New congregations to join the UUA?

I had been waiting for the UUA Board agenda and packet for their meetings that surround General Assembly; they published them last night.

Why? To see what great things the UUA is planning? No. Something simpler. Will there be a new member congregation celebrated at General Assembly? Not that many years ago, welcoming new congregations was quite the event. Pictures of smiling faces, maps pointing out the new starts and delegations on stage. Then fewer. Then one. Last year, none.

The last congregation to join the UUA was two years ago, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Benton County, Bentonville, Arkansas. Meanwhile a few others, all very small, have since disbanded or disaffiliated. I have my opinions why this is the case, and no, the covenanted communities aren’t a replacement, but I’m not keen on shouting into the wind.

Instead, I’ll say thank you to the people of the recently-disbanded Peter Cooper Fellowship, Memphis, Tennessee (as noted in the packet) and wish them well for whatever the future brings.

A new church applying to the UUA, but…

The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association posted the packet for its forthcoming (April 15-16) meeting — and the April meeting is always the best. Why? It’s when you’re most likely to see applications for membership, and the most applications — and this is no exception. [Fixed typos.]

So I will presumptively congratulate the forty-two members of the (PDF link) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Benton County, Bentonville, Arkansas, and wish them well and many years of prosperity and ministry.

But the summary memo (PDF) that announced the Bentonville congregation application also noted that two other churches — All Souls Church (Belgrade and Oakland, Maine) and the Hattiesburg (Miss.) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship — had disbanded, and that the Redding, California congregation has applied to re-classed as a “covenenting community” which by definition  (PDF) is not a member congregation. So not all good news.

Congregation count at the current UUA Board meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association is in the middle of its October meeting.

No great thought on my part, but I did note that there is a net loss of two congregations, per the Changes in Congregational Status (PDF) report.

The First Universalist Society of Salem (MA) has merged with First Parish in Beverly (MA).
All Souls Church UU (Durham, NC) has dissolved.

Does anyone know how true the musings I’ve heard that All Souls, while not paricularly Christian itself, came out of the aftermath of discussions in the early 1990s to start a Christian church there?

Sobering news in any case, and my best wishes to the parishoners in their new settings. (The All Souls website resolves to the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship site.)

Resetting the new congregation clock

I had previously mentioned that Unitarian Universalist Association board was scheduled to consider the membership application of the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in its October meetings. (I also mentioned them in this list of what I called pre-emerging congregations in 2008.)

Since ILUUF says on its website that it’s a member of the UUA, and since in appears on the UUA congregation finder map, that’s good enough for me to reset the “Time since the UUA admitted a church” clock. I’ll assume the vote took place on October 19, until I learn otherwise.

Good luck to one and all.

Revisiting "Rekindling the Mainline: New Life Through New Churches" (and UUA policy)

This four-year-old comment (thanks, Derek) led me to revisit Stephen C. Compton’s 2003 Rekindling the Mainline: New Life Through New Churches (link for reference) to see what’s still applicable and what’s not. My (used) copy arrived today.

In the meantime, be sure to see my widget in the sidebar, which counts up the number of days since the last member congregation was added to the UUA. Alas, none are scheduled to join at the next UUA Board meeting, but Unitarian Universalist minister and blogger Dawn Cooley points out a report (the report, in PDF) (thanks to her) to the UUA Board that recommends lowering the required quantum of thirty charter members for admission. Fascinating. I need to give it a close read — lots of references back to the UUA bylaws — and will report on that soon.

Wanted: a comprehensive list of Universalist, Unitarian and Unitarian churches

No April Fools, but an honest request. One of those resources that other communions have that we do not have is a comprehensive list of every Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist church that has been: the living and the dead. At the very least it would help establish a frame for a missiological history and might surface some “hidden histories” that challenge received narratives, say, around the success or failure of the midcentury Fellowship movement. (Which the Universalists also had, with a non-competative arrangement  with the Unitarians, details to come. Or that gold mines, oil wells or a-bomb plants attract Unitarians.)

We can start with something easier? Say, all churches in existance in 1959 (to account for those that rejected consolidation and didn’t join the new UUA; another one of those histories) and onwards?


Soul searching, again

More short-form blogging. Wondering out loud what to make of the UUA staff and growth advocates meeting this week.

Deeply suspicious that there’ll be any positive development. Not that there aren’t good ideas and resourceful people involved but that the process is worn and the goals are institutional and (at least modestly)  defensive.

