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Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, Carbondale, Illinois: Breakthrough Congregation
Rev. Bill Sasso, minister of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, introduced congregational members present and encouraged General Assembly (GA) attendees to contact them if they have any questions. The congregation's video highlighted church life, and recognized the 'angels' from outside the congregation who have helped them grow and mature. In ten years, they have accomplished:
- Three strategic plans
- Made a commitment to growth
- Added a part-time religious education director
- Added their first minister through the Extension Ministry program
- Became a Welcoming Congregation
- Became physically accessible
- Sought financial aid for their new $1.7 million building with an organ and piano and their capital campaign
- Expanded and improved lifespan religious education
- Grew their membership by 90%
- Created two new neighboring fellowships
They don't have all the answers, members acknowledged, and they have been helped by many inside and outside their congregation, from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and district and their own members. They have learned to look outside their doors and have been engaged in social justice work locally and globally. Projects include partnership with the Hospice of Southern Illinois and work with a Zambian day-care program for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. They have helped with economic development in Zambia with those widowed by HIV/AIDS. They have also begun a prison ministry in which they help support the children of the prisoners. One of their members bought a church building in neighboring Mount Vernon and so now there is a new Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation in Rush Limbaugh's home town.
The congregation's leaders said there were seven values that sustained and guided them: we value everyone's voice; it's okay to ask for help; we value the advice we receive; we value the generosity of angels; we value the growth of liberal religion; we value social justice; and we value fun.