Simple, low-cost tips for video services

While some people go bird watching, I go denomination watching, especially during the annual meeting season. When I learned about the Primitive Methodist Church, I knew I had to browse their websites.

They are a small denomination with congregational polity (unlike most Methodists) and a focus on practical mission initiatives like a school for ministry, a campground and a investment/loan fund. Little wonder then that their National Mission Board suggestions for video production — posted at the start of the pandemic — are low-cost, high-impact, briefly stated and practical. An admirable list, and the suggestion “DON’T record with the camera pointing UP at you. No one wants to see up your nose” made me laugh out loud.

What a joy it would be if every denomination had such useful information. Worth emulating.

(Talk about) the Fellowship movement never dies

So, there was a discussion on Facebook about — in so many words — the Fellowship movement, midcentury Humanism and church development. But with all things Facebook, it’s as hard as Hades to find it once the thread grows cold. And since my long comment was essentially a blog post, I thought I share it here, and am sorry if there are jarring omissions now that it’s out of its original context.


I think the “trouble with authority” and “crusty Humanist” tropes are canards, and follow rather are the source of the mixed blessing and hard feelings about the Fellowship Movement. When in doubt, follow the money.

Even at the height of the Fellowship Movement, and for decades before, some Unitarian churches were developed in a conventional, cost-intensive “airdrop” model. About three at a time, and the success rate was far from 100%. Some of the middle America Progressive-era churches come from this. But these were very expensive, and ministers were few. (The Unitarians transferred Universalist ministers in, an untold history.)

The “lay center” concept goes back a hundred years. In the post-war era, they were ideal: lay-led and cheap. Many had religious education of the Baby Boom at their core. And one demographic reason it just can’t be restarted.

But remember the old UUA subtitle? “Of churches and fellowships”? Because they were long regarded as different things. A fellowship could become a church, and there were (in the 1950s, anyway) fixed standards for church status: a settled minister and at least 65 families, for instance. I believe the “fellowships not real” feelings come from the genesis of the distinction, and (I suspect) are fueled by ministers short of work, and lay-leaders tired of the long-established dynamic.

As for a para-professional class, well, the Universalists had one — fellowshipped lay ministers, a twentieth-century development to cope with the minister shortage. But the door was closed on this option at the formation of the UUA. In time, they all died out and — what? ten years ago? — the fellowship category was at last eliminated.

Singing in church with recorded music

I keep running into sites — Unitarian Universalist but mostly not — with MP3s or other files with hymn tunes ready to use as accompaniment for churches without an instrumentalist. Presumably ones that could be described with one or more of the following adjectives: small, poor, remote, fragile or disorganized. A church for which this is better than nothing.

These sound files follow CDs which did the same thing, and even special electronic players — but these belonged to the 1990s and 2000s and were quite expensive. And a free option is better than none. Or is it?

So now we have a resource, and probably a need. But what we don’t have are directions of how to use them. Am I supposed to cue them up on my phone, with a huddled few singing to a tinny MIDI? If not, then what? And what about the tempo. Or the number of verses.

Does anyone use these successfully? And if so, how?

This is a sincere appeal for ideas or resources.


Do join the Chalice Lighters program

A word to the Unitarian Universalists out there. It’s no secret I ride Unitarian Universalist evangelism and church planting inadequacies pretty hard, but there seems to be one consistent bright spot that I’d like to promote: district-level Chalice Lighters programs.

These are, in brief, individual donation subscription pools to support growth initiatives like building acquisition, improved signage or access for first time hires or ministerial calls. Because they are at the district (regional) level, it’s an added burden to promote them, particularly to those who don’t attend a local church often. But since I intend to apply to to program some day, I’d better start giving. And promote it.

My own district, the Joseph Priestley District — from mid-New Jersey through eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia and northern Virginia — is the largest in the Unitarian Universalist Association and has the largest Chalice Lighters program, or so I’ve been told. And if it doesn’t, it need to be. Fortunately, the powers-that-be make it possible to sign up online.

Go forth and do likewise.

If you have a success story, or know of a similar link in one of the other eighteen districts, please comment below.

Blog beg: portable speakers

This is a bleg, or a blog beg. Is there a brand of portable speakers you like and can recommend — the kind connected by an ordinary audio jack and powered with batteries — that would be convincingly clear and loud for a group to listen to. Say, a podcast sermon or — don’t wince — a hymn track to sing-along to. I’m trying to avoid tinniness, and this is not an area I know well.

Blog posts I'm reading today: our past and future

Unitarian Universalist minister and blogger Elz Curtiss (Politywonk) writes movingly about the hagiographic and political misuse of Unitarian and Universalist history, and it power to misshape the truth about our traditions. Worth reading.

