Use Universalist celebrations to flesh out your church year

Even though you occasionally hear about Unitarian or Universalist preachers using a lectionary — indeed, a handful of churches have a well-established lectionary tradition — most UU preaching is topical, with the sermon and other observances hanging off of a holiday. If there is one to be had. Otherwise it’s Preacher’s Choice: which can be magical from a great pulpiteer, but too often the effect is uneven or eccentric.

In which case, it makes sense to rehabilitate the observances commended by the Universalist General Convention generations ago. In any case, it provides an excuse to put an idea on the calendar, and that can be one less blessed thing to think about.

Links refer to prior blog posts on the subject; for Japan Sunday, you might read ICUU or IARF. Presented here are set opportunities for new member welcome or recognition; religious education; child dedication or baptism; remembering the dead in our circles from the last year; the common origins and destiny of humanity; our foreign work; and (well) Christmas.

The observances:

  • Easter Sunday: a Service of Recognition be held, “at which time persons baptized in childhood, and others, may be welcomed by suitable rites to membership of the Church.”
  • Educational Sunday: the third Sunday of May,  “for the presentation to the people of the educational interests of our Church…”
  • Children’s Sunday: the second Sunday in June, “that parents and guardians be encouraged and invited to bring their children to the altar on that day for baptism or dedication to the service of the Lord.”
  • Memorial Sunday: the first Sunday of October, “for commemorating those friends who, during the year, have been taken away by death.”
  • All-Souls Sunday: the first Sunday of November, “for a special celebration of our distinguishing doctrine, the Scriptural truth that all souls are God’s children, and that finally, by His grace attending them, they will all be saved from the power of sin, and will live and reign with Him forever in holiness and happiness.”
  • Japan Sunday: the fourth Sunday in November, “for the presentation of the claims of our Foreign Work and for soliciting pecuniary aid therefor.”
  • Christmas Sunday: Sunday nearest Christmas, be “observed by appropriate services”


By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Fascinating. The rural Universalist Church I once served maintained a tradition of Children’s Sunday in May, and Christmas Sunday. Children’s Sunday was a celebration of our children’s Sunday School class. The Sunday before Christmas was a musical carol singing service, with no preaching. Been that way for as long as anybody could remember.

  2. I started out in Vermont, where the Universalist spirit is alive and well. I served the UU Church of Rutland, VT, founded as St. Paul’s Universalist Church, and nothing of those celebrations survived from the grand old days of onetime minister Quillen Shinn except Easter, Christmas, and an RE celebration. I like them all. I especially want to have a service each year that focuses attention on U, U, and UU as international faiths, and it’s cool to know that this plants me firmly in the Universalist tradition. Thanks!

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