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Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands

Ceremonies and Traditions

Unitarian Universalist congregations are autonomous, which means that each congregation has the freedom to create traditions and to celebrate life passages in its own way. Some ceremonies happen on a regular basis, while other occasions are marked as they arise in the life of our congregation or our members and friends.

New Member Ceremonies
We welcome new members! While you are not obligated to join UUCSH in order to participate in our services, classes, and activities, at some point, you may desire to become an adult member. Learn more about the process of becoming a member.

UUCSH conducts New Member Sunday events several times a year. During these Sunday services, adults who have completed the membership process are invited to stand up during the service as they are introduced by a member of our Membership Committee. This is an opportunity for the congregation to learn your name — and if you have a partner or children, their names — and for you to feel truly part of the congregation.

Child Dedication Ceremonies
At the request of parents, we conduct child dedication ceremonies for infants, young adopted children, or young children whose families have recently joined the congregation. In consultation with the minister, parents typically have a choice whether to hold the dedication in private or during a Sunday worship service. Child dedications are joyous occasions with elements that commonly include:

  • A blessing for the child
  • An expression of the parent or parents’ hopes for the child
  • A promise by the congregation to support and nurture the child in its spiritual life
  • The presentation of a rose to symbolize the balance of beauty and hurt that are part of every life.

Parents have the option to invite other children, guardians, godparents, and others to participate.

Coming of Age Ceremonies
Unitarian Universalist youth are not told what to believe spiritually; rather, they are encouraged to explore their own faith traditions and other faith traditions around the world before identifying their own beliefs. The Coming of Age program combines group meetings and adult mentors through which youth examine some of life’s biggest questions. At the end of the program, the youth are invited to participate in a ceremony honoring their learning and exploration. These ceremonies may include reflections from parents, youth advisors, or religious educators; statements of personal beliefs, i.e., creedos, written by the youth; the presentation of small gifts to the youths.

Bridging Ceremonies
The Bridging Ceremony marks the passage of teens ages 17-18 year-old into adulthood. They figuratively cross a “bridge” that may be comprised of a stage, a line of people who have supported them, or some other means. These ceremonies may include the following elements:

  • Workshops or meetings to prepare youth for bridging
  • Gifts given in the ceremony to the bridging youths
  • Special music
  • A time for reflections from the youth, their family, youth advisors, or religious educators

Weddings / Commitment Ceremonies
Weddings and commitment ceremonies allow couples and their families and friends to celebrate the commitment and love shared by two individuals who have chosen to experience life’s joys together.  These individuals may be of any sexual identity, orientation, or faith tradition.

Each ceremony is crafted in accordance with the unique wishes of the participants involved. Our minister would be delighted to officiate at your ceremony and to accommodate your spiritual practices and traditions.  We promote the equal right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to marry.

Memorial Services
Services to honor loved ones who have passed on are often very personal occasions. Our minister can help you and your family honor the memory of a special person in your life by helping to create a memorial service that will reflect your memories, traditions, and spiritual beliefs. The service might include the following elements:

  • A time to remember the deceased with a story or anecdote
  • Hymn singing or other music
  • A time for personal reflection

Water Communion
Like most UU congregations, we celebrate a Water Communion, also sometimes called Water Ceremony, in our first worship service in September to mark the start of the new church year.  Members, friends and visitors bring small amounts of water from places they traveled to over the summer or which is special to them. One by one, they pour their water into a communal bowl to represent our shared faith coming from many different sources. A pitcher of water is always on hand so that everyone has the option to participate, even if they did not bring their own water.

Flower Communion
In May or June each year, we celebrate a Flower Communion, which symbolizes, the caring community of which we are a part as well as the fact that just as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make. Members and friends are invited to bring flowers to the service, all of which are placed in communal vases. Later in the service, everyone in attendance — including visitors — is invited to select a different flower to take home.

Blessing of the Animals
This relaxed outdoor ceremony honors the non-human members of our families, whether they be rabbits, cats, dogs, fish, turtles, guinea pigs, reptiles or other species. Members and friends are invited to bring their caged or leashed pets for a friendly blessing from our minister during a Sunday worship service that may be interrupted by purrs, barks, and a lot of tail wagging.

Christmas Eve
We hold two Christmas Eve services, at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The service typically includes a reading, a meditation, a sermon, and special music including well-known carols. We end the service by singing Silent Night outdoors, holding lit candles.

Cookies!
Our Christmas Eve celebration includes a highly anticipated cookie buffet between the services. This tradition began with our first holiday as a congregation, and it quickly became a beloved tradition. Everyone is welcome to bring cookies to share (homemade or purchased). Leftover cookies are efficiently packaged for people to take home and enjoy.