Category Archives: World Unitarianism and Universalism

Minimum standards for member congregations

So, what do you have to have to apply for congregational membership? There can be other requirements like corporate status, acknowleging jurisdiction, a financial contribution and a provision for dissolution, but those are standard and one-off.

This was in my to-blog list, but the UUWorld article, “Emerging, alternative groups at UUA’s growing edge” (Donald E. Skinner) brought it to the fore. Perhaps it’s time for a larger/smaller standard for congregations again?

Current standards

Australian and New Zealand Unitarian Association. Membership “shall be made in accordance with the procedure decided by a meeting of the Association voting on a recommendation of the Executive.” (PDF)

Canadian Unitarian Council. No stated minimum membership or number of services, for “member societies” to join, though the Council could make rule, per the By-laws.

General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

“A congregation must have at least 12 subscribing members over the age of 18 years, and must have existed for regular worship for not less than one year.” (Bylaw 2.1.2) (PDF)

“Meetings for a religious purpose must be held at least once a month.” (Bylaw 2.1.5)

“Small congregations” without a General Assembly vote “…shall be given recognition provided that they shall have been meeting regularly for 6 months. They shall be admitted on the recommendation of the district association if they comply with the above conditions for Congregations except that the number of subscribing adults shall be reduced to 8 and the requirement for meeting shall be amended from ‘at least once a month’ to read ‘at least bi-monthly’” (Bylaw 2.2)

Unitarian Universalist Association.

“A new congregation, to be recognized as a member of the Association, must have thirty (30) of its adult members be members solely of the new congregation.” (Rule 3.3.3)

“For purposes of determining compliance with Section C-3.5 of the Bylaws, a member congregation shall be deemed to have conducted ‘regular religious services’ if it has held at least 10 services during the fiscal year.” (Rule 3.5.1)

 

Historic standards

Unitarian Fellowships and Churches (1954, 1955)

“A Fellowship may be recognized when it has ten resident adult members and meets the other qualifications for membership in the Association.”

“A church may be recognized when there is a charter membership roll representing sixty-five or more resident, contributing families and when the regional and continental officers concerned are convinced that the community is large enough to assure very substantial future growth…”

“A church may be recognized when it does not seek financial assistance[,] whenever it has 65 resident member families, … when it can support a full-time resident minister at a salary comparable to other new churches and meets other qualifications for membership in the Association.”

“General Policy of the Admission of New Churches and Fellowships” (February 9, 1955)

Universalist Fellowships (1957)

N.B. As distinguished from parishes and churches, but dirffering more in degree than kind; indeed, a fellowship could also be a parish. But I suspect the distinction was to give a parallel structure to the far more numerous Unitarian fellowships in the years leading to the then-all-but-certain consolidation.

“ten or more who come together for public meetings of a religious nature…” (Article XIII, 7, Bylaws)

Fellowship (the status) could be withdrawn from a fellowship (the organization)  “for having less than ten persons of 21 years of age or older, resident and contributing to the support of the fellowship” and “for failing to support no less than eight public worship services annually.” (Article IV, 1, iii, Laws of Fellowship)

Taras Shevchenko bicentennial

Thanks to Stefan Jonasson I learned that today is the 200th birthday of Ukrainian national hero and poet Taras Shevchenko. Since I live very close to the Shevchenko memorial here in Washington D.C. I took our dog Daisy for her morning walk to visit the memorial.

Shevchenko statue, Washinhton, D.C.Schevchenko poetry inscription

After all, the Ukraine is much on our minds now.

We followed up with a visit to the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk memorial around the corner, whose birthday was March 8. Masaryk was the first president of Czechoslovakia; he was also a religious reformer, ending up as much a Unitarian as Jefferson, no doubt in part to the influence of his American Unitarian wife, Charlotte Garrigue.

2014-03-09 09.57.45

(I’ll be writing more about what makes successful floral tributes closer to Memorial Day.)

Daisy, unimpressed

This is Daisy: it’s not her birthday today, but she is going to go to the groomer.

Later. The goomer did quite a job, but where’s the rest of my dog?

Parallel efforts and the UUA new identity

As it happens, another national Unitarian entity went through a similar branding process a few years ago, and we might learn from their experience. I’m referring to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, commonly known as the British Unitarians.

Back in 2007, the British Unitarians adopted a common visual identity, along with a new national website. That website (archived link), for reasons best known to them, seemed to treat the color palate as a challenge rather than a set of options: even now it makes my head hurt. It has since been replaced, and so I thought the branding exercise was a failure.

