Can small-church Unitarian Universalist ministers oblige?

A few days I commented on Twitter about some UUA statistics and that led British Unitarian minister Stephen Lingwood to look for himself. I’m copying our Twitter discussion with his permission.



So, might there be a small (or smaller) church Unitarian Universalist minister — or several — in a dynamic congregational ministry who might be available to help? It sounds like a case for self-nomination, and perhaps self-started bridge-building.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. Once upon a time I served a small, rural UU church in Ohio with a membership in the 30’s. There is probably some relevant pastoral practice and churchmanship that could have been learned with my UK brothers/sisters. Far more relevant than me or most of the UK contingent talking shop with somebody from a large congregation. The impediment is that most small church ministers are bi-vocational (need to navigate time commitments at the other job), have poor financial support for things like travel to the UK, and the UUA does a poor job of being boosters. Our work in small churches is usually undervalued (because the congregation is small), even if the small church is doing rather well.

  2. To expand a bit, after going to UK Ministers’ Conference for the last eight or so years, every year the UUMA send us a representative. Sometimes there’s also a US minister leading some workshop.

    The quality is often very good, and there’s some great value in it. But when a minister talks about having 300 members, an administrator, a director of religious education, maybe another ministerial colleague – I think it tends to just depress most UK ministers by comparison. We tend to think the issues won’t translate because the scale is so different.

    I think for a change it would be very interesting to be in dialogue with US ministers serving 30, 50, 100-member congregations. Of course in many ways it would still be different. It seems to me that the those congregations in the US tend to be new, younger congregations – whereas congregations like mine are 300 years old. This leads to different financial situations for one. We don’t have to live on live money to the same extent, as we still have old money to live on, so some of us are full-time. But that money is running out, which in itself makes an interesting conversation.

    I just think it would be a refreshing difference after talking to large-church US ministers for so long.

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