Unitarian Universalist church planting, a document review

Several years ago, I wrote about a then-new resource called EmergingUU.org, and was hopeful it might spark new churches. That page has since vanished as a free-standing resource, but re-appeared as a page within the UUA Mid America Region site. But new church planting is as low as I’ve ever seen it.

There used to be quite a bit of church starting literature, both historically and within “career lifetime memory” but about the time I was coming on the scene in the 1980s, it was already drying up. Perhaps in repudiation of the Fellowship Movement model? The new model was to create a highly developed, programmatic church with high-commitment donors. This has worked in a couple of places, though I wonder if there has been any net gain in those areas. In any case, this is not the kind of church start that you leave new start publications out for. There’s not a new model that’s yet emerged, and it would be helpful for the appropriate authorities within the UUA to produce some, particularly as the “primary purpose” (as in “Principles and Purposes”) of the UUA is “to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its principles.” (By-Laws C-2.2.)

Scanning the web this morning, I found:

The thing that first hits you is that the most important goal of a congregation is to affiliate with the UUA, without much of a case of why a congregation would want to do so. Oddly enough, there’s almost nothing said about what a congregation is, and while the site mentions some things (faith development, social justice, environmental concerns, for instance) it doesn’t go further to say why these are important. Administration trumps ecclesiology. It’s hard, without a huge amount of commitment and training, to come up with pathway for starting a new church without help, and it seems to me that the UUA ought to be generous this way. What better way could it earn its reason for being? Who better to lead this important work? Keep this in mind as the new congregations are welcomed at General Assembly. If any are welcomed at General Assembly.

One Reply to “Unitarian Universalist church planting, a document review”

  1. Beneath the surface, I think there is a poorly articulated idea (or even unofficial doctrine) that the first goal of a new congregation is to become legitimate. And legitimacy is arrived at by becoming an official member of the UUA. But in my opinion this a tail wagging the dog. The first goal of a new congregation should be to cultivate the community practice of faith/spirituality/ideal (whatever you wish to label It). The Association should merely exist to further that goal, and create options of practice beyond what an individual, local congregation could do. But instead, the Association’s primary goal has become seen as being an agent of conferring status. What a shame.

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