I was going to move directly to metropolitan areas, but thought I would detour first to those congregations that are neither in metropolitan or micropolitan areas. That is, rural churches. These are very few — only about 5% of all Unitarian Universalists congregations — and most (from personal knowledge) are in small towns, not in open country. Indeed, I was ordained by one, in Canon, Georgia.
The full list, plus notes, below the fold.
A couple of notes.
- This list is up for revision. It is entirely possible that a church may have property or a mailing address in the country, but that’s because of donated or cheap land, or a willing correspondence clerk. It might really “belong” to an adjacent (say, one zip code over) town and so would be in a metropolitan or micropolitan area.
- Many of the churches are of the older Universalist variety, but I wonder if some of the newer ones have a resort or retirement locus as their draw. And college towns.
- Of these college towns, Middlebury, Vermont, is home of the largest rural church: Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society.Â 167 members. Â Even more interesting is that is doesn’t date to the Dawn of Time, but 1988. Yes, rural churches are small but don’t default to the 25-40 range that new congregations have settled into. [Cripes. I stared right though the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship listing . . . .]
- Zero membership means an emerging congregation.
- Several are in Oxford County, Maine. Universalist, of course.
- Islands are also well represented in Alaska, Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands.
|Sitka UU Fellowship Inc.||18||2012||AK||Sitka City and Borough|
|Seward UUs||9||2001||AK||Kenai Peninsula Borough|
|Quimper UU Fellowship||292||8228||WA||Jefferson County|
|San Juan UU Fellowship||14||8215||WA||San Juan County|
|Central Coast UU Fellowship||31||7127||OR||Lincoln County|
|Socorro Uus||20||6112B||NM||Socorro County|
|UUs of the White Mountains||0||375345||AZ||Navajo County|
|Two Rivers UU||32||2626||CO||Garfield County|
|Pagosah UU Fellowship||32||2630||CO||Archuleta County|
|UU Fellowship in Alamosa, Colorado||25||360818||CO||Alamosa County|
|UUs of the Big Bend||31||7718||TX||Brewster County|
|Eureka UU Fellowship||56||2030||AR||Carroll County|
|UU Church of Stockton Illinois||63||3421||IL||Jo Daviess County|
|Unitarian Fellowship||24||5514||MN||Itasca County|
|Blue Hills UU Fellowship||32||8426||WI||Barron County|
|Chequamegon UU Fellowship||31||8329||WI||Ashland County|
|Northwoods UU Fellowship||79||8417||WI||Oneida County|
|UU Fellowship of Door County||90||8428||WI||Door County|
|Northeast Iowa UU Fellowship||57||3617||IA||Winneshiek County|
|People’s Church||72||5333||MI||Mason County|
|Mountain Light UU Church||23||3041||GA||Gilmer County|
|Georgia Mountains UU Church||64||3039||GA||Lumpkin County|
|Canon UU Church||10||3112||GA||Franklin County|
|Thermal Belt UU Fellowship||28||6639||NC||Polk County|
|UU Fellowship of Franklin North Carolina||83||6636||NC||Macon County|
|First Universalist Church of Sampson County at Red Hill||15||6715||NC||Sampson County|
|Rockbridge UU Fellowship||0||508554||VA||Rockbridge County|
|UUs of the Eastern Shore||0||342444||VA||Accomack County|
|UUs of the Blue Ridge||0||532465||VA||Rappahannock County|
|UU Fellowship of the Rappahannock||41||8118||VA||Lancaster County|
|UUs of the Chester River||62||4039||MD||Kent County|
|First Universalist Church||93||7214||PA||Susquehanna County|
|Upper Delaware UU Fellowship||18||7316||PA||Wayne County|
|Universalist Society of West Burke||7||8026||VT||Caledonia County|
|First Universalist Parish||33||7934||VT||Orleans County|
|Universalist Unitarian Congregation||36||8015||VT||Caledonia County|
|Champlain Valley UU Society||167||7937||VT||Addison County|
|UU Fellowship of Stowe||0||375025||VT||Lamoille County|
|All Souls Church UU||100||7925||VT||Windham County|
|First Universalist Church||40||3926||ME||Somerset County|
|UU Church of Belfast||121||3817||ME||Waldo County|
|The Caribou UU Congregation||29||3824||ME||Aroostook County|
|Unitarian Society of Houlton||19||3912||ME||Aroostook County|
|First Congregational Society (Unitarian) of Eastport||6||3833||ME||Washington County|
|UU Church of Ellsworth||83||3834||ME||Hancock County|
|Midcoast UU Fellowship||65||3837||ME||Lincoln County|
