What would it take for the Universalists to have four new churches?

I’m watching the development of the Universalist Orthodox Church with a lot of admiration and a little bit of envy. In about a year it has grown to four parishes and two emerging missions. (Their site has a new page that better explains their approach and what they mean by Universalism.)

Are any of these parishes large? No. Do any have a building that they own for worship? No. Are their clergy compensated for their labor? Doubtful. But do they exist and grow? Yes. Do they ordain or receive new clergy? Yes. Do they have regular, public services of worship (liturgies)? Yes. I’ll take what they have over the unrealized plans for a large institutional church any day.

What what would it take for us on liberal Reformed end of Universalism to have four parishes and two emerging missions? That’s behind so many of the articles I write here. I’m fortunate to live in a city with a Universalist Christian church, where I am a member and preach occasionally. There’s one in Providence, and Tokyo. You might find others, historically related to the Universalist denomination or not. If I were in a city with a Universalist Orthodox church, I’d probably attend liturgies, at least occasionally. But people in most places don’t have the option.

I’m not going to build a church where one’s not needed but you may need to do so. A monthly service of morning and evening prayer led by a lay person for a congregation of three is a hundred times better than wishing that there was a church.

What would it take for the Universalists to have four new churches? A hundred? Even one? Most of all: desire to have one, even if there’s no institution “out there” to help. (That said, I’d gladly do what I could to help a new church. I bet others would as well.)

2 Replies to “What would it take for the Universalists to have four new churches?”

  1. The desire, of course, but I wonder if it would be easier to start a church if there was a clearer feeling that the group weren’t creating something new but merely (!) a new expression of something existing.

    What does a congregation expressing something “on liberal Reformed end of Universalism” look like?

    If I’m a group that feels moved to set up such a congregation, I don’t want to be working from scratch, theologically, liturgically or organisationally.

    Freedom is giving me a car to drive wherever I want, not a pile of parts and an assumption that I build my own.

    You’ve given examples of existing congregations, but they’re not physically accessible to most of the world. Alas, I can’t move house to Washington DC for a year or so to imbibe the UNMC esssence. 🙂

    The Universalist Orthodox Church are very clear on what they are, and are not. I’m not sure I see the same clarity from the liberal Reformed equivalents.

    (Although ironically the desire to create endless and conflicting definitional confessions, professions, platforms, articles of faith, books of worship, books of order etc etc is definitely in the Reformed DNA)

  2. You’re surely right, and my “liberal end of Reformed” is shorthand for that kind of community-engaged broad-church church with thoughtful approach and a native mistrust of emotional manipulation in worship. But different denominations specialize in it in the United States, no doubt with gaps in the fabric.

    But it was representative in U.S. religious life until recently. I could have asked the same about Lutherans or Pentecostals, though neither appeal to me very much. I assume that an easy translation can be made for those to whom it does appeal, and that’s what I see in the Universalist Orthodox.

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