I've started planning a new church for Washington, D.C. To be specific, a Universalist Christian church. As I put it in a letter to denominational and local stakeholders:
My vision (much less the plans) for this new church is still developing, but I see it as a traditional-postmodern church start, as found in other denominations; including, in time, hundreds of new members; having a cooperative and inspiring spirit, while being undefensively Christian; and engaging in an optimistic, adventuresome and savvy outreach model. I do not want to let this project carry on so long that it dies on the vine. My goal is to have a functioning, gathered church fit for an application to the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2012.
Universalist National Memorial Church, my former pastorate, is a Universalist Christian church in Washington, D.C. but Washington could certainly use two (or more). The research I've seen suggest one would help the other, and besides, it's not too much of a stretch to think a new church within a tradition can be planted in city every 150 years.
My goal, for the rest of 2010 is to come up with both that vision and that plan. Some conditions -- for lack of a better word -- are already in place.
- First, as the organizing minister, I feel a responsibility to take a theological and structural lead. The conventional wisdom, where the people gather and then a vision takes place, seems both to get the order reversed and has had a poor record of recent success. (In this way particularly, I think Doug Muder is on to something. See his article in the current UU World.)
- Second, the church will be necessarily more modest materially than others. Staffing, housing and mission will have to be accomplished in unconventional ways, and this new church should share what works with the larger fellowship.
- Third, it should be born with a concept of life-long discipleship and preparation for ministry, express the best of Universalist catholicity (now in deep eclipse in an age of Unitarian Universalist particularism), and plan for new churches.
What I need from you is your spiritual support. In time, I shall surely ask you to ask your Washington-based friends and family to consider participating. Others I'll ask for advice and some for material support. But for now, please spare a prayer for the success of this project.
I'll be blogging as this vision and plan develop.