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Assistant Minister's Column

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The United States was founded as a Unitarian Universalist nation.

Frustrated with (and persecuted by) the Church of England’s prohibition on free and open religious practice, many Puritans came to America to practice their faith. When they arrived in what is now Massachusetts, they built churches. Each town had a church. They had to learn a new Christianity without the hierarchical structures of the Church of England. What is a church with no priest, no bishop, no larger body placing clergy, or making theological decisions?

These churches were covenantal. They were not united by a specific scriptural reading or dogma. Instead they were joined by their covenants – how they agreed to be together. Many of these worshippers would go to the city church (e.g. First Church Boston, or First Parish Concord). They would worship together on Sunday morning and democratically make decisions on how their church should be run: what the sanctuary would look like, who the minister would be, etc. Later they would come back to the same church building to do their city governance and decision making. American democracy was first practiced by governing the church.

As these congregational churches theologically evolved, as churches are prone to do, many began embracing a more Unitarian theology. More and more they understood Jesus as human, and found that doubt and reason made faith stronger, not weaker. Today, many of the incubators of our democracy are proudly members of our Unitarian Universalist Association. When you celebrate the 4th of July, do so knowing that our country is formed and informed by our faith.