As a non-creedal faith, Unitarian Universalism honors and draws upon all of the world’s wisdom traditions. The FCU Sanctuary Quilt, “Many Paths, One Congregation” includes symbols of world religions and philosophies – and one blank.
Many Paths, One Congregation
Unitarian Universalism descends from protestant Christianity. We honor the spiritual depth and subversive wisdom of the Christian tradition. But Unitarian Universalism today is trans-Christian and multi-faith.
Like Gandhi, Unitarian Universalists believe that we can learn something from every religion. As individuals, we may favor Buddhism or Christianity or Paganism or Humanism, but as a religious movement we draw upon all of these and more. Our Universalism, which began as faith in universal salvation, has become universal respect for the world’s religions.
This quilt is a gift of the hand and heart and spirit of many members of the congregation. FCU quilters led the committee, provided vision, guidance and design, sewed squares, and quilted the piece. Many others provided their ideas, inspiration and encouragement to make it so.
Text excerpted from Reverend Fred Small’s dedication sermon, October 22, 2006.
The Quilt Squares
In the upper left, representing Humanism, is the symbol of the American Humanist Association: a stylized human figure in the form of a capital H. According to the Humanist Manifesto III: “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”
In the top center is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Association: a flaming chalice within two overlapping circles, which represent the consolidated movements of Unitarianism and Universalism.
Last but by no means least: an empty space. It acknowledges the quilt's incompleteness and our own, and affirms humility in the face of mystery, celebrates our continuing journey toward understanding.
Next are three religions rooted in Asia, in chronological order left to
From left to right: Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
The yin and yang symbol shows opposites intertwined, in eternal Equilibrium, representing Taoism.
The Hindu symbol is the word “Om” in Sanskrit, evoking the infinite Brahman and the entire Universe. Revered as the primal sound, “Om” is the first word of most Hindu mantras.
The Buddhist symbol is the wheel of dharma. “Dharma” means law or teaching. The wheel’s turning represents spiritual progress through the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, symbolized by the eight spokes of the wheel.
In the next row are the familiar symbols of the three Abrahamic faiths in chronological order left to right: the Jewish Star of David, the Cross of Christianity, and Islam's Crescent and Star.
Muslims call all three religions “people of the book” because all deem holy the Hebrew Scriptures, with Christians adding their New Testament and Muslims the Qur’an as well.
The bottom row bears the symbols of Native American, Earth-centered, and Goddess-centered religions. These ancient and indigenous traditions undergird and inform the scriptural religions that followed them and absorbed many of their images, stories, and practices.
The turtle represents the Nipmuc people, who lived in this region before the coming of Europeans. The Nipmuc call our world Turtle Island because it sits on the turtle’s back. The thirteen shells represent the lunar months. The design is by Bruce Curliss.
The tree of life, branches reaching into the sky, roots sunk deep in the earth, linking the three worlds: heaven, earth, and underworld. Skeletal and deathlike in winter, green and lush in summer, the tree represents immortality, rebirth, and wisdom in many cultures.
The triple moon, symbolizing the goddess, the feminine face of the divine. The three lunar phases—waxing, full, and waning—represent the three stages of women’s power: Maiden, Mother, and Crone.