With 938 congregations certifying, with a combined membership of 150,447, the UUA has grown (in those 938 congregations) by 60 members. Not good. Are there other lessons? Yes.
With less than a half hour before February 2 begins (happy Feast of the Presentation of the Lord!) I’ll present the six (more) things I learned from the UUA congregational certifications, pending any last-minute certifications.
1. Proper certification of federated/multidenominational churches gives the appearance of some of the overall membership decline.
Three congregations Westford, Massachusetts, Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Church of the Open Door, Chicago, Illinois reported about half their 2003 memberships this year. A check with the UCC website shows that the two Massachusetts churches are now reporting a half of their total; Open Door, about a quarter. (Perhaps it is really federated rather than multidenominational.)
This shows up as a combined drop of 324 members, but mentally subtract that from last year and years before, not this year. Otherwise these are growing churches.
2. “Return to Sender: Occupant Deceased?”
Two congregations Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Aspen, Colorado and St. Paul’s Universalist Church, Little Falls, New York reported zero members. Have they disbanded? I am particularly troubled about St. Paul’s, not only for obvious reasons, but because they reported 54 members last year. Anyone have more information?
3. You Don’t Have to Be Federated to Suffer Huge Declines.
Five congregations dropped in membership by 50% or more. Book cleaning is one thing, but jeez. None were huge before, and now they certainly aren’t. Fifteen (robuster) congregations reported fifty or more fewer members this year. Most were members of the large churches’ club, and remain so.
4. Little new congregations aren’t really helping.
The nine congregations that joined the UUA in 2003 (no news about 2004) dropped in collective membership from 311 to 306. Assuming that the one that didn’t certify remained the same. (See #6.) Of course, I still bet they’re a cheaper growth option than the in-the-works quick-start church . . . .
5. The silent middle is stagnant.
Can you believe that 108 of the congregations that did certify reported no change at all? (I believe they did, but no, I don’t believe it. I suspect that these churches need to do some book cleaning. Been there, done that.)
Another 53 reported a two percent or less decline, and final 68 reported a two percent or less increase. The middle quarter of the UUA is stagnant. Doesn’t bode well to openness to growth.
6. No votes for you!
I expected twenty-one Canadian congregations not to certify. Breaking up is hard to do, and the Canadians seem to be easing out rather slowly. Is it as if we Americans are supposed to wake up one day and wonder what happened to Ontario? “I’m sure it was just there!”
So Canada is exempt from my non-certifying ire. But what of that other 106 congregations that opted out. Not all were small lay-led running-out-of-the-dining-room-table operations, either. One was a member of the large churches’ club. Hope y’all didn’t want to vote this year! At GA, I mean.
Oh, and who won the game?