Who we are

As a missional community that seeks to give life the shape of justice, we are actively building the world we dream about in places that Unitarian Universalism doesn’t normally go. Based in central North Carolina, our focus is day-to-day social justice work and its support. In the words of the UU minister John Haynes Holmes, we are making religion “coincident with life” by applying the principles of UUism and liberation theology to catalyze change in our lives and communities.

Rev. Nathan Alan Hollister (“Nato”) serves this community as his primary ministry. We are affiliated with the UUA, yet we are embodying a different form of religious institution. Instead of identifying as a traditional congregation, we consider ourselves a mission, or a covenanted community. Some of us identify as Unitarian Universalists, and some of us do not. We are united in the pursuit of building the world that our hearts know is possible. To read more about what motivates our formation, go to WHY; for more on our work, go to WHAT. Read also WHERE our ministry takes place, and HOW you can be involved in our work.

Why we are

Our “why” is in response to two questions: “What does the faith need?” and “What does the world need”?

• The fastest growing religious group is the “nones”
• Cultural demographics are shifting markedly, and our faith is not mirroring the multicultural world we are in
• The Pew Foundation tells us that there are 3 times as many people identifying as UUs than are currently members of our congregations
• Many of the “seekers” out there aren’t seeking traditional church
• Many people are unable to meet at “traditional” times such as Sunday morning
• Many seek not only spiritual fulfillment in their religious communities, but also social and economic
• Many seek a faith that is embedded in their day-to-day lives

Our answer is that what the faith needs—what the faith must do—is to experiment with different forms and manifestations of Unitarian Universalism. We cannot rely solely on the old models, and must also be actively taking the risk to explore new forms. These new forms must grapple with methods that are accessible to those who do not see a home for themselves in our current models, and they can take cues from the powerful traditions of the black church and from religious justice movements in Latin America. Clearly, our values resonate much farther than we presently see, and therefore we use the missional or “go to them” approach in addition to the traditional attractional or “come to us” one.

In answer to what the world needs, we take Gandhi’s maxim to “be the change we wish to see in the world” as our guide, calling us to co-create an open and growing model community of what the world could look like. Liberation theology tells us that if what we hold to be true doesn’t result in justice and mercy here and now, then it isn’t true. This is what we consider to be the “responsible” part of our free search for meaning. Our religious lives must incarnate social transformation.


What we are

In the early days of our religious tradition, the Congregationalist churches operated democratically, making decisions together and calling their own leaders. The Unitarian and Universalist luminaries Theodore Parker and James Luther Adams both often spoke about how this model of community, this glimpse of what the world could look like, was a major impetus for the American Revolution. People saw that in their religious communities they could operate with the democratic process and elect their leadership, and they said to themselves, “Why isn’t society like this? It works! How can we instill these values and principles into the world at large?”

It is in this spirit that we operate. We see our role as that of literally building the foundations of the Beloved Community. In that, our collective spiritual practice is growing and deepening our interdependence with one another. The way that we do this deliberately is to build alternative institutions to the oppressive ones that currently exist in our world. As we build them, we increase our capacity to catalyze transformation in the world. We do this in radical partnerships of solidarity with other community organizations, especially those made up of the most marginalized groups in our area.

What does that look like?

Gatherings – bi-weekly celebratory worship where we share a meal, deepen our fellowship through guided discussions, and prepare for our outward endeavors.

Small Group Ministry – members participate in a group-learning curriculum that we have developed called “Sacred Fire,” which consists of action-reflection sessions on social justice theology and philosophy, ethics and process, strategies of social transformation, and viable models of change.

Food Justice – utilizing some of the lessons that Rev. Nato learned from working with women’s empowerment collectives in southern Mexico, we are co-creating organic and sustainable food networks in partnership with farmers and other community organizations. We do this by promoting collective consumption, supporting local economies, and connecting food with those in need.

Solidarity – As we build the world we dream about, we believe that we must work in solidarity with those most marginalized in our communities. For us, solidarity involves the radical work of dismantling privilege by taking on some of the risks faced by oppressed peoples. We do this by creating principled partnerships with and working alongside organizations of color.


Where we are

Sacred Fire UU has two manifestations. One is in our Consulting Ministry, offered to congregations and community groups. The other is the community organization through which our work takes place: Mutual Aid Carrboro.

“Becoming the Change”

We provide congregational consultation on social justice approach, structure, action, and effectiveness in UU communities, led by Rev. Hollister and other trainers. Covered in the consultation are trainings and workshops—tailored to the needs of your congregation—on the topics of:

• Congregational Social Justice – how we work together as religious communities
• Reorganizing our congregational infrastructures to make us more effective at incarnating our values in the world
• How to approach justice work in our unique, covenantal way
• Employing an anti-oppressive lens
• Applying justice work in our day-to-day lives
• How to be in radical solidarity
• Paradigms of social transformation, lessons from history and the present

For more information on Becoming the Change, please contact us.

Networks of Food Justice

We can help your congregation set up networks of organic, sustainable food that support local economies, workers’ rights, and that feed both your congregation and those of your community that are in need. Contact us for more information!

Mutual Aid Carrboro

We operate in our community as Mutual Aid Carrboro. Why? It is simply a question of where our conversations should begin. Should they begin with, “What does Uni-something-something mean?” Or should they begin with what you need or what we can teach one another? Should they begin with treating an allergic reaction to religious institutions, or about what we can build together? Our purpose is to connect to and grow community with people who want to build the Beloved Community. And that’s what we do. Here is a link to our website.


We invite you to make a monetary contribution to our vision of Beloved Community. Please give a one-time gift, or become a “Catalyzer” by giving a set amount each month. Contributors will receive regular updates about the impact we are having on the lives in our community if they so wish.

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Also, we don’t just need money, but other resources as well! Look here and/or sign up for our newsletter to see what types of skills, expertise, and consultation we are looking for in order to deepen our work. Plus, we always need help in our on-the-ground social justice work in areas of food, housing, and workers’ rights.

Say Hello.

SFUU/MutalAid Carrboro, 301 Davie Road, Carrboro, NC 27510


We would like to thank the people and organizations whose generosity of word and deed make our work possible:

The Southeast District of the Unitarian Universalist Association
The Southeast District Chalice Lighters
Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh
The Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Hillsborough
Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center
Farmer Foodshare
The Refugee Community Partnership