Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a minister? No. Instead, services are lay-led by one of our members or feature a guest presenter as arranged by our Program Committee.
"What does "lay-led" mean? One of the wonderful aspects of Unitarian Universalism is the role of volunteers and lay leaders in church governance and programming. This includes continuing opportunities to present Sunday services. When the Prairie Lakes UU Fellowship was organized in Ripon [see history] we met two Sundays per month and most services were created and led by PLUUF members and friends. Now that we have the half-time assistance of a minister, the Fellowship meets weekly with two Sundays a month led by the minister and the remainder led by members and friends. For lay-led services, a volunteer proposes a topic to the Program Committee and then prepares reflections and selects readings, music, and a story for all ages to present the information and perspective in a spiritual context. Most Sundays follow the same basic order of service, giving a framework of familiarity and ritual to the diversity of topics and presentation styles.
Do you meet year-round? Our services run throughout the year.
What would I see/hear/do in a typical service? Although subject matter can vary quite a bit from Sunday to Sunday, our services offer the comfort of familiar ritual and tradition. These generally include readings, hymns, candle lighting to share joys and concerns, a story for all ages, the sermon, silent or musical meditation, and an offering. Often, time will be included for congregational response, a chance for the congregation to reflect together on what was presented in the service. (A UU “motto” could be that "UU ministers never have the last word!") Click here to see a sample order of service.
How many people attend the Fellowship? An average Sunday service will have 25-30 adults and 8-12 children and youth.
Can your "Fellowship" be called a church? Yes. "Fellowship" is often used to capture the sense of lay involvement, although its use is not restricted to lay-led congregations. Other UU congregations may use the word “church” or “society” in their names like the Bradford Community Church in Kenosha or the 1st Unitarian Society in Madison.
What kinds of people are in your congregation? Our ages range from infant to nineties. About a third are single people, with the remainder being couples, families with young children and families with teens. Some of us were raised UU, and many come from other religious traditions or were not affiliated with any religion previously. Occupations in our congregation reflect the full world of work, and at present include people who work or retired as a nurse, teacher, homemaker, doctor, carpenter, piano tuner, college professor, artist, psychologist, student, mental health worker, retail clerk, librarian, landscaper, farmer, artist, accountant, electrician, “full-time parent,” college student, occupational therapist, college administrator, insurance claims assistant, water biologist, child development specialist and more. Our Fellowship is rather unique in that fully half of our congregation comes from other communities. At present these include Berlin, Brandon, Fond du Lac, Fremont, Green Lake, Montello, Neenah, Neshkoro, Omro, Oshkosh, Pickett, Princeton, Randolph, and Redgranite, as well as Ripon.
Do you use meditation as a part of your religious practice? Most services will include a few moments of silent or musical meditation.
What do people wear to Sunday services? Americans have become more casual in their manner of dress, even for church. In our churches especially, jeans and casual shirts are more common than shirts and ties.
Is your building accessible to someone with physical disabilities? Yes. Our main building is completely accessible with a ramped entry and ADA compliant restrooms. Occasional use of the adjacent Fellowship House might require some assistance at the doorsill.
Would I be pressured to become a member? Becoming a member reflects a commitment to the Fellowship as your spiritual home and is an affirmation of UU principles. The invitation to become a member is always there, but doing so is a matter personal conscience. Some people become members after attending only a short while, others after a longer time, and some choose to be active as 'friends'. At no time are people urged to “discard” their previous religious identity in order to join a UU congregation. The mix of religious traditions our members bring to the Fellowship is something that enriches us all.
How much would I be expected to contribute? There is no minimum contribution or tithe. The Fellowship is supported entirely by the contributions of its members and friends, however, and we are encouraged to do what we can to sustain their spiritual community by meeting its financial needs.
Do you do weddings? Yes! Our minister can perform sacramental rites such as weddings, child dedications, and memorial services at the Fellowship or other locations.
Are children welcome? Yes! Each service includes children and adults gathered together. Children are included in lighting candles of joys and concerns, and in the 'story for all ages' before leaving for their religious education classrooms. Several services and many activities through the year are "intergenerational."
Do you offer Sunday school for children? Yes. Our Religious Education (RE) classes are offered for the preschool, elementary, and middle school ages, with a Coming of Age program available for high schoolers. Prairie Lakes UU Fellowship employs a part time Director of Religious Education who, with the Religious Education Committee, plans, leads, administers and inspires these programs!
What if my baby/toddler gets noisy in the service? For wee ones who are comfortable being separated from their parents, we have a staffed nursery. When parents feel it is best to leave the service, a Quiet Room provides an audio/video feed from the sanctuary.
