1500 Harvard St NW (@16th), Washington DC 20009 202.332.5266 allsouls@allsouls.ws

Welcome to All Souls!

We are a diverse, spirit-growing, justice-seeking community.

The All Souls Experience

Welcome to All Souls Church Unitarian! We hope you’ll visit us on a Sunday morning or two (or three!) to learn more about our dynamic worship, our diverse community, and our work in the world. We often hear the following questions from visitors; perhaps you’ll find answers to yours.

During the church year (between Labor Day and Memorial Day), we have two services, at 9:30 and 11:15 am. During the summer, we have one service at 10:15 am. People start gathering in the sanctuary 10 – 15 minutes before the service. If you’d like to ask questions about the church, show up a bit earlier to speak with one of our greeters, stationed by the main entrance.

Every Sunday is different, but there are some basic elements. We start with and enjoy live music throughout the service. After a call to worship, the congregation sings an opening hymn and is then welcomed to church by one of our worship associates. We have a brief greeting period, when you can say hi to your neighbors in the pews. After more music, we sometimes hear a Story for All Ages or witness the dedication of children; we always listen to morning announcements and a prayer. After a hymn and some silence, the minister or a guest preacher delivers a sermon. We then pass the offertory plate, accompanied by more music. After a final hymn, we receive a benediction before heading to Pierce Hall for coffee or out into the world to start another week.

Come as you are! Some of our congregants wear their Sunday best (and church hats appear on the Sunday of the spring tea), while others show up in jeans and T-shirt. Most choose something in between. Children should wear comfortable play clothes as activities can sometimes get messy.

Early in the service, we invite visitors to stand or raise their hand, so that we can give them a round of applause in welcome. You may identify yourself or not; whatever you’re comfortable doing. We will not ask you to say anything.

No. We do pass a collection plate at one point in the service to maintain the well-being of the church and support neighborhood organizations, and we appreciate whatever you can give, but it is not obligatory.

Nursery care and classes for children run during the services. On the first Sunday of each month, children start in the sanctuary with their parents for a Story for All Ages; otherwise, they start downstairs in the classrooms. Ask an usher or greeter for directions to the classrooms. You’re always welcome to keep your child with you, and you can also stay downstairs and participate in your child’s class. The nursery has listening devices to hear the service. For more information, see our CYRE page.

Though we necessarily fall short, we strive for Beloved Community. We welcome all who enter, regardless of race, color, religious background, gender, affectional or sexual orientation, age, abilities or limitations, national origin, or marital status. We are interracial and interreligious couples, mixed-race children and adults, LGBTQ people, and folks of all ages. We are humanists, atheists, agnostics, pagans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus. Whoever you are, you can find a place here.

Of course! We welcome all. The ramp to the main floor starts from the corner of 16th and Harvard, and an elevator can take you to the balcony level. Large print and Braille hymnals are available. We have ASL interpretation at our 11:15 service (10:15 in the summer). If you or your child have a unique special need, you may want to let us know in advance how best to accommodate you.

Peruse this website, but if you still have questions or want more detail, don’t hesitate to contact Director of Member Services Gary Penn (gpenn@allsouls.ws; 202.517.1465). Gary also holds casual, one-hour introductions to All Souls and Unitarian Universalism on the first Sunday of every month after each service. Feel free to drop in.

Unitarian Universalism

Unitarian Universalists have no set creed, but we do affirm seven shared Principles …. If you join in fellowship with Unitarian Universalism, you can hold any opinion you want about the existence of a god and what to call that god. You can change your opinion over time. You can follow your conscience, your readings, your thoughts, and your desires on issues like the existence of an afterlife, the idea of sin, the value of prayer, or the authority of religious texts. Among our congregations, you will find many different worship styles: raucous and religious, contemplative and nature-based, intellectual and secular. You can pray or not, sing in the choir or mumble the hymns, rush out after service or help brew the coffee, collect the canned goods or organize the field trip, pass out a petition or let the petition pass you by, dress casually for services or don your finest attire. Having set aside divisive doctrinal battles we seek a straightforward commitment to the fluid, open, collective work of seeking our truths together without assuming that we will all share the same truth.

Sound easy? It is not. But it is deeply rewarding. The seven Principles are simple to state but challenging to implement. Building a truly expansive intellectual, ethical, and cultural community is not for the faintof heart. In this way, the dogma of Unitarian Universalism is procedural rather than theological. We are committed to being together and to being together in ways that respect our Principles. Our worship and our work exist in finding practical and nurturing ways to govern ourselves and our congregations by living out our commitment to openness, democratic process, human equality, social justice, and personal exploration without harsh judgment.

… [W]e keep going even when the work is hard and the outcomes are uncertain. … Our faith as Unitarian Universalists is not a specific claim about a particular god. It is not found in a single book. It does not rely on claims of our inherent specialness as individuals or as a people. Our faith is messier. Our faith is a belief that we can embrace the common good through how we interact with one another by holding fast to our precepts of inclusion, participation, and nonjudgmental disagreement. Our faith is a practice of intellectual humility, reminding us of our own limitations. Our faith assures us that we are not alone and that we can be part of something greater than ourselves. …

The journey is the joy. The companions are the comfort.

The work is the faith.

Adapted from Melissa Harris-Perry’s foreword to Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, editor; 6th edition. Available for purchase at inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop.

The Eight Principles

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part;
  8. Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other forms of oppression in ourselves and our institutions.

The Six Sources

  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Steven Stichter, a member of All Souls, hand-printed these beautiful versions of the principles, a set of which is on display at the church.

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