What We Believe
Unitarians are very different. We don’t have a particular set of beliefs that we expect you to agree with, so everyone who comes to our church is free to discover their own spiritual path. With this in mind, we welcome people on any point of their spiritual journey – those who have been seeking elsewhere or those whose journey has only just begun. Religious freedom for each individual is at the heart of Unitarianism. We believe that everyone has the right to search for truth and meaning in life, and reach their own conclusions.
The fundamental tools for doing this are your personal life experiences, your reflection upon those, your intuitive understanding and the promptings of your own conscience. The best setting for this is a community that welcomes you for who you are, complete with your beliefs, doubts and questions, and that is what we at Bayshill Church can offer.
Unitarians affirm that every person’s life involves developing a value-system by which she or he lives, so people should be able to enjoy individual liberty and private judgment in spiritual matters. Respect for integrity is preferable to the pressure to conform, because during our lives our beliefs may change in the light of new understanding and insight, so the final authority for your faith lies within your own conscience.
Having sampled many churches in Cheltenham, I found this one at Bayshill was the most free thinking and welcoming, with no pressure to conform to their ways and rituals. A breath of fresh air for the soul.
On our personal life journey we can be inspired by many things – the example and spiritual insights of others; writings deemed ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’ by the various faith traditions of humanity; inherited traditions of critical and philosophical thought; the ongoing creative work of artists, musicians and writers; as well as scientific search for knowledge and understanding.
Unitarians see diversity and pluralism as valuable rather than threatening. They want faith to be broad, inclusive, and tolerant. Unitarianism can therefore include people who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Pagan, “New Age”, Agnostic or Atheist – as well as those who believe in a mixture of all of these!
In asserting personal spiritual freedom, we therefore hold that:
- There are many sources of truth
- Belief may change over time; it evolves
- Whatever God may or may not be, we need not settle for a purely secular society
- No single scripture contains all truth
Our congregation values this open-minded environment, and the company of people who are ready to listen and learn, and will treat all views with respect. Please do not hesitate to follow up any interest you might have in our approach to life and truth and meaning – we would like to welcome yours!
Cheltenham & Gloucester Unitarians are currently considering the seven Principles in use by Unitarian Universalists in the USA, and each principle is being presented to our congregation in services over a number of months. Here is a summary of what those 7 principles are:
UNITARIANS IN THE U.S.A
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from various sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience.
As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.