A set of cities for new churches

I think we should look at Micropolitan areas — cities of 10,000 to 49,999 souls — as likely areas for encouraging new congregation growth. The United States has 538 such locations and glancing through the list I could easily pick out several that had no Unitarian Universalist congregation — some had none within quite a distance — even though they are often regionally important and could support a small congregation, even allowing our low-ball “one UU in a thousand” demographics.

Here’s a sortable list of micropolitan areas. (Some areas have more than 50,000 people; its core city is between 10,000 and 49,999.) See any you know? Is there a Unitarian Universalist congregation there?

If James Howard Kuntsler and company are correct — and I suspect they bear some truth — the population will have to disperse and reconcentrate in smaller cities to enjoy a decent quality of life. The big cities can only support so many people in a costly-energy future and suburbs — where Unitarian Universalists largely have established churches in the last two generations — will decline further.

But even if some Great Energy Miracle happens, can we afford to not be well distributed? Are some cities, at 20, 30, 40 thousand people unimportant? And if there really is a saving Unitarian Universalist gospel apart from liberal culture and esthetics, oughtn’t it be cultivated where it would be the most singular?

3 Replies to “A set of cities for new churches”

  1. Scanned through the Texas entries. Most have no UU presence. But Huntsville, TX does. And Kerrville has two! plus a ranch!

  2. Scott,

    Off of this topic, but a Universalist polity question that you, if anyone, will know the answer to. I just read this article:

    http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/108175.shtml

    … but I was forced to wonder how much this is really reflective of the Universalist side of the family. Maybe you could indulge me (or already have, in the archives) with a post about this? How, exactly, were those early Universalist churches governed?

  3. I can comment on some of the Indiana listings.

    Warsaw, Indiana ~ A pleasant resort community in Indiana’s northern lake country. There have been repeated attempts to start a UU congregation, but it got little support from the District extension committee because the lay-founders felt they needed to be realistic and aim for a lay-led fellowship (about 40 members). Extension felt that only the goal of a minister’d congregation was worth their support.

    Richmond, Indiana ~ Had a Universalist church that was killed in the Great Depression. The Universalist women’s organization persisted into the 1960’s. There was a short lived lay led fellowship in the 70’s and 80’s. It is a nice college town, with UU’s often at the local Quaker run theological school. A new church in Richmond, however, might have a negative effect on the two rural Universalist churches 20 minutes away on the Ohio side of the state-line (both draw members from Richmond, and often use theological students as commissioned part-time pastors)

    New Castle, Indiana ~ Nice sized county seat, part way between Indianapolis and Richmond. It also had a Universalist church, that died at the end of the World War 1 (flu pandemic maybe?). I strongly considered starting a new UU church there a few years ago. But there was no District support, and I am not wealthy enough to pay for start-up on my own. The only other progressive church choices in New Castle are the semi-programmed Quaker meeting and a small Episcopal church. Today, I suspect that some financial support could be obtained from the large church in nearby Muncie.

    Vincennes, Indiana ~ Another promising college town, geographically at a distance from UU congregations in Evansville and Terre Haute. In my mind an excellent place for extension to explore; so long as they are not demanding an instant 125 member church with a full-time minister. I could easily see a 50 member congregation, either lay-led or with a half-time minister.

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