resources for Digging Deeper
The following resources can help you further explore the meanings and implications of the 7 principles, and the history of their formation. If you want to jump straight to resources for families with children, CLICK HERE.
Start Here — For those who are just learning about the Principles, visit the UUA’s webpage on the 7 Principles, which includes links for deeper reading on each principle: https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles
Learn How They Were Made — If you are interested in learning more about the democratic process that brought the Principles into their current form, read “Shared Values: How the UU Principles and Purposes were shaped and how they’ve shaped Unitarian Universalism,” a UU World article by Warren R. Ross (2000) detailing how the current form of the 7 Principles came about: https://www.uuworld.org/articles/how-uu-principles-purposes-were-adopted
Moral and Philosophical Implications — If you want to further explore the moral and philosophical implications of the Principles, read:
“Who says Unitarian Universalism’s Principles are easy?,” a UU World article from 2009 by Meg Barnhouse about the challenge of incorporating the Principles into our daily lives: https://www.uuworld.org/articles/who-says-uu-principles-easy
“Some Assumptions Underlying the Seven Principles,” a UU World article from 2000 by Lex Crane exploring some of the underlying philosophical assumptions of the Principles that are revealed by viewing them as an integrated whole, “as we might view a poem”: http://archive.uuworld.org/2000/1100sidebar3a.html
“A Free and Responsible Search: The Story” and “First and Last Principles,” two essays by Rev. Frances Manly included in the Unitarian Universalist Identity Renaissance Module Reader compiled by Michelle Richards and Hannah Roberts Villnave (2015 by the Faith Development Office of the UUA, Boston, MA). The essays contemplate the creation of the Principles and the implications of viewing them as a poetic whole. Manly sees the principles as creating a paradoxical symmetry that grows out of the “tension between individualism and interdependence, each one pulling at the other….” : https://www.uua.org/sites/live-new.uua.org/files/renmod_uuid_reader.pdf#page=27
A Living Document – should the Principles be amended? — The Principles are a living document, and though they have not been amended since 1985, they could be subject to revision in the future if the association of UU communities deems it necessary. In 2000, Warren R. Ross wrote “In 2020 (when everyone presumably will have perfect vision), our current Principles and Purposes may also be perceived to have inadequacies that demand radical rewriting. And therein lies our genius. It’s a process that is rightly called renewal or regeneration. And that is what has not changed and, let us hope, will remain unchanged 20 or even 100 years from now.” It is now 2020, and there is currently a growing movement to amend the Principles to include an eighth one as follows:
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
What are your thoughts on this proposed 8th principle? Would you support amending the Principles or keeping them as they are? Click here to read more about the movement to add an 8th principle.
Below are some resources on the 7 Principles for families with children. CLICK HERE to skip straight to how to create your own visual representation of the 7 Principles to display in your home.
Resources for Families with Children
There are several different versions of the 7 Principles written in kid-friendly language. Below is a list adapted from the 7 Principles for Kids used by the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curriculum:
- Each and every person is important.
- All people should be treated fairly and kindly.
- We should accept one another and keep on learning together.
- Each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life.
- All persons should have a vote about the things that concern them.
- We work for a peaceful, fair, and free world.
- We care for our planet Earth, the home we share with all living things.
Spirit Play and the 7 “Promises” — In our children’s Spirit Play program at GUUF, we often refer to the Principles as 7 “promises” we make to each other, and each promise represents a color of the rainbow (see the image above). Kids may want to refer to this version of the “Promises” when creating their own visual representation of the principles.
Sing the 7 Principles — If you know the tune to “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music, you can sing the 7 promises using the lyrics here: Do-Re-Mi UU Principle Song Lyrics.
The 7 Principles Made Visual
Now that you have explored the history and meaning of the 7 Principles, try to create your own visual representation of the 7 principles. In our Fellowship Hall at GUUF, the 7 Principles are stenciled on the walls. Versions of the 7 principles reworded for kids are displayed in our RE classrooms. These visual representations serve as reminders of our shared UU values.
Do you already have a visual reminder of the 7 Principles in your own home? If you do, please take a photo of it and share it with us (send it to email@example.com).
If you don’t have one in your home, try making one! This could be a literal display of the 7 principles, written in calligraphy or printed out. Or it could be something more abstract, symbolic, or personal that represents the 7 principles to you. Check out the images throughout this lesson to see examples of different ways you could represent the 7 principles. Think of where and how you might want to display the principles in your household. Would it be a child’s bedroom? A home office? On a personal or family alter? Create a visual representation that helps remind you of your connection to our shared values. Once you do, please take a photo and share it with us (send it to firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit the 7 Principles Gallery to see some of the images shared by our GUUF community.