I sighed, literally, and wonder what the future holds. At least I’m less worried about intra-UU rivalry: there’s so much less to fight over now…

Mapping the UUA

These days, if you use the church finder at, a nice map of your state pops up with it. I’m not ungrateful, but I did want a global view — perhaps with a bit of clarifying detail; see below — and when you work with a bunch of terribly clever people, some of whom scrape, repurpose and report on data every day, I was just prone to take matters into my own hands.

Click here — no embedding, I’m afraid — for a Google map of the UUA, as I see it anyway. (A screenshot follows, for reference.)

Map showing distribution of Unitarian Universalist congregations in the CONUS

Or you can download the KML file directly from but for God’s sake don’t use it in Google Earth, since it’s my first serious attempt at this markup and it could use some work.

A couple of things. Even from space, it looks like the Unitarians and Universalists filled in the United States, east to west, as far as I-35 and then realized they were running out of paint. “Dab in the Front Range, outline the Pacific coast and we’ll get those square states later.”

But zoom into the map and you’ll see there are big gaps in the fabric east of the Alleghenies, too.  And the Deep South has huge unserved areas, even where there are market towns of considerable size and regional influence. (My next attempt at mapmaking will be to superimpose micropolitan areas onto this map, to point out some likely places to spawn new church development.)

I color-coded the pins, matching the UUA size categories, and in one case subdividing it.

  • White. Emerging congregations.
  • Light blue. Congregations with 35 or fewer members. These are included in “small” but function differently than larger ones — and make up such a large number of recently-developed congregations.
  • Blue. Congregations with 36 to 149 members. These are the rest of the “small” churches.
  • Green. Medium-sized. 150 to 549 members.
  • Red. Large. 550 members and more.
  • Yellow. I’ve put the Church of the Larger Fellowship (a postal and internet extension church) and the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines (really a national denomination in its own right) in their own category, as they don’t quite map on to this schema.

    So all those churches since 2003

    As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve gone back to see how many churches have joined the UUA since GA 2003. (Was that the last GA I attended?)

    It’s as if someone turned the tap down to a trickle. New congregation news used to be common, but now the “emerging congregation” pool has grown quite large. I wonder why, though I’m sure there are many reasons. And is it true — I fear it is — that churches that don’t “commit” break up? (Or perhaps that have committed with each other, but don’t bother with the UUA.)

    Here’s a hypothesis: it’s cheaper for emerging congregations not to join, and cheaper for the UUA not to serve them the same way as members. Or there’s a missing culture of planning and resources, and — like the path to congregational membership — the steps are not present. (I remember thinking “will Wildflower ever join?” But whatever it did seems to have paid off the best.) Interested in your thoughts.

    Here are the joined-since-2003 churches, in increasing current membership.

    Name City State URL Membership 2010-11
    Seward Unitarian Universalist of Seward Seward AK
    Unitarian Church of Hubbardstown Hubbardstown MA 13
    All Souls Free Religious Fellowship (All Souls UU Society) Chicago IL 14
    Open Circle UU Boulder CO 15
    Florence UU Fellowship Florence OR
    Heartland Unitarian Universalist Church Indianapolis IN 25
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Blanchard Valley Findlay OH 26
    New Hope Congregation New Hudson MI 30
    Unitarian Universalists of the Big Bend, TX Big Bend TX 31
    Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Ashland WI 31
    Ginger Hill Unitarian Universalist Congregation Slippery Rock PA 32
    Mosaic Unitarian Universalist Congregation Orange City FL 34
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tupelo Tupelo MS 36
    Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Rocky Mount Rocky Mount NC 40
    Adirondack Unitarian Universalist Community Saranac Lake NY 40
    Unitarian Universalists of Fallston, MD Bel Air MD 41
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Hot Springs Hot Springs AR 43
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Chesapeake California MD 43
    Unitarian Universalist Peace Fellowship Raleigh NC 44
    The Unitarian Universalists of Central Delaware Dover DE 51
    Open Circle Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Fond du Lac WI 52
    Unitarian Universalists of Gettysburg Gettysburg PA 53
    Northeast Iowa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Decorah IA 57
    Unitarian Universalist of Santa Clarita Santa Clarita CA 59
    Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church Aiken SC 68
    Unitarian Universalist of Petaluma Petaluma CA 71
    Prairie Circle Unitarian Universalist Congregation Grayslake IL 72
    Foothills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Maryville TN 72
    Pathways Church Southlake TX 90
    WellSprings Congregation Chester Springs PA 143
    Washington Ethical Society Washington DC 150
    Wildflower Church Austin TX 181

    Here’s another thought. Might the Christians “take over” the UUA church planting movement by organizing a dozen 30-member churches in the next decade? You have to hear the sarcasm or weariness in my voice to get my meaning, though.