Tucked off Alves Lane behind a flock of thriving trees is a New Braunfels congregation like no other. On Sundays, believers, spiritual seekers and secular humanists alike gather as a “shared ministry” as Unitarian Universalists.
Attendees enter through a small garden, where a fountain trickles. Services are at 10:30 a.m. Sundays as an outside sign states, but inside the small brightly colored building the walls are decorated with bulletin boards advertising discussion groups at all days and hours.
Inside the building’s largest room are about 50 gray plastic chairs, lined to face a wooden pulpit — a tall green candle surrounded by smaller white candles sits on a table. Behind it is a rainbow fiber banner depicting a hand cupping a flame.
“Good morning and welcome,” started Rev. Addae Kraba — a minister of Unitarian Universalist of New Braunfels. “We are a community of seekers and we honor the path you are on, whoever you are,” she said to the few dozen folks in the room.
Throughout the service, Addae blesses children with flowers, leads a meditation, and speaks with a progressive message.
“Our faith looks for the answers to life’s questions in inexplicable areas,” she said.
At the close of the service, about six different members come to the front to announce different service projects and movements to make in social issues. The topics range from recycling to immigration.
As the attendees disperse among coffee and conversation, Addae comes forward and shakes hands.
Sitting in a back office, sipping coffee, she explains Unitarian Universalism.
“We have no dogma, no creed,” Addae said. “We live by seven principles — I guess you could say that’s our 10 commandments but there’s only seven,” she said with a laugh.
The principles are all about being kind and treating others the way you want to be treated, Addae said.
“I’m not from this part of the country,” she said.
Before the 1960s, Unitarians and Universalists were two different sects that realized they had a lot in common, Addae said.
“I received a spiritual call and didn’t know where I’d go,” she said. “One of my four sons said he’d heard of a large Unitarian congregation in San Francisco and encouraged me to go.”
In 1996, she officially joined the faith. She came to Texas shortly after that, because her son was located in San Antonio as a military member.
Jackie, a longtime member of the Unitarian Universalists of New Braunfels, recalls when the New Braunfels group first came together.
“We were meeting at the Senior Center for our Sunday service, until they locked us out twice,” Jackie said. “If they didn’t like the topic we were talking on they locked us out.”
It was in the early 2000s when the group decided to garner their own building in town.
“We paid off the mortgage in 2007 and moved in here,” Jackie said.
According to www.uua.org, the national Unitarian Universalist page, the seven principles are as follows; the first principle states the inherent worth and dignity of every person; the second, justice, equity and compassion in human relations; third, acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth; fourth, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; fifth, the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within a congregation and in society at large; sixth, the goal of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; and seventh, respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
“And when we say for all we mean for all,” Addae emphasized.
Unitarian Universalists are a welcoming congregation who welcome all people, Jackie said.
“We were one of the earliest groups if not the earliest group to perform LBGT weddings,” Jackie said. “We don’t need to think alike to love alike — we support each other.”
Unitarian Universalists believe in drawing on wisdom from all faith systems, using quotes from many different scriptures, Addae said.
“There are sources of wisdom all around us,” Addae said. “All faiths have something useful to contribute.”
No faith says to hate each other, but to love one another, Addae said.
“We’re not a cult or a religion — anymore than any religion is,” Addae said. “We believe in the freedom to think.
For the most part, Texans are overall warm people, and as a minister of a small congregation, Addae said she hasn’t noticed any negative interactions in New Braunfels.
Unitarian Universalists believe in helping their community, and participating with each other to make a better world, Jackie said.
“We always welcome whoever wants to come,” she said.
For more information about the Unitarian Universalists of New Braunfels, visit https://www.uunb.org. The congregation meets at 135 Alves Lane.