Unitarian Universalist minister and blogger Dan Harper ran some of the UU congregation membership numbers, following the close of the 2011 certification period. In order to have a voting representation at General Assembly, congregations must certify their operations (held elections and worship services) and their membership. They must also make a financial contribution.
This last one is important, as non-giving suggests an unspoken or non-public grievance, since I gather even a single dollar would qualify (if not be terribly useful). But that’s for another time. What we have now are fresh membership numbers.
Three observations, with the caveat that that the facts behind these seem soÂ volatileÂ that I wouldn’t make any predictions from them. I’m comparing the newly certified numbers with last year’s, including any congregations admitted in midyear.
- Some congregations grew quite well. On a percentage basis — and ruling out the very small and a federated churches asÂ outliersÂ – the top two are
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Cortland (Cortland, N.Y.), to 57 from 31.
- Sacred Journey Fellowship (Garland, Texas), to 41 from 26.
- But what of two congregations? I was pleased how easily last year’s last mapped to this year’s list, with two exceptions.
- Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation (Seattle, Wash.), 45 members.
- Universalist Church of Westbrook (Westbrook, Me.), 24 members.
These churches have an expired domain and a calendar un-updated since 2008 respectively. Is it too much to think they disbanded, merged with another congregation or disaffiliated? And if so, why is it so hard to get information about former churches; this used to be announced like a life passage. I welcome news about these. [Later. Found this blog post that mentions Ranier Valley's closure in passing. Near the bottom.]
- And the big news, which occasions such a miserable blog post title. 147 congregations lost 10% or more of its reported membership in the last year. Some of these members can be surely recovered, but it’s hard to account for the diminished morale in losing fellow church-members, not to mention the lost donations. Some of these congregations were very small to begin with, so it might only take a couple of people to loose 10%. Some, too, are federated and seem to be loosing their Unitarian or Universalist part. But these two groups (federated, and where 10% or more means 3 persons or fewer) is only 14 churches. And four congregations with more than 500 members in 2010 lost more than 100 members when reporting for 2011.
- Assuming the two lost congregations aren’t simply a case of clerical error (pun intended), then the net change from last year is 1,152. A loss of 1,152.