Is there a Confirmation or Catechism program for older children? High school youth are invited to participate in a Coming of Age program offered every 2-3 years. This program features a yearlong relationship with a mentor, meetings, activities, retreats, exploration of such things as UU history, Native American spirituality, and understanding/articulating their own religious journey.
Do you baptize children? Our UU ceremony of welcome is called Child Dedication. In baptism, the infant is committed to Christ for future salvation. Dedication ceremonies, in contrast, ask parents, siblings and the congregation as a whole for a commitment to help nurture the child throughout his or her physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. It includes a naming ritual similar to christening. Parents occasionally request that baptism be included as well, and this can be accommodated.
Why haven't I heard about Unitarian Universalism before? Unitarian Universalism emerged from two different religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. Both Unitarianism and Universalism started in Europe hundreds of years ago. The Universalist Church of America was founded by 1793, and the American Unitarian Association by 1825. In 1961, these denominations consolidated to form the new religion of Unitarian Universalism. UU churches have been common to the eastern United States since arrival of European settlers. As the population ventured west, their church affiliations were taken with them, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s many Wisconsin communities had Unitarian or Universalist churches. Today there are 26 churches and fellowships in Wisconsin, 1042 nationwide serving over 200,000 UUs.
'Unitarian Universalism' is a complicated name. Where does it come from? Yes, it is a mouthful. Back in early Christian history, the people who disagreed with the doctrine of the Trinity when it was adopted were dubbed "Unitarians" (believers that "God is one"). In early U.S. history, the Universalist movement was an alternative faith professing a belief in a merciful and loving God with salvation for all ("universal salvation") rather than condemnation of unbelievers. Both traditions held that God is one, encouraged tolerance and acceptance of others, and emphasized social action ("good works"). They merged in 1961, and now use both names.
I don't really know where I fit in terms of religion. Are there others like me? One of the phrases you'll hear in UUism is "ongoing revelation," which holds that we will never know the entire truth about existence, but more and more of its truths are revealed to us through the study of science, religious wisdom, and introspection. You'll also hear the word "journey," used to describe the paths we all take of exploration, reaching for greater understanding over time. Some of us can name ourselves UU, or UU-humanist, - Buddhist, -Christian, etc.). Others bridge multiple labels, or simply are learning more about what's out there in terms of religious identity.
I have a background in/am interested in another religious tradition. How would this fit in? The readings, prayers, music and concepts used in our worship services come from many sources, including wisdom from the world's many faith traditions including Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, and Native American spirituality, earth-centered religions, and secular sources. Given our location in central Wisconsin, the majority of UUs were raised in the Christian tradition or at least as “cultural Christians,” but many now as adults embrace elements of other traditions as part of their religious view.
Do I have to "convert" to UUism if I have a different religious background? No. Theology is a matter of personal conscience, and our members and friends bring with them a myriad of religious experience, which enriches us all.
I've heard things like you are the "You can believe anything" church. Is this true? Theology is definitely a matter of personal belief. (Is there a God? What is the nature of God? What happens after death? Does evil exist? How did life begin?) However, we all affirm important core principles: integrity, compassion, equity, justice, religious freedom, and respect for the environment. Our faith community pairs freedom of individual belief with commitment to "a responsible search for truth and meaning" and living our lives ethically.
I've heard that people who believe in paganism or Wicca can be in UU churches. Is this true? Neo-paganists and Wiccans follow earth-centered religious rituals and practices which can also embrace the core principles of UUism. Just as UU congregations may have Buddhist, humanist, Christian or other interest groups among their membership, they may also have Pagan or Wiccan interest groups. UU churches sometimes incorporate elements of earth-centered practice in services. and may present some services which are entirely earth-centered during the church year.
Can an agnostic or an atheist be a UU? Yes. For some people, a rich spiritual life and commitment to ethical living do not depend on belief in God. Participation in a UU church or fellowship may be the first time they can express their spirituality and be a part of a religious community without having to profess a theist belief.
What is the UU stance on homosexuality? UU congregations and its ministry are open to all regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. The Prairie Lakes UU Fellowship has been designated as a UUA "Welcoming Congregation," having made a commitment to include the needs of b/g/l/t persons in worship, programs, religious education, social occasions, and rites of passage.
Are you a Christian church? UUism has a Judeo-Christian history, and a majority of UUs are 'cultural Christians' meaning they live amidst a predominately Christian culture. In theological terms, however, we would not be considered "Christian." The teachings of Jesus and the Bible are used as sources of wisdom and example, as are the teachings and holy books of other religious traditions. Individuals may define themselves as UU Christians, but our religious tradition does not require a belief in the divinity of Jesus or salvation through Christ.