Empowering Congregations: First Parish UU in Needham, MA; UU Fellowship of Durango, CO; and the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, NJ
Thanks to their pro-active minister and several generous donors, the First Parish Unitarian Universalist (UU) in Needham, Massachusetts, is one of the five congregations to be named an Empowering Congregation. They are given this honor because they reached, and surpassed, the $50 per member contribution to Association Sunday 2007.
About this accomplishment, the Rev. John Buehrens writes:
The goal had to be $14,000, $50 each for 280 voting members. I concluded that the only way to raise that amount would be to have a $7000 matching gift. I put up $1000 myself, got the most generous donor in the church to put up $5000, and got a retired minister and spouse to give $1000. I announced the matching fund, including my own gift, in my column in the church newsletter several weeks in advance and specifically asked for people to consider gifts of $50, $100, or more. I repeated that appeal in a letter to the whole congregation, with a stamped return envelope included, again in advance. Then we held Association Sunday on October 21. I got to preach, and gave a candid analysis of why we UUs don’t grow more (because we don’t fund our growth efforts adequately).
Our Needham congregation raised $14,854 to Grow Our Faith, energized by the exceptional leadership and generosity of Rev. Buehrens and other members.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Colorado is another of these five Empowering Congregations. When asked how they were able to reach this level, Ken Carpenter wrote:
I wish I had some magical words to describe how we met the goals set out for Association Sunday but it really boils down to personal commitment to provide the maximum opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth for ourselves and the community in which we live. We know we cannot do this work of faith alone…. Lois and I felt the message of Unitarian Universalism was not only worth sharing with our friends locally but also spreading our message throughout our district and nation. The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations was the vehicle for spreading the word beyond our local community.
Ken and Lois Carpenter led the Association Sunday service in their fellowship last fall. Not only did they use the materials from the UUA’s worship resources packet, they told stories about how our faith has grown historically, spoke of how the UUA had helped them in the past, and held up copies of our first UU ad in TIME Magazine. And, in preparation for their special service, they even started a choir which sang Now is the Time and Wo Ya Ya.
The Durango Fellowship has its own story of growth. It was founded in 1967 and by the 1990s had between 20 and 25 members. Today, because of the dedication and commitment of their members and lay leaders, they have 89 members and were recently able to purchase a new church building! Fair Share contributors for 25 years, this congregation is growing Unitarian Universalism in its community and across the nation.
The Morristown Unitarian Fellowship of Morristown, New Jersey, defines a part of their mission as follows: “To reach out to all who share our liberal religious values and participate in the broader Unitarian Universalist movement.” Our Morristown congregation did just that on Association Sunday 2007. With a membership of 306, they are the last of five Empowering Congregations who contributed over $50 per member to Grow Our Faith.
Though the congregation’s board designates only a limited number of special collections per year, they voted to hold one on Association Sunday. One member family offered a matching challenge to the congregation, to contribute $3 for every $1 given by others that Sunday, and Rev. Alison Miller, minister at Morristown, celebrated this gift during the service.
Inspired by the challenge, Rev. Miller also doubled what she had intended to give, and from the pulpit, encouraged everyone to do the same. To further energize members, she described the “Find Us and Ye Shall Seek” advertisement in TIME, which was funded by Association Sunday, as expressive of who we are as a religious people.
Rev. Miller, who was born and raised a UU, has a long history of successful fund raising and supporting our Association. She was one of the two organizers of the Association-wide Minding the Gap Campaign in 2002, which raised funds for young adult programming through a designated Sunday service and collection. Through her leadership, and the generosity of other Morristown members, the congregation continues to play major role in Growing Our Faith.
Let us celebrate the exceptional commitment of these three Empowering Congregations, their vision for Unitarian Universalism, and the gifts they shared with our whole family of congregations—because we are better together.
Read about the two other Empowering Congregations: River of Grass in Plantation, FL and the Fellowship of Huntington, NY.