Last Sunday I checked out UVUU for the second time with Johnny. The second time was much like the first – informal, glitchy, charming, small. As a person who wants to become a fully participating member, I felt some alarm over certain details.
- Sweeping statements made by more than one member about what UUs do or don’t do, believe or don’t believe.
- Reference to UUs as Universalist Unitarians.
- The visitors outnumbered the members in attendance.
- When asked about signing the book to become a member, the answer was, “We can’t do that. We’re just a fellowship.” Twice.
- When asked what the membership process is, the answer was, “Stick around.”
Those are the red flags. Here are some of the green flags:
- Enthusiasm on the part of those participating in the service.
- An expressed inclination toward continued spiritual growth, in the form of a series of activities exploring religious practice.
- Variety in age of congregants. (UUFBR skewed much older.)
- Willingness to reach out to newcomers.
From the website, it looks like this group has been meeting at least since 2005. The information posted about sermons and services is interesting and looks like creativity in action. The overall impression I get is of a group just muddling through. I wonder if they get a revolving door of one-time visitors. Was attendance so slim because summer is only just ending? Or is something else going on?
I have needs of a faith community. I need to belong to a faith community that is:
- Growing. A group that is stagnant or shrinking is reducing opportunity for mutual and individual growth.
- Nurturing. A group needs to be responsive to the needs of the individuals as they develop spiritually.
- Covenantal. A group needs to foster personal commitment among members.
- Mission oriented. A group needs a sense of mission and a general plan to accomplish it. For me, public outreach and service are key components to mission.
- Forward-thinking. A group needs consider short-, mid-, and long-range goals. It needs to consider what it wants to be and how to become it.
The ultimate question here for me is whether UVUU is the group for me, or whether I need to get involved in church planting. When I lived in American Fork, I was willing to consider membership at First UU instead. That option is off the table for me now, for logistical reasons.
Of course, my character defects urge me to get in there and fix things immediately! If not sooner! If UVUU is broken, take it over! Run that sucker until it hums! If UVUU is not take-overable, get out there and launch the damn church already! Get on it, make it happen!
I get this drive to do it, get it done, jump on it and move it and make it go, whatever “it” is. I can see plainly that I instead need to wait and see, give a little space, find out the facts, measure what I’m dealing with. That’s all brain stuff. That’s all sense.
That’s a hard voice to listen to when my heart is saying, “C’mon, let’s go pray with somebody. Let’s go find some hungry people to feed. Let’s go find out what my neighborhood needs. Let’s do some singing and some joyful noisemaking.”
Back to UVUU – I did find at the UUA website for the Mountain Desert District that UVUU is categorized as and “Emerging Congregation”. This means that they have not yet joined the UUA. I have not yet found anything that indicates that this status means we can’t have a membership roll.
Questions I’d like answers to:
- Who’s arranging services?
- How are congregants expressing their needs?
- How long have these folks been meeting?
- When did they start? How?
- Are the
charterfirst members still on board?
- Is there an eventual plan to join the UUA?
- Is there any sort of plan at all?
- Just how pervasive is the “can’t do” attitude? Is it only about polity? Is it only a couple of people?
- Why do we meet two Sundays per month instead of every Sunday or instead of monthly?
- What do the members of the group want to do? What is their vision?
- Are there business meetings? Board meetings? Group conscience meetings? If so, when, where, and how are they carried out?
God give me the patience and listening ability to find out.
Update: I found this in the New Congregation Development Manual:
Once the congregation has matured and has at least thirty adult members, bylaws should be written and approved. The congregation may then pick a Sunday to open the charter membership book. Charter members will sign the
book at the Charter Sunday service. (Waiting to charter until the new congregation has at least one hundred members will facilitate its developing into
a program-sized church.)
Is that the problem? Telling the difference between membership and charter membership? How do you know you have thirty adult members if you have no roll of some kind? What’s the meaning of membership? How’s it defined? If I show up to six services, am I a member? If I take part in a service, does that make me a member?
If we are following the process as outlined in the manual, I’d like to know how far along we are in the many, many steps that come before charter membership.