For the UNBSJ students who travel to school on Sandy Point Road every day, there have been some curious signs along their route.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Saint John (UUCSJ), whose congregation has hovered around 50 members since the mid 90s, is trying something new, and slightly controversial, to attract new members. The congregation came together to brainstorm slogans for their reader board sign. Among them, “UUCSJ where evolution is sacred,” as well as, “Where atheists are welcome,” and most recently, “Freethinkers gather here.”
When asked about the purpose of these messages, Wendy Vowels, the organization’s president of the Board of Trustees says, “[The signs] were meant to be controversial to grab people’s attention.” Vowels says that the board is trying to emphasize the welcoming atmosphere of the church, “You can be someone who believes in a higher power, you may believe in God in a very traditional way, or you may be an atheist or an agnostic, all of those people can be comfortable within the UUC.”
The Unitarian Universalist Church (UUC) is a faith organization without any of the typical religious requirements. “There is no requirement that you believe in anything in particular,” says Vowels. The principles of the UUC focus on social justice concepts, “We focus on building community and […] on personal development; spiritual and intellectual.”
The UUCSJ is officially a welcoming congregation, which means that its official stance is to welcome and embrace people of any sexual orientation. Members of the congregation have taken special training to promote and welcome these people. “We think that’s a very important step,” says Vowels.
The congregation meets every Sunday morning. They have a consulting minister who travels from Maine two Sundays of every month and a traditional service is held. On the remaining two Sundays of the month, the congregation gathers for less traditional activities, “They would include things like films followed by a discussion and book studies,” says Vowels, “We often bring in guest speakers and they can be a wide variety of people from different segments of the community, in the past we’ve brought in people to talk about addiction issues, or talk about living in poverty, social action groups, that sort of thing.”
The UUCSJ is also involved in some community outreach work including volunteering with Romero House every week and heading the Unitarian Universalist Social Justice committee who organize letter writing campaigns and other social justice demonstrations.