What do these Unitarian Universalist websites have in common?

Since 2010, the WordPress blogging and content management platform has released a special, eponymous theme for the year. Why is this important? WordPress is easy to stand up, free for the cost of your hosting and domain registration, easy to add content to and easy to integrate with some other services. I’ve used it for this blog for years; organizations great and small use it for their webpage. Including Unitarian Universalist churches.

These are only the ones who use a featured “annual” default theme. And if you can get a good (or good-enough) website without a lot of fuss, why not?

So what themes do congregations use? What features do they leave untapped? What’s best for mobile devices? All of those questions can wait for later; for now, see the congregational sites that use one of these default themes. (I’ve put the membership count in parentheses; quite a nice range.) See how each makes the theme their own.

Twenty Ten (a sample version of the template)

  1. Auckland (New Zealand) Unitarian Church (38)
  2. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Paris (66)
  3. Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma, California (86)
  4. Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Pagosa Springs, Colorado (36)
  5. Magic Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Twin Falls, Idaho (24)
  6. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Madison County, Richmond, Kentucky (36)
  7. All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana (109)
  8. Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Westborough, Massachusetts (111)
  9. Red Hill Universalist Church, Clinton, North Carolina (16)
  10. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Sandhills, Whispering Pines, North Carolina (emerging)
  11. Durham (New Hampshire) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (52)
  12. Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Franklin, New Hampshire (35)
  13. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Otero County, Alamogordo, New Mexico (28)
  14. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Klamath Falls, Oregon (33)
  15. Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (210)
  16. Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee (133)
  17. First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, Texas (407)
  18. Washington, Vermont Universalist (UU) Church (19)
  19. North Chapel, a Universalist Congregation located in Woodstock, Vermont (162) (Twenty Ten variant)
  20. Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church, Racine Wisconsin (319)
  21. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, West Virginia (105)

Twenty Eleven (sample version of the template)

  1. Marquette (Michigan) Unitarian Universalist Congregation (53)
  2. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, Minnesota (225)
  3. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley, Norwich, Vermont (79) (Twenty Eleven variant)

Twenty Twelve (sample version of the template)

  1. Unitarian Universalist Church, West Lafayette, Indiana (176)
  2. Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke, Virginia (195)

The Council of Christian Churches Within the Unitarian Universalist Association site, which I manage, and my universalistchurch.net also uses this theme.

Twenty Fourteen (sample version of the template)

  1. All Souls UU Church, Brownville, Texas (5)

You may ask about thu Twenty Thirteen theme; you’re looking at it. I haven’t found a church that uses it for their main site; and I don’t think it’s best suited for it anyway.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Scott — I’m the person who manages the web site for All Souls UU in Shreveport LA.

    We moved from MovableType to WordPress in Spring 2011 — at the time, the default WordPress theme was 2010. Even though I played with some other themes on a personal wordpress.com blog, I eventually settled on staying with the 2010 theme for the church web site, my personal blog, and for the local PFLAG chapter. The church site is WordPress software hosted on our domain. The personal site and PFLAG site are hosted on wordpress.com.

    One thing we customized on the church web site was the photo headers. A member who is practiced with photo editing took some congregational photos and created customized header images that were 940 pixels wide by 198 pixels high. Using a WordPress plugin, some pages have static headers and some pages have a different photo each time the page loads (there’s a plugin that gives one control over which header image loads on which page).

    We also use a plugin that re-packages our site for mobile users (phone and tablet) called WPTouch. And our web site announcements automatically feeds into Facebook (using the NetworkedBlogs app) and Twitter (using the WordTwit plugin).

    Anyone who is thinking of WordPress for a web site should look into creating a practice web site with wordpress.com first. This lets the web site person play around with the WordPress editing environment before using WordPress hosted on one’s own domain.

  2. Thanks, Steves.

    Steve Caldwell: I think you have a very good workflow there. Mobile is the 2010 theme’s Achilles heel, but that’s a good solution. (I’ve taken the liberty of attaching a screenshot I just took.)

    All Souls, Shreveport mobile site

  3. My wife teaches a World Religions class at the local community college and has been putting material up on a Movable Type site for years. This semester I helped her move it over to WordPress. I found the Twenty Fourteen theme flexible but stark but to my surprise she liked it, so that’s what it uses:

    It’s not the sexiest website in the world, but it’s easy to use. I tried a few different mobile plug-ins but in the end stuck w/Twenty Fourteen for that too–and it works fine, with the navigation all laid out in a logical way.

    The last churchy website I put together was for a group of southern New Jersey Friends. I used Clear Line for that–it’s flexible and warmer than some of the WP themes. I see it’s still being updated, which makes me happy. One of the biggest challenges of web design is putting together something simple enough that people will continue using it after you’ve cashed the check and moved on to other work.

  4. Thank you for putting out there. As a Communications Rep for my UU congregation, one of my responsibilities is our website. This is a great reference for me and helps out some good samples (with congregation size!) right at my fingertips to help with discussions on how to move forward. Kudos!

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