Unitarian Universalism: A Research Guide

By Dwyer, Tierney V. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Unitarian Universalism: A Research Guide


Dwyer, Tierney V., Reference & User Services Quarterly


Building collections in religious studies is an important and often perplexing duty for many librarians. How much coverage is enough and to what depth? What titles offer appropriate information for the believer, researcher, and critic alike? And how are librarians that are not well versed in a particular faith best able to approach a collection-building project? Tierney V. Dwyer earned a master's degree in library science from Indiana University's School of Library and Information Science in Bloomington. She wrote this guide when she was attending Unitarian Universalism services. Her guide to Unitarian Universalism resources offers assistance to academic librarians seeking to build a deep and reflective collection and to public librarians looking for one or two titles to represent this fascinating religion, a faith that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott practiced and that continues to guide and inspire a wide range of worshipers.--Editor

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religious faith grounded in the principles of its founding religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. Unitarianism began in the sixteenth century in Poland and Transylvania, where a number of Christians rejected the idea of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as God). These Unitarians declared that they believed in the oneness, or unity, of God. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and America, other Christian reformers discovered what they deemed to be little biblical support for the Christian concept of hell. These reformers came to believe in a universally loving God and felt that God would grant all human beings salvation--they became known as the Universalists. Both of these religions existed independently around the world until 1961, when the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America joined together to form the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The UUA, headquartered in Boston, is the loosely governing body of the Unitarian Universalist Church, overseeing more than one thousand congregations in North America. But Unitarian Universalism is not limited to the United States and Canada--Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations can be found today on nearly every continent, and many of them work under the auspices of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU).

In a given UU church today, one is likely to find Christians of all denominations, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and people from other religions. The adherents of these faiths are free to practice their religion individually while still taking part in the pluralistic UU church community While respecting the religious texts and prophets of other faiths, the UUs do not hold these texts as dogma or regard prophets as holy beings. They embrace the teachings of other faiths to enhance their own understanding of the world and of spirituality Numbers in UU congregations are steadily growing, and the religion is gaining more visibility in mass media and among the academic and research communities. Information on this faith, however, is very scattered and often difficult to find.

This guide identifies and describes some of the most important and current sources on the topic. It is designed primarily as a guide for academic libraries planning to build, or evaluate an existing, collection on UU and its members. But, with the growing interest in the UU faith, public libraries will find some of the selected texts useful in providing a basic introduction to the subject.

BIBLIOGRAPHIES

Harris, Mark W "Bibliography," Historical Dictionary of Unitarian Universalism. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2004. (ISBN: 0-8108-4869-4).

Harris' "Bibliography" is a comprehensive record of history sources. Although the bibliography is not annotated, it begins with several pages of background information on resources, provides a table of contents, and indexes its items by the following headings: Periodicals and Yearbooks, Published Primary Sources, Biography, Histories (sub-categorized by region, time period, etc.

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