A cautionary tale. I’ve worshipped with Micah here in D.C. so I sawa little of what he described but I’m certainly no Quaker, and (happily) have since gone back to my old church. But the critical mass issue is one that Unitarian and Universalist Christians are going to have to grapple with, in part because we’re probably too radioactive to attract ecumenical partners. Which is its own shame.
If Quakers don’t have the strength or inclination to seed new congregations, perhaps it’s time to partner with those who do.
3 Replies to “Asking Micah Bales's question: Are we capable of planting churches?”
Memorial Day morning 2004 I was present in a dream that I should consider co-founding a new church in an under-served region. It might be for the children of my alleged co-founder who may bring such a vision into fruition–there has been no clear cut plan or mandate–but the dream and my ensuing friendship has given me a deeper look at the potential of UUism as well as the drawbacks of our place in the 21st century.
I know Micah and this attitude seems to be a change from what he was saying when we were together at ESR.
It’s an interesting question though. I think it’s limited though to extraordinarily liberal religious groups for a whole bunch of reason that have to do with the histories of those groups (I’m thinking Quakers, Mennonites, Christian Scientists, UUs, etc).
; groups that never had the evangelical zeal (not that some didn’t have evangelical moments.
The flip side of the question is even more interesting; who would want to partner with them?
Wow! Micah’s take seems fairly cynical. And it seems strange that there was no effort to partner with Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which I would remind readers is still co-affiliated with Friends United Meeting (the decidedly Christ-centered Quaker denominational-umbrella). From my experience with Baltimore YM people, Micah’s group (deeply Christian, and inclusive enough to welcome LGBT people) would fall within the theological spectrum of the Yearly Meeting (albeit at the very traditional end of that spectrum).
With regards to UU’s I can only speak from my own experience as a participant in the UU Christian church plant known as Epiphany Community Church in Fenton, Michigan. Epiphany closed in 2009, after about 13 years of ministry. It (1) rode the 90’s wave of resurgent interest in spirituality, (2) suffered from Michigan’s drastic economic decline that pre-figured the Great Recession, (3) in the face of the UUA’s ambiguous identity demanded that the pastor carry way too much of the congregational identity, (4) in a District devoid of UU Christian churches was treated as an atavistic aberration, and (5) had a devil of a time attracting pastors after the Rev. Nurya Parish left for family reasons. There was a last ditch effort in the final year to jointly affiliate with the United Church of Christ, but that was too little, too late, and the union was never “consummated”.
At one time I had a dream that UU Christian churches could be gathered and planted. I was even part of the short lived organization known as the Magi Network, which had the mission of raising money to plant Christian churches in the UUA. But today I think that outside of certain places on the East Coast, and maybe in Illinois where there are some UUA/UCC congregations, the effort is not feasible. The terrain is too steep to pull this off.
That said, my years in the Epiphany community made an immense impact on my spiritual life, and my sense of vocation. And my walk of faith would have been a much poorer one, if Epiphany Community Church had never existed. It was there that I began to seriously follow Jesus, and to do it in ways that were decidedly outside of what most Mainline and Evangelical churches could offer.