Rather than making a big report about UUA certification numbers, I’ll make observations as I find patterns in the data.
62 congregations that reported last year for 2005 did not certify this year, which seems high. This is mostly a mix of federated churches, the smallest churches, and Canadian congregations (only 9 certified this year) who seem to be wrapping up “the long farewell” instituted with Canadian Unitarian Council autonomy.
Non-reporting congregations seem to be the ones that disband or leave the UUA, de facto or de jure, so I’d be a little concerned.
I also believe that this is the first year that all congregations were expected to file their certification electronically. I know that my former church (small, rural, and older ages in membership) has had alot of difficulty with this. They are not an internet comfortable community, and find mandatory electronic communication difficult to navigate. Perhaps a factor in how other churches have failed to certify?
I agree with Derek. I was having technical difficulties with BOTH the church computer and the one at home around the deadline and found that the system the UUA was using was not helpful. When I asked for a hard copy to fill out (after many calls to the UUA requesting such) it never arrived. Sometimes technology is not an adequate replacement for the traditional way of doing things. Why break a system that was working? Somehow the story of the Emperor’s Nightingale rings true in this situation.
To recap, 23 of the non-reporting churches had memberships of fewer than twenty in the 2005 reports, but a lot of these are really (but unacknowledged as) federated or community churches. Another 13 were Canadian.
I think the call for a technological fix is to save on administrative costs. The kind of mass-mailing to a thousand constituents and processing the data returns is a typical Washington association affair, but is perhaps more harrowing than others appreciate, especially when the constituency is cost-sensitive! Requiring congregations to register to a database, which transfers and updates the figures, strikes me as exactly the right thing. It may be difficult, but it is a distributed difficulty.