Unitarian Universalists express liberal beliefs

Jessica Wojcik

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent may look like an ordinary church from the outside, but after attending one of their services, the church may not be what most consider to be “traditional.”

Instead of preaching about holy figures or religious text during church services, the church is centered around beliefs that its members share, such as love, justice and peace.

According to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent Web site, A HREF=”www.kentuu.org”>www.kentuu.org, a recent service was titled “To nurture” and examined how “we nurture ourselves and each other.”

The Rev. Melissa Ziemer has been serving the church since September 2005. Ziemer said she did not grow up religiously, but began attending different Unitarian Universalist events while attending college in Massachusetts and was very interested in the religion and in pursuing ministry.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Ziemer went on to theological school in Chicago, studying pastoral care and counseling. She also began looking for a church to serve. Ziemer was called to serve at the Kent church last spring.

Summer at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kent

While some churches in the area are taking it easy this summer, the Unitarian Universalist Church has many summer activities planned for the coming months.

In addition to the weekly Sunday worship (every Sunday at 10:30 am), the church hosts weekly activities designed to help people learn and get involved in the community.

Student minister Renee Zimelis Ruchotzke’s course, “Building your own theology” is taught on Wednesday evenings, and Tai Chi Monday nights begin at 7:00 p.m. The Kent yoga center is also located in the church basement where yoga classes are available.

The church’s big project this summer is “Where’s Walden,” an outing hosted to help connect with nature and learn more about transcendentalism. This outing will take place at Palm Creek on July 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will consist of a potluck lunch, different outdoor activities and end with a worship service.

Anyone interested in attending these activities or getting involved with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kent should call the church office at 330-673-4247.

– Jessica Wojcik

“This church is so lively and full of vitality,” Ziemer said. “The members really take it seriously.”

According to The Unitarian Universalist Association, A HREF=”www.uua.org”>www.uua.org, Unitarian Universalists believe personal experience, conscience and reason should be how a person determines his or her religion, not in any book, person or institution.

The Unitarian Universalist church is known for being open and welcoming to the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender community, something that many traditional religions do not accept. The church has no creed and encourages members to find their own truth while working within a community.

Student minister Renee Zimelis Ruchotzke describes Unitarian Universalists as like-minded people trying to articulate their own religious beliefs.

According to the Unitarian Universalist Association web site, some Unitarian Universalists believe in a God, although God is not often spoken of.

“What we refer to as God is so big that our little human minds would have a hard time grasping the concept,” Zimelis Ruchotzke said.

Instead of defining and preaching beliefs about a God, Unitarian Universalists search for their own personal truth.

Zimelis Ruchotzke is leading a religious exploration course this summer titled “Building your own theology.” The course will focus on exploration and study writings of transcendentalists who were Unitarian Universalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“People think that Unitarian Universalists don’t believe in anything,” Zimelis Ruchotzke said. “The truth is, we don’t believe in one thing.”

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, located at 228 Gougler Ave., has about 170 members, mostly from Portage and Eastern Summit County. There are other Unitarian Universalist churches in the area, including one in Akron.

Contact religion and culture reporter Jessica Wojcik at [email protected].