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 eleven
religious symbols—and one blank space.
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
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
Text excerpted from
Reverend Fred Small’s dedication sermon, October 22, 2006.
The Quilt Squares
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
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 right: Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
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
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
in chronological order left to right: the Jewish Star of David, the
Christian cross, and the Muslim crescent and star.
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,
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.
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.
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.