Church starts, a key to keeping people

There’s no secret that I’m in a long, slow departure from institutional Unitarian Universalism in the direction of the United Church of Christ. Why now? I could theologize it, but a bigger reason than theology is geography.

  1. Hubby and I live in Washington, D.C. and don’t intend to leave.
  2. The one Christian church in the UUA in the area was my last pastorate, and that didn’t end pleasantly. But even if it had, I wouldn’t be a parishoner there given the customs of ministerial practice.
  3. The rest of the (transit-accessible) Unitarian Universalist congregations in the area make up a spectrum that don’t interest me much. On the other hand, the United Church of Christ spectrum interests me mucho. There even exists a strain of Mercersburg liturgy Reformed Church UCC (that I like) that’s not only “in the area” but is the closest church to our house. Proximity matters.
  4. That said, there are parts of the country — Mississippi and South Carolina — that the UCC is almost absent or nasty towards gays, but has Unitarian Universalist churches. In this context, I would stay with the Unitarian Universalists, even if the congregations were eccletic or non-theistic. But I don’t live there.
  5. Which makes me think that if I weren’t a Southerner, or if the UCC did a better job in the South, things would have turned out very differently.

How many variations on that theme are there, I wonder. And it makes me think that you have to have geographically convenient churches in this mobile society. Note that in my case, living in Massachusetts would probably even accelerate the cross-over, despite it being one of the strongest areas for Unitarian Universalists, and that I would likely cross over slower in those areas where Unitarian Universalism is weakest. Not because it is weak but because alternatives are few and poor. End of roving thought.

10 Replies to “Church starts, a key to keeping people”

  1. (((That said, there are parts of the country — Mississippi and South Carolina — that the UCC is almost absent or nasty towards gays)))

    It took me a long time to get used to the UCC being treated as a hip bastion of liberal Christianity for this reason. I’m used to it now, but it took awhile.


  2. Rereading, I should say “Mississippi and South Carolina, for example,”. . .

    Actually, Georgia isn’t much better. There’s no UCC church in Athens (college) or Augusta (high school) but thriving Unitarian Universalist congregations in each. And I was a member at one time of both.

  3. Actually that is the case in much of the country. Yes as an organization UCC churches seem to have a liberal Christian bent, and I do visit one of the several UCC churches in my area (one is almost in walking distance to my house) but their worship services do not strike me as liberal at all really. The are much more mainstream than liberal in my opinion, not that – that is a bad it just is. I have visited MCC churches that are more liberal.. and I consider the MCC bordering on conservative.

    The most liberal Christian churches here in North East Ohio tend to be Congregationalist, except being Congregationalist unless they are very clear on their web site (and most are not) there really is no way to tell unless you visit and hear for yourself.

    In any case, as a Universalist I would not, and have not, felt at home in these churches, not nearly as much as in a UU church. If you can imaging that.

  4. Hey Scott,
    What is going to happy to universalist church . org?
    Hope you are well, and that the transition to the UCC is terrific for you. By the way, here in Davenport, Iowa (the Quad Cities), the Unitarian Church, Edwards United Church of Christ, and Temple Emanuel will celebrate our 62nd annual Thanksgiving Service together this year.
    Roger Butts

  5. Scott,

    Interestingly enough, for me, the alternatives in areas where UCC is absent or very conservative is the MCC. The church I now belong to is MCC/UCC with a more liberal theology than most MCC churches, for sure. But I’m realizing I’m way too much of a Chrisitan these days to appreciate a UU church in the south. I’d prefer MCC these days. It’s fun worshiping with a bunch of queer people like me, even if it’s more conservative theologically.

  6. Kinda the same as before. There was no MCC church in Athens until my last year there. Plus, the MCC has a set of worship styles that set my teeth on edge. In Athens, I was just as happy to sojourn with the Episcopalians and Quakers. (In Augusta, as a high-schooler, I was a Humanist that hung out with the first wave of Pagans. Really. I had a private come-to-Jesus meeting my senior year.)

  7. I think that MCC is just as rare as the UCC is certain areas (dare I say non-metro areas?) Two in my state – both about 3-4 hours drive (but I should say that there is two in Charlotte which is only a 2 hour drive) . there are also two UCC Churches in South Carolina. One UCC that says its been around 13 years in Columbia, has just in the past year showed up on the UCC website, wonder why it wasnt listed before? Hmm,. This means I can no longer say that I had 3 UU Christian Churches closer than any UCC churches….
    the local UU fellowship is alot closer than those (and closer than Friends and Unity) , but I have to admit that the Episocpals still cover the south like the dew…….

    steven r (who recalls when Methodists used to be liberal too)

  8. Garden of Grace, Columbia, was once an MCC church only admitted to the UCC Conference last October. Years ago, in seminary, an MCC classmate predicted the time when the UCC would suck the marrow out of the MCC and incorporate them (like the nominally distinct Schwenkfelders). That seems to be happening. Why? I think Derek Parker commented on this, but it goes back to the tithing MCC churches (14%!) are obliged to make, and the relatively poor services they get.

    The UUA used to incorporate independent churches, but the pool of likely congregations has always been smaller. Pilgrim House Fellowship was one. Perhaps First E in Atlanta?

  9. Ah, thanks Scott – solves a puzzle has to how I missed seeing an UCC Church and why Columbia didnt have a MCC……
    It does fit in the modernist style of being in what appears to be an old warehouse —

    14%? wow!

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