The religion as it stands today actually began in 1961, with the merging of the Unitarian and Universalist churches into the Unitarian Universalist Association, or UUA. The UUA was created as a group of like-minded individuals, dedicated to the search for individual religion, truth, and meaning. In the late 1980's, the UUA drafted and approved Article II of their Bylaws, titled "Principles and Purposes" and commonly called the Unitarian Universalist Covenant, a sort of statement of faith that defines the ideals of the religion as a whole. Chapters are called churches, societies, fellowships, or congregations, as each chapter chooses.

Services are generally held on Sunday mornings, although some chapters (most notably campus groups) hold their meetings on other days and times. In practice, Unitarian Universalism is a melding of many religious traditions; this melding of traditions tends to create an environment for such jokes as "If you ask four UU's what they believe, you'll get five answers," and "What do UU's believe in? Recycling." Actually, this last joke is very much the truth; Unitarian Universalists tend to support social action and other humanitarian efforts, either with money or volunteer labor, or both. Unitarian Universalists also believe in a free expression of ideas and in democracy, leading to the joke, "What do UU's believe in? Committees."