|The UU Church of Sangerville & Dover Foxcroft||34||4018||ME||Piscataquis County|
|UU Congregation of Castine||71||3825||ME||Hancock County|
|First Universalist Church||23||4022||ME||Oxford County|
|First Universalist Church of South Paris||37||4013||ME||Oxford County|
|First Universalist Church of Norway UU||41||3922||ME||Oxford County|
|First Universalist Society||5||3911||ME||Oxford County|
|First Universalist Society||4||3821||ME||Oxford County|
|UU Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes||111||5817||NH||Carroll County|
|UU Society of Martha’s Vineyard||66||5121||MA||Dukes County|
|Second Congregational Meeting House Society UU||150||4733||MA||Nantucket County|
|UU Fellowship of St Croix||21||8028||VI||St. Croix Island|
|The UU Fellowship of St John||28||8029||VI||St. John Island|
That’s quite a list, indeed. You might be interested to know that Quimper UUF is located in Port Townsend, quite a large-ish non-suburban but not really rural area of population on the Olympic Peninsula of WA.
Two much more rural congregations here in WA would be mine (UUC of Whidbey Island, membership about 90, shooting for a 100) and the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship (about 80), plus possibly Skagit UUF, in Mt. Vernon (not sure of size but smaller than UUCWI).
Hope this helps, Scott. I’m not sure what your parameters are.
Outlaw’s Bridge Universalist Church in NC is in the community of Outlaw’s Bridge, The church and parsonage are 2 of the 4 or 5 buildings in town (mailing address is Seven Springs NC, which I consider rural).
Definitions depend up on area size and social integration, based on commuting patterns. Which is why islands show up so much. For this reason . . . .
Port Townsend is the largest town in Jefferson county, but still under 10,000 in population. So I suspect, as it is a growing area, to become a micropolitan area of its own in the next few years.
Whidbey Island has already past that point, but Vashon Island — to my mind — deserves to be called rural because it lacks a bridge to the rest of decidedly metropolitan King County.
Outlaw’s Bridge is a part of the Goldsboro, N.C. metropolitan area.
The interesting thing about Whidbey, which you couldn’t know if you haven’t been here, is that there are three distinct micro-areas: the south end, which reaches from Clinton to Greenbank and is primarily made up of retired folk, artists, and political liberals, the central area, which is prairie and farmland (both agricultural and marine-based), and the north end with its Navy base, big box stores, and conservative political climate. My congregation is on the south end but we draw from all over the island, which is 55 miles long.
I think what you’re doing is really fascinating, Scott. Keep it up.
So wonderful to read about rural churches. I was ordained by one, too–Champlain Valley–and served another church that doesn’t make this list because it’s in the big small town of Rutland, VT, population 17,000, but serves a largely rural population.
Champlain Valley stands out to me as a model of a successful church planting. Small group of dedicated laypeople, got very part-time consulting ministers early on, hired an intern as its first full-time minister (immediately afterwards, purely coincidentally, the Dept. of Ministry cracked down on off-site supervision of interns–if they’d done so earlier, CVUUS wouldn’t have had this experience), and called an extension minister who served there for 11 years. It was one of the last congregations to use the Extension Ministry program.
I think nurturing the above congregations–that is, those among them that wish to grow and be vibrant, even if they don’t imagine ever being large or even mid-size–makes much more sense than most of the approaches to growth the UUA has tried in the past several years.
You missed a big bunch of us in the Mountain Desert District. There are rural churches (both established and emerging) in:
Taos, NM (Unitarian Congregation of Taos)
Pagosa Springs, CO
Las Vegas, NM
and more in Montana, Colorado, NM, Wyoming. Check in with Nancy Bowen, MDD DE. In fact, if you survey UUA Staff, you can catch them all.
@Anne. Look again, Alamosa and Pagosah are on the list.
Taos is a micropolitan area; Farmington rates as metropolitan.
Las Vegas, N.M. doesn’t appear in the UUA list, a minimum requirement for this work, but it would be with the micropolitans.