Your First Visit
Welcome, welcome, welcome!
Visitors and newcomers are always welcome at The Unitarian Society, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in East Brunswick NJ. Please take time to explore other parts of this website to find out more about who we are and what we do. This page will answer questions you have about attending our Sunday services.
We hope that we will see you soon at a Sunday service or other offering. Should you feel that this just may possibly be your spiritual home, please reach out to us. We want to do all we can to make sure you will come to feel part of this congregation as we create and grow a diverse, questioning, justice-seeking, spirit-growing community.
Our multi-platform Sunday services are offered both in person at The Unitarian Society and online via Zoom.
When does the service start?
Our services begin at 10:30 am.
How do I attend in person?
Our building is located at 176 Tices Lane, East Brunswick NJ 08816.
We have a large parking lot, accessible off Tices Lane. The Unitarian Society Meetinghouse is located at the top of the hill. Pull your car into the lower lot and park in the “visitor” spots, near the stairways. If you need an accessible parking spot, please use the upper area, near the front entrance, where you can also drop off passengers before parking.
You will be greeted at the door by our Welcoming Team, who can answer any questions you might have. We’ll ask you to please sign our visitor register and let us know if you’d like to receive our newsletter. We encourage you to fill out a name tag so that we may learn your name.
If you will be joining us in person, it’s always good to arrive a bit before this to find your way around.
How do I attend online?
Our services are also offered via Zoom, an online video platform. The link to join is: https://zoom.us/j/904015815. The first time you attend online, you will need to register with Zoom, giving your name and email address. You will only need to register once and can do so by clicking here. You can register in advance or just as you are “arriving” on Sunday morning.
We do ask people to use their real names on their Zoom screen. This fosters a sense of genuine community. Given the Zoombombing risk, we do not allow into the service anyone who does not use their real name. We encourage folks to share their video screen so that we can see each other, but recognize that this does not work for everyone all the time, so it’s just a suggestion, not a requirement.
What are the services like?
Services include lighting our chalice, reciting our Bond of Union, music, singing, inspirational readings/poetry/scripture, inspirational videos, a story for all ages, meditation/prayer, an offering, and a sermon or reflection. At many services there is a time when people can share their joys and/or sorrows with those gathered. While we do record the services and post them to our congregation’s YouTube channel, we edit out the Joys & Sorrows part of the service to protect privacy.
What are the sermons like?
Our sermons may be unlike what you grew up with, since we don’t try to tell anyone exactly what to think or do. They strive to offer personal and thought-provoking ideas on a topic so that you can determine your own beliefs about it. Most Sundays, the sermons is offered by our Minister, Rev. Karen G. Johnston. You can check out past sermons by checking out our YouTube channel.
When Rev. Karen is not in the pulpit, we have guests or congregants who lead the Sunday service. This is true particularly in July and the first half of August each year.
Can my children attend?
Of course – you and your children are very welcome to attend our Sunday morning services. Our minister, Rev. Karen, tells wonderful stories, usually at the beginning of our Sunday service, that would be of particular interest to children. For some children, the whole service of interest; and for some, not so much.
Our Religious Education (“RE”) — what we sometimes call “faith formation” — program is often why people first come to TUS. Its goal is to nurture the spirit of each child, fostering ethical and faith development in our children so that they will be empowered to become free-thinking individuals who understand their role in building community; who respect themselves and others; who contribute to their human and natural communities; and who make informed decisions regarding their spiritual paths.
Will I be welcome?
We welcome all who bring an open mind and friendly intentions, knowing that you are here to get to know whether this might be a place and a people for you.
Are you hurting, full of sorrow, despairing? Then you are welcome! Are you excited, searching, looking to lend your energies to others’ energies? Then you are welcome! Are you searching for community, to be affirmed for whole of who you are? Then you are welcome! Do you want to be a part of something larger than yourself that believes a better world is possible? Then you are welcome! Are you confused, not sure, wondering, ambivalent? Then you are welcome! Are you worried about climate collapse, or divisions in our nation, or growing hatred and want to be in the company of others who are committed to compassion and justice? Then you are welcome! Do you already know what you believe about god (or not-god) and have respect for other perspectives? Then you are welcome!