Unitarian minister and blogger Stephen Lingwood (Reignite) talks data — the size of congregations in the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (GA), our counterpart body in Great Britain (and a handful of congregations elsewhere, like the UUA) just reported in its Annual Report. (Can’t find it online.) Unlike the UUA, the GA doesn’t have a historical practice of publishing congregational size data, so this report is noteworthy, if chilling. He sounds the wake-up call, given the smallness by congregations and overall of the GA — only one of the GA’s 170 churches wouldn’t be classed as “small” in the UUA — and how many congregations could easily slip below the water line.

It also makes me think the Church Admin plugin for WordPress I noted might be more useful for the British churches of 15 to 60 members than the American ones I was imagining for a use case. (The developer is also British and that comes across in the plugin.) Since it’s in rapid development, I’ve not properly tested it, but I’d be willing to do so if any British Unitarians would like to examine it with me.

Blog posts noting "very small churches"

So I Googled — as one does — for “very small churches” and ran back upon this blog. So here are the posts I wrote with that phrase:








For your interest . . .

Places churches rent to meet

Perhaps not rent. But the following list is of churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association I identified that meet other people’s space. This is temporary-use space; I’m not including rented storefronts. In part, I wanted to know if the old stereotype of Unitarian-era fellowships meeting at the Y hold true — I’ve preached in one! — and to see if any of the home-based fellowships have survived. (One has; I’ve written about it before, but even they rent space occasionally.) I also to see what kind of space might be available for new churches.

Here’s the list of key words I used — yes, grep -f, for those who know. The first ones are searching for synagogues; the one at the end assume negation (i.e. “not fixed” “no permanent address”). Then I had to hand-filter false positives, like the various Community Churches and churches in towns named Templeton and Bethel.

temple|sinai|b’nai|beth|israel|ymca|ywca|home|homes|center|community |senior|theater|theatre|hall|building|presbyterian|methodist|lutheran |club|school|library|room|rooms|fixed|permanent|moves

I would appreciate notes of corrections and additions. I will also add links to those congregations that have websites, as time permits. Active website links up. Have noted a couple of location changes. Now, sites for the hosts, where available. The best links I have found are up.

