“Church” is a word specifically meaningful in a Christian context, and First Unitarian Society honors many religious and philosophical traditions. We are not a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple, but rather a gathering place for people of various religious and philosophical traditions.
The FUS congregation began in the 1870s as a chapter of the Liberal League, a group fighting censorship in the U.S. mail. The gathered community next became a Charles Darwin reading group, and in 1881 became a Unitarian congregation. In 1916 the congregation called John Dietrich as its settled minister. Dr. Dietrich had begun calling himself a “Humanist,” and thus FUS became the first Humanist Unitarian congregation.
What did this mean? The congregation stopped using language such as “worship,” “prayer,” “hymn,” “sanctuary,” and “church.” Rather than readings from only the Bible, the congregation began using excerpts from poetry, novels, non-fiction titles, and the news of the day. Rather than preaching from scripture, the ministers talked about what was happening in the here and the now.
Based on this tradition, people at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis tend to prefer the word “congregation,” an inclusive term. Congregational humanists are humanists who choose to congregate–that is, join together for companionship, mutual support, mutual inquiry, and social activism.
No, First Unitarian Society is not a church, though we strive to achieve the best aspects of a caring congregation, a beloved community. A place to be and a place to belong.