Our members are diverse in background, social circumstance, and outlook. There are folks who live comfortable economic lives and those who live on limited incomes. We aspire to be a multi-cultural congregation and currently have congregants who identify as Black, white, Asian-Pacific Island/South Asian, Latinx, and multi-racial; gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender, genderqueer and nonbinary. Our congregants come from many different occupations, cultural heritages, and religious or spiritual backgrounds – Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, not-religious-at-all, Buddhist convert.
In our building we have gender neutral bathrooms, respecting and honoring that each person will use the facilities that best suits them. We are committed to cultivating and sustaining a safe space for all beloved humans across the gender identity continuum.
What if I’m part of an interfaith family?
That’s great! You will bring your gifts to the congregation and we will welcome you and be a safe haven for your family. Many TUS families have roots in more than one religion, and specifically choose our congregation because we honor and celebrate many religious traditions and understand reality to be pluralist by its very nature.
Will I be welcome if I’m agnostic or atheist?
When we say our spiritual traditions are diverse, we really mean it! Within our membership are agnostics, atheists, nontheists, humanists, theists, Buddhists, people who follow the earth-based traditions, and others rooted in traditional Jewish or Christian beliefs. We do not ask you to give up your cultural or religious roots, or the impulse to seek what is true or meaningful to you.
We do ask that you honor the spiritual beliefs or orientations of others and even cultivate curiosity about those whose approach this part of being human is different than your own. The sources that inform our shared community and our Sunday worship come from a variety of traditions. In our Sunday services, we use a variety of religious words and concepts, some of which will resonate for you and some of which will resonate for others. We invite you to take it all in. If a particular word, concept, or ritual doesn’t work for you, we encourage you to find joy in the reality that it is feeding someone else present.
What happens after the service?
After some Sunday Services, we host what is traditionally called “Coffee Hour” — a time for refreshment, conversation and fellowship. Beverages (coffee and tea) are offered, and sometimes snacks such as bagels, muffins or other fare.
Throughout the year, there are other activities or meetings happening either after a Sunday service or at other times during the week. Information about these are in our weekly eblast. You can sign up for that by clicking here.
For those joining on Zoom, we host a virtual “Social Hour” – a time for conversation and connection. Participants are invited to take part in small group conversation in a breakout room that allows for listening and sharing in a way that a large online group would not. You are welcome to take part if you would like to. It lasts between about 15 minutes.
Will I be pressured to join or convert?
We do try to be friendly, but we do not ask visitors to join our congregation right away. We believe that you should take the time to see whether we are a good fit and to consider our covenant. Membership conveys certain privileges, such as voting rights, and responsibilities, such as involvement and financial support. There are a number of congregants who are very active in the life of our community (“Friends”) but who have never signed the membership book.
There is no formal conversion process to become Unitarian Universalist, though we do celebrate each year new members who join the congregation, bringing their energies, commitments, and enthusiasm to our shared life.
What holidays are celebrated?
We celebrate many of the great religious holidays in some way that speaks to our Unitarian Universalist faith. These include Christmas, Easter, the Jewish High Holy Days, Passover and Hanukkah. There are secular holidays that we raise up as worthy, approaching spiritually: MLK Jr. Holiday, Earth Day, Pride Day/Month, and others as well. Other religious traditions’ holidays and holy times are marked in a way that respects such tradition and resists cultural appropriation.
What do you do with my email information?
When new folks register to attend a Sunday service, we are able to reach out to them at their email address. We do this to be welcoming, not to pressure anyone. Sometimes we hold special online meetings with representatives from our Welcoming/Membership team, or with Rev. Karen, as a way to grow connection or to answer questions that new folx might have. We never give your information away to any other source and we will not add you to our emailing list without your consent.