New congregation, but net loss of two

So, I look forward to the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustee meetings packets. They get posted online, and there’s a January meeting. That one got posted yesterday.

The good news in that the Unitarian Universalist Bay de Noc Fellowship, Escanaba, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, is being proposed for membership, and I have no reason to think that won’t happen.

Also announced? Well, that’s the bad news. The congregations in Florence, South Carolina (emerging) and Kodiak, Alaska are no more. And two other Michigan congregations — Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist, Rochester and Emerson Unitarian Universalist, Tray — have merged to become Beacon Unitarian Universalist, Troy. The last part is not bad per-se, but it does mean a net decline of two congregations.

Or, you can read the memo here. (PDF)

The metrics dashboard (PDF) — read, participation and membership numbers — also gives pause.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. The merger of the Paint Creek congregation in Rochester, with the Emerson Church in Troy signals a decline to me. Especially when taken in context of the decline in membership in the neighboring 2 congregations in Birmingham and Farmington. I once lived in the area, and was very familiar with both congregations. Emerson and Paint Creek are basically merging into the historic Troy facilities (a state historic landmark barn church). But each was a product of church extension from different eras, and were intended to expand Unitarian Universalism to different sections of Detroit’s suburban Oakland County. Emerson was a spin off from the Birmingham church, and Paint Creek an extension effort from (I believe) the early 90’s. The consolidation of the 2 marks a retrenchment (though it was perhaps unavoidable if both churches were in decline) that leaves no UU congregation in northern Oakland County. I would also note that quite often when churches merge, the long-term net result is a church larger than the two individual partners, but ultimately smaller than the total of both combined. For example Church A has 60 members and merges with Church B which has 35 members [60+35]. While the initial merged total is 95, the system often resets within a decade to a number smaller than the merged total ( say 70). These kind of mergers bring temporary relief, but often result in a net decrease in people being served. In the meantime, the underlying causes of decline go unexamined.

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