Church: Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, 1535 Santa Barbara Street

Service Attended: Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Minister: Reverend Ken Collier

Denomination: Unitarian Universalist

Congregation Size: 700

Special Offerings: Adult and young adult religious education programs; children’s choir; potluck picnics; childcare; mobile food pantry; social justice program; yoga, meditation, and exercise classes; film nights; DanceAway Friday nights

Contact: Call 965-4583 or see

The immediate impression one receives sitting in the Unitarian Society church on a Sunday morning is of being part of a large extended family – no faux pas is grave enough to warrant embarrassment. In fact, the numerous minor slip-ups made during the service – a boy named Forrest introduced himself as Dewey, one speaker accidentally stole the next speaker’s notes – were all met with hearty laughter. Throughout the service, children moved down the pews from lap to lap and whispered loudly to their parents.

Nowhere was this pervasive ease clearer than by observing the quiet confidence of the six 13-year-olds who officiated the service to culminate the Coming of Age program in which they had been engaged for the last year. The Unitarian covenant to affirm “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” was passed on to the community’s youth through mirroring, as each child was individually honored by his/her mentor. In turn, every youth’s credo included a mention of caring for humanity. “People go to religion to find God, but more often find a way to help others,” was the way one teen described his conception of religion.

Rev. Ken Collier spoke of T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” as an example of the idea that “in our ending is our beginning.” He invited the teens to carefully consider whether they would like to formally join the church, describing it as a personal decision that bore financial, spiritual, and moral obligations. Just before the teens filed out leading the congregation in a rousing version of “This Little Light of Mine,” the reverend said, “Welcome to adulthood. It’s a great journey, believe me.”

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