One new congregation at General Assembly? Is it a problem?

One feature of the opening ceremony at General Assembly is the welcoming new congregations. Normally — and perhaps I’m dating myself — there are several welcomed into membership. Except this year there was only one congregation, the lowest I’ve ever seen. Congratulations to Original Blessing, Brooklyn. But when I asked the question does it matter? The answer is undoubtedly yes.

Not all young congregations survive. Not all young congregations encourage the ministerial college by providing employment. Not all young congregations contribute talent for common work, or funds. Not all young congregations reflect well on the common fellowship, or add to mutual encouragement.

But all congregations do depend on the strength that new growth provides. Some congregations have gotten larger over the last few years, and some have gotten smaller. But nothing lives forever. To keep from shrinking, we need new congregations, and one isn’t enough. We need leaders with experience to foster new congregations, and one isn’t enough to found them.

So, again, I’m happy for Original Blessing. I only wish it had some cradle mates.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. This is a worrisome trend. We’ve clearly dropped the ball when it comes to church extension, outreach, and dare I say “missions”. I can look around my own state, and identify at least 3 promising locations for new congregations. One is a decent sized city with no UU church since 1918, when the local Universalist Church disbanded.

  2. We’ve systematically dismantled all of the programs that helped start and grow new congregations, insisting that our future is somehow “beyond” congregations (horses**t). This should be no surprise. And yes, this should be upsetting.

  3. I wonder what would happen if we started recognizing communities that aren’t congregations in this way… if the sanctuaries and the lucy stone cooperative and things like that got recognized, what would that look like? It seems like there is a lot going on in that area that isn’t being talked about in a specific way.

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