Ah, another lost article, but more pertinent than ever. (I knew I had written it, but it was tucked away for the last two years as a “private” post.)
The de facto Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) church planting model of the last half-century is to follow the population to the growing ‘burbs, serving as regional centers. Build it, to borrow a cliche, and they will drive. The rule of thumb I have heard knowledgeable people use is that willing Unitarian Universalists will drive thirty miles to attend Sunday services. Such logic only works if those who cannot or will not drive are not welcome.
Apart from issues of justice and hospitality, the drivers-only church model should now be recognized as economically and environmentally disastrous. The national romance with cheap petroleum must some day surely end, perhaps sooner than expected. The necessary parking is a waste of land and a contributor to toxic and erosive rainwater runoff. Such a model of church building also limits the metropolitan carrying capacity for total membership, meaning it will limit potential growth.
So, are the historically-high gas prices a blessing in disguise? And practically, will it lead to a new kind of evangelism or new model of building use and sharing?
Whether the change is planned or not, the easiest first step would be for more church attenders to share rides and use public transit. I would love to see a portal site for congregations that have viable public transit options for attending worship. Either all Unitarian Universalist congregations with transit option might be listed, or all congregations by neighborhood or city. There exists an opportunity here for a willing web-builder.
History note. Many years ago, a Georgia historical journal article mapped the development of the Unitarian church in Atlanta with the streetcar lines. See Louis D. Becker, “Unitarianism in Post-War Atlanta, 1882-1908,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, 56 (1972): 349-364.