Next loss of two congregations?

According to Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) president Peter Morales’s report to the UUA Board (PDF), and subsequent reportage online by the denominational organ UUWorld, net membership in the UUA has shrunk slightly over the last year.

But what got my attention is that there’s a net loss in congregations, by two. That doesn’t mean two congregations disbanded, disaffiliated, merged or consolidated, but six — since four congregations have been admitted in the last year.

As congregation losses aren’t reported anymore — sometimes there’s a aside in the board minutes, but even these are few — we’re left to guess.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. Morales said, “The culture is moving our way theologically, but not institutionally.”

    Not sure which culture he would mean in a multicultural United States, but if UU’s aren’t in the business of building institutions i.e. Churches with Congregations, they’re won’t be a place for “cultures” to move to anyways.

    Morales has to overcome a bias in UU against building institutions before we can invite or offer anyone anything of value.

  2. Scott, based on the spreadsheets Harlan Limpert keeps, these are the disaffiliation dates for seven congregations that ended UUA membership in 2009 and 2010:

    First Universalist Church, Woonsocket RI (2/24/09)
    UU Fellowship of Aspen CO (4/19/09)
    Epiphany Community Church, Fenton MI (7/2/09)
    Universalist Church of Westbrook, Concord NH (12/31/09)
    First Parish Unitarian Church, East Bridgewater MA (4/19/10)
    First Parish UU Church in Saugus MA (6/1/10)
    Rainier Valley UU Congregation, Seattle WA (9/30/10)

    The same spreadsheets include two new congregations in 2009, but doesn’t yet include the congregations that joined the UUA in 2010:

    UUs of Central Delaware, Camden DE (2009)
    New Hope Congregation, New Hudson MI (2009)

  3. I was a member of one of those churches that disbanded (Epiphany in Michigan). It still hurts a bit – like the death of a close friend.

  4. Any loss of a congregation is bad news, but I expected the Great Recession to knock out even more congregations. However, the economic damage done by the Great Recession will probably continue to affect congregations (and all nonprofits) for at least a couple more years, so the number of closed congregations may still go up.

  5. Sad to see the Epiphany experiment die away; I remember when the UUCF enthusiastically reported that it was being gathered.

    As for the New England churches: First Parish in Saugus has merged with the Malden church; First Parish in East Bridgewater has apparently now been “de-listed” after having become defunct several years ago (amidst a great deal of controversy); and the “Universalist Church of Westbrook in Concord, New Hampshire” is, to me, a total mystery. I’m not sure but that this is in error. There is (or, at least, was) a Unitarian Universalist church in Westbrook, Maine, but I haven’t found any indication that a church by that name ever existed in Concord.

  6. The Union (Universalist) Church of Kensington, NH had an annual service, which was attracting dwindling numbers of people, up until five years ago. Then in 2013 the National Park Service listed the building on the National Register of Historic Places.

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