Juneau UU Fellowship Temple Sukkat Shalom 211 Cordova St Juneau AK
Kodiak UU Fellowship Allegro Arts Center 1220 E Rezanof Drive [map] Kodiak AK
UU Fellowship of Jonesboro Temple Israel [info] Fellowship Hall 203 W. Oak Jonesboro AR
Sedona UU Fellowship Sedona Creative Life Center 333 Schnebly Hill Rd Sedona AZ
UU Fellowship of Yuma First Presbyterian Church 598 S. 7th Ave. Yuma AZ
Live Oak UU Fellowship 1300 Grand Street (in the Home of Truth Spiritual Center) Alameda CA
Mission Peak UU Congregation First United Methodist Church, 2950 Washington Blvd. Cole Hall Fremont CA
UU Community of Lake County Kelseyville Senior Center 5245 Third Street [street view] Kelseyville CA
UU Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast Mendocino Community/Rec Center School and Pine St. Mendocino CA
UUs of Santa Clarita Valley Santa Clarita Valley Senior Ctr. 22900 Market Street Newhall CA
UUs of Petaluma Petaluma Woman’s Club 518 B St. Petaluma CA
UU Congregation of Whittier East Whittier YMCA 15740 Starbuck Whittier CA
UU Fellowship in Alamosa 330 San Juan Avenue (north unit of the Presbyterian Church) Alamosa CO
High Country UU Fellowship Summit County Comm & Senior Ctr. Peak One Boulevard Frisco CO
Namaqua UU Congregation Ferguson High School 1101 Hilltop Drive Loveland CO
Prairie Crossing Elementary School 11605 S. Bradbury Ranch Dr. Parker CO
UU Fellowship of the Farmington Valley The Ethel Walker School 230 Bushy Hill Rd. Simsbury CT
UU of Central Delaware Congregation Beth Sholom 340 N Queen St Dover DE
UU Congregation of Lake County The Woman’s Club [Wikipedia] 227 N. Center St. Eustis FL
Buckman Bridge UU Society Mandarin Community Club 12447 Mandarin Rd Jacksonville FL
Community U U Church Dudley’s Memorial Chapel 1108 North Dixie Highway (US Rt. 1) New Smyrna Beach FL
UU Fellowship of Sun City Center Temple Beth Israel 1115 Del Webb East Sun City Center FL
North Idaho UUs Harding Family Center 411 N 15th Coeur D’alene ID
New Garden Community Church – Unitarian Universalist United Electrical Workers (UE) Hall 37 S Ashland [street view] Chicago IL
All Souls Free Religious Fellowship Culltural Center 9351 Michigan Ave [street view] [residential?] Chicago IL
Gaia Community Shawnee Mission UU Church 7725 W. 87th St. Overland Park KS
UU Community of Frankfort 3rd Floor, Mc Clure Building 306 West Main St [possibly] Frankfort KY
UU Meeting of South Berkshire Claire W. Teague Senior Center 917 S Main Street [street view, but more tree view really] Great Barrington MA
Channing Memorial Church Northfield Elementary School 9125 Northfield Road Ellicott City MD
UU Fellowship of Southern Maryland Chesapeake Charter School 20945 Great Mills Road Lexington Park MD
Midcoast UU Fellowship Skidompha Public Library 184 Main St Damariscotta ME
Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton Brighton Education Community Center (BECC) 125 South Church Street [map] Brighton MI
Keweenaw UU Fellowship BHK Head Start Center 700 Park Houghton MI
UU Fellowship of Central Michigan ArtReach Center of Mid-Michigan 319 S University St. Mount Pleasant MI
Northwoods UU Fellowship Nisswa Community Library 5533 County Rd 18 [street view] Nisswa MN
UU Fellowship of West Plains Yellow House Community Arts Center 409 W Trish Knight St West Plains MO
UU Congregation of Tupelo Temple B’nai Israel 1301 Marshall St. Tupelo MS
UU Fellowship of Bozeman Bozeman Senior Center. 807 North Tracy Bozeman MT
UU Fellowship of Lake Norman Davidson College Tomlinson Res. Hall Conf. Room [info] Corner of Glasgow St & Patterson Count Cir Davidson NC
All Souls Church UU Walltown Children’s Theatre 1225 Berkeley Street Durham NC
UU Congregation of the Sandhills Pinehurst Executive Center 300 NC Highway 5 S Ste 7/8 Pinehurst NC
Thermal Belt UU Fellowship Tryon Youth Center Route 176N Tryon NC
Kearney UU Fellowship Campus Lutheran Ministry [map] 2715 9th Avenue Kearney NE
Dorothea Dix UU Community Crosswicks United Methodist Church Intersection of Church St & Ward Av Crosswicks NJ
UU Congregation of the Palisades Flat Rock Brook Nature Center 443 Van Nostrand Ave Englewood NJ
UU Ocean County Congregation Holiday Mall Shopping Center 734 Route 37 West [street view] [storefront?] Toms River NJ
Eastern New Mexico UU Fellowship Greyhound Arena, Classroom #7 Eastern NM University Portales NM
Brockport UU Fellowship Brockport Exempts Club 248 West Ave [street view] Brockport NY
Hornell Alfred UU Society Hornell Senior Ctr. 198 Main [street view] Hornell NY
Delaware UU Fellowship Peale Chapel, Hamilton-William Center Ohio Wesleyan University Delaware OH
UU Fellowship of McMinnville McMinnville Senior Center 2250 NE McDaniel Ln McMinnville OR
Wy’east UU Congregation Hollywood Senior Center 1820 NE 40th Ave Portland OR
Upper Delaware UU Fellowship Berlin Township Community Ctr. [map] 50 Milanville Rd. Beach Lake PA
WellSprings Congregation The Montgomery School (Bell Hall) 1141 Kimberton Road (Rte 113) Chester Springs PA
UU Fellowship of Lower Bucks Pen Ryn School 235 South Olds Blvd. Fairless Hills PA
Joseph Priestley UU Fellowship Members’ Homes Lewisburg Area Lewisburg PA
UUs of Puerto Rico San Juan Community Library Biblioteca BUCAPLAA Avenida Apolo at corner of Topacio Intersection of Rt 1 and Rt 199 Guaynabo PR
UU Fellowship of Beaufort Wardle Family YMCA 1801 Richmond Ave Port Royal SC
Black Hills UU Fellowship Canyon Lake Senior Citizens Ctr. 2900 Canyon Lake Dr. Rapid City SD
Foothills UU Fellowship Everett Senior Center 702 Burchfield St Maryville TN
UU Fellowship of Murfreesboro Center for the Arts N 110 West College Street Murfreesboro TN
The UU Fellowship of St John St. John School Community Room Giftt Hill St. John VI
Cedars UU Church The Island School 8553 NE Day Rd Bainbridge Island WA
San Juan UU Fellowship Mullis Community Senior Center 589 Nash Street Friday Harbor WA

Two blog posts on mission and ministry

If you don’t keep up with the Quaker blogosphere, you might miss two valuable blog posts about mission, ministry and how these speak to generational change, resources and burnout.

Micah, for those counting, is a Quaker minister, with the Capitol Hill Friends worship group I mentioned last time. You can also follow them as micahbales and martin_kelley on Twitter.