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photoWomenandReligion-bannerWe're working on pulling together some relevant herstory from our archives. Here are some of our UU Women and Religion institutional recollections:

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A Quest for Reasonable Certainties

by Howard Matson, 1907-1993

PDF version: pdf The Fourth Wise Man (1.18 MB)


Fourth Wise Man Photo of Howard

Matson feels that each of us is confronted with the same problem. We want to press on to new adventure, but at the same time we need to hold on to familiar landmarks. “Those who never listen for the sound of a distant flute and never risks searching out the strange new music is as good as dead. The capacity to dream, to dare, and even to make mistakes and repent, is of the stuff and yeast of life.” Aware of this searching restlessness, pervading all, Matson uses both science and art to propose dependable answers.

There is the certainty of beauty. “It is the most personal and elusive of values and at the same time the most universal and widespread. Beauty is a goddess who stretches out her arms for the world to see.” And there is freedom. “Life is so varied and complex, so multiple and yet so unified, so bewilderingly and delightfully filled with many nations and peoples, races and cultures, ideas and systems of thought that the one over arching manifold that can pull all these things together is freedom.” There is the certainty that is humanity’s intelligence. “This ability to suspend ideas in the air and walk around and look at them from many angles is the key to scientific method.”

Matson feels that since we live in a changing world, we need a new kind of human being, unfettered by our old prejudices. “When a code fails to serve humanity, we need to change it. Let us know the moral person when we see them. We are not ones to beat our breast with the constant burden of sin. This would be neurotic.... If we define religion as a quest for certainty, we should be as concrete and exact as life itself....When a religion or a nation feels chosen to impose its will upon others, humans are divided into the haves and the have-nots....Organized religion is on trial before the bar of humanity.” But Matson feels hopeful. “Perhaps at this very moment of humanity’s hard winter, a faint trembling can be heard. Perhaps a quickening is in the air as though some stirring were seeking to break through our rigid ways of living.”

Water-RitualWe [were] asked to make available the original worship service Coming Home, Like Rivers to the Sea: A Woman's Ritual for distribution at the 1997 General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists in Phoenix, Arizona.

We originally created the worship service for the November 1980 Women and Religion Continental Convocation of Unitarian Universalists in East Lansing, Michigan.

As we worked to give the service shape, our awareness increased of water's presence and deep meaning in our lives. Water is more than simply a metaphor. It is elemental and primary, calling forth feelings of awe and reverence.

Coming back to this service again after seventeen years, we see in it a deeper meaning than we had been aware of earlier. Acknowledging that the ocean is considered by many to be the place from which all life on our planet came—it is the womb of life—and that amniotic waters surround each of us prenatally, we now realize that “Coming Home, Like Rivers to the Sea” was for us a new story of creation.

Lucile Longview
Rosemary Matson
May 21, 1997  

Over the past few years, women have been sending us their archive files from District W&Rs and UUWF groups. We're beginning to make progress in getting these bits of our UU women's herstory scanned and eventually uploaded to the web. Here are some of the latest treasures:

SWWIRL1997-vol1-1-coverSWWIRL newsletters from 1994-1999 have been added to SW UU Women's website.


Central Midwest UUWF newsletters. These go back to 1965 !!


Editor's Notes, July 2015: I find it interesting in reading Phyllis Rickter's 1989 letter that the roles are almost reversed in 2015. While UU Women's Federation remains one of only TWO Associate Organizations, in 1996 the UUWR Committee was "sunsetted," meaning no longer a UUA staff-supported Committee. UUWR applied for and was granted "UUA Independent Affiliate Organization" status in 2002. UUWR was further removed from UUA organizational structure when all 60 or so of the Independent Affiliates were re-named "Related Organizations" a few years later. These groups no longer received discounts on GA exhibit booths, or a guaranteed program slot for GA, and their status was relegated to a listing on the UUA website.

Continental UUW&R continues to operate independently, within a loose network of District W&R groups and other like-minded UU women's organizations. UUW&R currently focuses on finding and providing feminist thealogy and women's spirituality resources for congregations and women's groups; UUWF continues to follow their mission of "advancing justice for women and girls and supporting their spiritual growth," supported by individual memberships and an endowment that allows them to give grants to projects that align with their mission.

While over the years, communication "has not always been good," to put it mildly, today the UUWF and UUWR are forging new relationships and brainstorming possible collaborations. We worked side-by-side exhibit booths at General Assembly 2015, and have some ideas in the works for 2016. Stay tuned!

-- Gretchen


UUWF - Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation

Phyllis Rickter, President
May 5, 1989


One of the most frequent questions asked me these days is "What's the connection between the UU Women's Federation and the Women and Religion Committee?" Or sometimes it's, "Why do we need two groups for UU women?" Or, "Can I belong to both?" Or, "How are they different?" It is good that Unitarian Universalists are asking these questions, and I am glad to have the opportunity to describe what I believe the roles of each organization to be.

First of all, the UUWF is an autonomous organization of church women's groups and individual women and men across the continent. We were formed in 1963 out of the merger of two historic women's groups, the Association of Universalist Women, founded in 1869, and the Alliance of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Women, founded in 1890. We are one of three associate members of the UUA; and have our own structure, funds, and staff. Our members determine the direction of our work.

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