1983, the UCF grew from a diverse group of people with a wide range
of spiritual perspectives, including Quaker, Sufi, Buddhist, Christian,
Unitarian, neo-Pagan, Agnostic, Atheist, and non-religious (spiritual).
We needed to organize ourselves as a group at that time in order to
establish our own school for our children, and to gain the separation
of church and state that was available to Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians,
Jews, Muslims, and every other person who belonged to a religious group.
We were challenged to find one "religious"
organization that we all could feel comfortable with.
were actively involved with the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends)
and many of the Quaker principles resonated with the group -- no ministers,
no hierarchy, political and social activism, resistance to war, and
George Fox's maxim (here paraphrased): "There is that of divinity
in all people," which got him in a lot of trouble in Europe 400
years ago, but made sense to us.
further pursuing a "Friends" affiliation, we found that established
Quaker groups insisted that we call ourselves a Christian organization,
which, to us, was an unnecessary and unacceptable limitation. We did
not want any religious affiliation that was exclusive in any regard.
Furthermore, the established Quaker groups insisted upon adherence
to their tradition of "silent"
meetings, which, to us, were not satisfying.
we decided to take the Quaker perspective and "evolve" it
to the next level. We advanced George Fox's maxim to state, "There
is that of divinity in all things." This is more in line
with our group's universal way of thinking, in which most feel that
the natural world is itself sacred. Then, we changed the silent meetings
to become meetings of activity, noisy at times. We dispensed with some
of the quaint but, to us, obsolete manners of Quakerism, such as the
term "clerk" for those who play active, responsible roles
in the organization. We dropped "clerk" and adopted
"steward" for our own group. Also, we felt no need to use other
quaint terms of the old version of Quakerism, such as "first day"
for "Sunday," etc.
short, we formed a new "religious" organization based upon
the Religious Society of Friends, calling ourselves the Universal Community
of Friends, and we developed in a new manner more appropriate for the
times, more flexible, eclectic, and inclusive. We felt that advancing
Quakerism was an appropriate development for our particular location
in western Pennsylvania as Pennsylvania is traditionally referred to
as the "Quaker State." Traditional Quaker groups considered
us to be a "splinter" group, although we considered ourselves
completely independent, and still do. However, we also consider ourselves
kindred spirits with the Quakers as well as with any group that is
concerned with protecting both human and non-human rights.
refused to call ourselves a "religious" organization. We
prefer the term
"spiritual." This small detail proved troublesome, however,
with regard to the state of Pennsylvania and our incorporation as a "religious"
organization. Our articles of incorporation in 1984 initially made no
mention of a Deity, and the state rejected our incorporation on that
account, which seemed preposterous at the time (who are they to say what
constitutes a Supreme Being?). We then amended our founding principles,
suggesting that the most supreme manifestation of Being which we are
capable of knowing is the Universe itself, and the Universe would have
to suffice as a "Supreme Being"
or "God" for the purposes of satisfying the state's idea of
religion. Once over this hump, our "universal" religious affiliation
was established -- one that was all inclusive. If a member wanted to
believe in some form of creator deity, that was his or her business,
but it was not the policy of the UCF to endorse any sort of particular
religious perspective other than that the universe itself is sacred,
or, to continue with George Fox's line of thought, "There is
that of divinity in all things."