Some churches I’d be interested in seeing emerge

I told a reader (by private email) that I wouldn’t be writing this blog post because I don’t have the charism — spiritual gifts, more or less — to bring a particular kind of church into being, and it seems wise to not discuss that which you can’t do, and have no intention to do.

On the other hand, others might have the charism, or at least the interest, so I’m writing what amounts to a wish list for churches with their own charisma. These have been off the Unitarian and Universalist radar for decades, though they can be found natively in either or both traditions.

  1. The Biblical atheist church. A parallel development to today’s humanist synagogues. Might posit the idea of a transcendent, creating God as a metaphor for human goodness and natural forces, and identify with the progressive (if bumpy), dynamic narrative toward freedom and compassion seen in the Bible. Might re-adopt traditional church music non-ironically.
  2. The peace-making communitarian church. A residential community, either on a cooperative basis or with common ownership, and probably having a non-residential affiliate base for common worship and service.
  3. A steely Humanist society, dedicated to the cultivation of human potential and fellowship, with a strong focus on human solidarity (the phenomonon formerly known as “the brotherhood of man.”) Might also be known for its emphasis on recent research on human cognition.
  4. A young workers’ church. I’m thinking back to Universalist missions for girls in textile mills. Today the outreach might be to recent(ish) college grads (say, to age 30) whose high ambitions are crushed in the current (and I suspect long-lasting) economic situation. Put the focus on sharing and developing skills, and finding new ways to focus (or re-kindle) their sense of worldchangingness, which also becomes the operating theology. Probably will challenge accepted ideas of membership.

Frankly, I’d be excited to see any of these churches come into being, even if I wouldn’t join any of them because they would have a sense of mission and identity that makes them more than a sausage of mixed Unitarian and Universalist parts.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. Aww man #4 sounds freaking awesome. I’m almost 29…so I’m on the old end of the spectrum that would be served by the young workers church, but I would have loved to have that kind of community.

  2. I agree with the previous post, #4 does sound “awesome.” I read a couple of years ago that, for the first time in more than a century, that the average worker in the UK made more than the average worker in the US. That’s something that has not happened since the time of Queen Victoria and Benjamin Harrison (circa 1890.) The world might need such an inventive ministry–and yes, the UUs would be shocked. Some of us would also be pleased.

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