Symbols can be worth a thousand words

Unlike in heavily symbol-invested faiths such as Christianity with the symbol of the Cross as the faith’s central and universal image, there is no one central official U.U. symbol that has central spiritual meaning to every Unitarian Universalist. However, groups of Unitarians and Universalists have developed many non-official symbols, which individual UUs are free to interpret [and yes there are many individual interpretations]. Taken together as a whole these symbols help to visually portray Unitarian Universalism.

Universalist Circles

“Christ will conquer” is the message of this vintage Universalist seal from 1870. Early Universalists believed that evil {greed, injustice] could be overcome by the power of God’s love. Unitarian Universalists no longer use the imagery of Christ conquering evil, but UUs still believe in working for compassion and justice.
This equal-sided cross within a circle was created for the Universalist Church of Albany N.Y. and has become known as “the Old Universalist Cross”. Although used by Coptic and Celtic Christians, this type of “circle cross” predates Christianity and can be interpreted by both theists and non-theists as representing the earth, the seasons and eternity. Other uses of the equal sided cross include the blue cross that stands for medical help and the familiar Red Cross of the international aide agency. The founder of the American Red Cross was Clara Barton, a Universalist.
As Universalism changed, a new symbol was needed. An “Off Center Cross” was designed in 1946 to acknowledge the Christian origins of Universalism, while leaving room for the growth of Humanism and the teachings shared with other world religions. According to the developers, the cross was placed off-centered within a circle, a “symbol of infinity” to represent “the all inclusive faith of Universalism which shuts no one out.

Unitarian Chalices

During the 1940’s The Unitarian Service committee was active in working with refugees in Europe. It was felt that an official letterhead stationary with a religious design on it would serve the practical purpose of making the organization appear to be legitimate to the local authorities.

The artist, Hans Deutsch, chose a chalice with a flame, based on the sort Greeks placed at their altars. He stated, “The holy oil burning in it is a symbol of helpfulness and sacrifice.”

Double Circles

After the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist churches in 1961 some individual congregations began experimenting with ways to combine the Universalist Circle with the Unitarian Chalice. A chalice off set within a double circle (or similar image) symbolizes the merged faiths and has become the most common image in UU churches across the country. A double circle chalice hangs in our meeting room.

World Symbols

The symbolism of the Off Center Cross Circle made room for other religious paths within Universalism and during the 1950’s many Universalist Churches began displaying the symbols of World religions. These symbols are found both on the outside sign and inside our meeting room.

Other UU Symbols

Other symbols important to UUs include the Humanist Happy Human symbol, the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered chalice, the UU Dove, the Buddhist Lotus Chalice, the Pagan Caldron Chalice, and the economic justice scale.