But it wasn’t, surely due in large part to DUWIT — “Development of Unitarian websites and IT” — whose DIY web management system has some of the design elements baked in. To riff on an old Unitarian joke, these sites have one color theme at most; also, their revised chalice logo was a much less radical change from those popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Most British Unitarian sites use this system, which makes appropriately-scaled brochureware (opposite of interactive) sites. But even custom sites often contain the logo or tag/strapline, and most stay on message. Two good examples of this later case are the Cheltenham & Gloucester Unitarians and the Brighton Unitarians.

So where can you find out more about this standard?  Download this PDF.

And I expect — or rather, hope — the UUA will release an identity standard of comparable scope, of which the logo is a part. (If so, I think making the color palate, typography and wordmark the teaser would have been less, um, shocking.)

As it happens, I’ve been following denominational identity standards for years and you can look at the British Methodists (290,000 members) and the Mennonite Church USA (110,000 members) for comparison, by communions of the same scale.

I’m not saying that particular Unitarian Universalist congregations and groups should follow a common standard, but — like a style guide — each congregation should have a standard. Write one, subject to your congregation’s decision-making systems. (The UUA should, of course, follow its own.) That would go far to keep every change on the church site from being an exercize in head-scratching and complaint, and improve the appearance and usability of your print and web communications.

Can small-church Unitarian Universalist ministers oblige?

A few days I commented on Twitter about some UUA statistics and that led British Unitarian minister Stephen Lingwood to look for himself. I’m copying our Twitter discussion with his permission.

 

 

So, might there be a small (or smaller) church Unitarian Universalist minister — or several — in a dynamic congregational ministry who might be available to help? It sounds like a case for self-nomination, and perhaps self-started bridge-building.

Any Hungarian Unitarian activity in the UK?

Those who follow international news know that Romanians and Bulgarians are now able to enter the United Kingdom legally.

Hateful and xenophobic screeds notwithstanding, little has changed no far, except those who have taken advantage of undocumented labor can no longer abuse workers with impunity. London is not swimming in people from southeastern Europe. But that’s not to say there’s not a critical mass.

Surely my dear readers know that most of the Unitarians in Europe are Hungarian-speaking Transylvanians; that is, Romanian citizens.

So I wonder has there ever been, or has anyone ever intend to (or hoped to) create a ministry to accommodate our religious kindred, should they come to the United Kingdom? And if so is there any plan for the larger community to help?

These are honest questions. I would love to hear from someone who knows.

The Unitarian center: UK edition

Last year I made a somewhat silly mapping thought exercise: locating the geographic center of the membership of the Unitarian Universalist Association. That’s one way to describe what holds us all together, I suppose.

This year, I’ve sought out and geocoded all the member churches of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, in Great Britain. I have some observations and a map like I made for the UUA, but there are some lingering choices for how to render the map. So instead, I’ll tell where the centerpoint — er, centrepoint — for UK Unitarians, based on the reported quota numbers. (With the understanding that this probably isn’t an adequate way to measure membership, much less participation.)

The proper location is on a farm south of Barton-under-Needwood, in Staffordshire, just off the A38. Hardly the place for 3,600-plus Unitarians and Free Christians, who’d about double the population. So let’s call it nearby Burton upon Trent, which has about 44,000 residents and at least has a train station on a main line.

To tell you the truth, I was hoping for Ashby-de-la-Zouch (for the name alone).

A map of British Unitarian churches forthcoming

The annual meeting of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches took place recently, and (to mark the occasion) I have taken to reading the annual report (for 2012, PDF). Minister and blogger Stephen Lingwood referred to it in early March. Grim numbers. So little wonder I had a parallel concern with the persons interviewed in the UUWorld magazine (“British “Unitarians rally to save faith from extinction” by Donald E. Skinner) about the fate of British Unitarianism. I had already been putting together a map, not unlike the one I created for UUA member congregations last year.

And I discovered is how difficult it would be for a newcomer to find many Unitarian churches, based on their web sites. There’s often plenty of information about teas and their seventeenth-century history, too many lack basic directions, maps, visitor expectations, parking or transit information. So I hope my map in addition to being a visual tool for understanding prospect for new church development — see my earlier concern about a lack of a church in Milton Keynes — can also be useful in helping newcomers find a church that already exist. A good website isn’t everything, but why make it harder for vistors than it needs to be?

And because as was suggested in UUWorld article I believe what’s happening with the British Unitarians is a bellwether of what’s to come in the United States. We’re larger, but by no means large and the same thing can happen to us.

The map is quite a labor but I hope to have it up later this week.

Happy communion Sunday for the Hungarian Unitarians

Autumn Thanksgiving Day, keyed to Michaelmas, is one of the four times a year the Hungarian Unitarian have communion, and that’s today. Let us remember them in prayer, and see this video (from the same festival five years ago) which demostrates how it is distributed. The use of two cups in tandem and the refilling flagon is very smart. Note the bread and cup are given hand to hand.