When I first joined a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church, back in 1986 in Ames, IA, one of the things I was asked to do was to pay “dues.” I never questioned this, as I assumed that joining any organization meant supporting it with “dues” and also with offerings, if it was a church. So, when 14 years later, I found myself joining a small Fellowship in Chico, CA, I was surprised to discover that no dues were required. There was a culture of “doing our own thing” with an attitude of carrying on the church’s business on the cheap and outside of much contact with the District or Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). I might add that the District had its own leadership problems then, as well. The District experienced some positive personnel changes and the issue of “Fair Share” dues was pursued.
As fate would have it, I soon found myself in the leadership position of Chairman of the Board, a “bully pulpit” indeed. From this position of leadership, and with the support of other “immigrant” members who’d come from “Fair Share” UU churches, the board, and then the congregation, voted to become a Fair Share congregation. Presto, Change-o! It actually went very smoothly. At our next pledge drive, most people opted to pay their dues to UUA and the Pacific Central District, plus, a steady trend of increasing pledges and pledgers ensued.
The impetus to become a “Fair Share” congregation was fueled first by the notion of justice. It was recognized first by leaders and ultimately by the congregation that it’s “the right thing to do”. But there was also the practical issue of looking forward to a future need for denominational support when the goal of seeking our own Minister and, probably, expanded space would arrive. We understood that our credibility and status as a congregation that was serious about physical and spiritual growth depended on, among many things, our financial participation in the larger denomination. This, and dedicated leadership in the congregation, has resulted in the District’s giving us its first “Weekend Minister” who came once a month for two years to help us grow as a modern, involved UU Congregation.
Presently, we are deep into the process of hiring a half-time consulting minister with the enthusiastic help of our District Executive and of a Chalice Lighter’s grant of over $11,000 to help with this and with funding a professional RE Director. None of this would have happened had we not contributed our fair share to the Annual Program Fund. Those of us who were members “back when” feel very proud of Chico’s enhanced status within the denomination and of the justification of our efforts. Just as I unquestioningly paid my dues when I first joined, our new members also take it as a matter of course, which is “just” as it should be.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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