Frequently Asked Questions

What are our values?

Unitarians find their bond of unity in shared values, such as:

  • the nurture of spirituality;
  • the use of reason and honest doubt in the search for truth;
  • mutual respect and goodwill in personal relations;
  • constructive tolerance and openness towards the sincerely-held beliefs of others;
  • peace, compassion, justice and democracy in human affairs;
  • reverence for the earth

Unitarians affirm that truth and humanity are best served where both the mind and conscience are free, and that no one book, institution or individual has the monopoly on truth.

What do we affirm?

Unitarians affirm that:

  • a person's value-system may be ever-changing based on personal life experience;
  • they enjoy individual liberty and personal choice in spiritual matters;
  • respect for integrity is preferable to conformity;
  • beliefs may evolve in the light of new understanding and insight;
  • the final authority for your faith lies within your own conscience.

We are aided and inspired by:

  • the example and spiritual insights of others;
  • writings deemed 'holy' and 'sacred' by various faiths;
  • inherited traditions of critical and philosophical thought;
  • the ongoing creative work of artists, musicians and writers.

How and why do we gather?

The purpose of a Unitarian congregation is:

  • to meet the spiritual needs of the individual in the context of a supportive community;
  • to share joy and offer comfort in times of trial;
  • to enjoy the warmth of fellowship;
  • to make itself welcoming, inclusive and a blessing to the wider world.

There are 50 Unitarian churches and fellowships located across Canada. These congregations are independent and democratic in organization but belong to the Canadian Unitarian Council.

How do we worship?

At the heart of Unitarianism is worship, which takes place at Westwood Unitarian Congregation at 10:30 am each Sunday, September through June (with informal services in July and August).

Many elements contribute to our worship, including music, meditation, words for reflection, stories, hymns, a sermon or address, poetry and sharing joys and concerns. A guiding principle for those of us leading Unitarian worship is to make it inclusive - meaningful for people with differing beliefs and needs.

Our worship cycle may mark:

  • occasions and celebrations from the wider human heritage, both secular and religious;
  • the changing seasons and cycles of the earth;
  • lives and events which have a special place in human history and spiritual development;
  • local and global events of social concern.

What is our social commitment?

A hallmark of Unitarianism is the high degree of social action and commitment demonstrated by congregations and individual members alike. In addition to supporting and participating in many community initiatives, our church culture supports every aspect of equality and equal opportunity for all. Discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious belief is not accepted in our environment.

How do we celebrate weddings and other rites of passage?

Unitarians offer celebrations of birth and naming, marriage or partnership or when a life has ended. Our celebrations include:

  • a dedication or naming service to celebrate the birth or adoption of a child;
  • weddings - we perform marriages for any two people who wish to dedicate themselves to each other;
  • death - whether at church, home or grave side, our chaplain is concerned with the needs and wishes of the bereaved;
  • re-dedication of marriage, acknowledgement of the end of a marriage and other significant moments in life.

Unitarian weddings offer a choice of location, the passages to be read, and the vows to be exchanged. Our chaplain regularly conducts marriage ceremonies for couples

  • where one or both of the parties are divorcees;
  • are of the same sex;
  • are from mixed faith backgrounds, or
  • for those who have no faith or religious background.

Our chaplains welcome the opportunity to adapt ceremonies to meet the needs and wishes of the celebrants and to help people create a personalized experience. Unitarian practice starts from human needs rather than fixed religious ideas. The ceremonies which result are often, in their preparation and enactment, deeply spiritual and memorable, being firmly based on the integrity and compassion of the chaplain and the spirituality of those for whom the service is conducted.

If you believe our chaplain or minister may be the best person to provide for your needs on one of these highly important occasions, please email our lay chaplains or phone us.

Why are we called Unitarians?

The first Unitarians were Christians who did not believe in the Trinity, but rather in the unity of God. We are called Unitarians because we affirm the essential unity of humanity and of creation. See also Unitarian 101 - A brief history.

Are Unitarians Christians?

The Unitarian movement arose and evolved in the Christian tradition, a relationship which we acknowledge in a living way. Many members find difficulty with the Judeo-Christian doctrine and focus their faith in religious humanism or earth-based faith.

Although many Unitarians do not consider themselves to be Christians, they hold Jesus in high regard:

  • as one of our great teachers, whose central message was the call to love;
  • as a powerful example of integrity, courage and compassionate living;
  • as fully and unequivocally human;
  • as divine in the sense only that his life and work revealed - or came to symbolize - the divinity and high potential inherent in everyone.

As with other religious texts, Unitarians regard the Bible as a deep fund of wisdom and insight but not as an inerrant, unquestionable authority.