Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Port Townsend, Washington: Breakthrough Congregation
General Assembly 2005 Event 2083 (Excerpt from Plenary II)
The Rev. Michael McGee from Arlington, VA, and Fran Ateto, Director of Religious Education in Annapolis, MD, came to the stage as members of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Growth Team to introduce the presentation of four "breakthrough congregations" whose stories will be featured during this General Assembly. These are congregations that have significant positive energy, where being dynamic is the norm, with strong programs for children, you and families, with radical hospitality, and wide welcome. Ateto said that four congregations are of various sizes, "each with a unique story to tell and a willingness to share lessons learned."
The first breakthrough congregation—the smallest of the congregations whose stories are being shared—was the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The Rev. Bruce Bode, minister, began by saying that Quimper has an adult membership of 220 with about 100 youth and children, in a "funky" community of 8,000 souls. Located on the Quimper peninsula of the Olympic Peninsula 30 miles north and west of Seattle as the eagle flies, the congregation has grown from a group meeting monthly in a member's living room to this vibrant community. Bode said, "The elders knew that if they did not grow, the congregation would die. So they rented space in a community center, and started growing."
Bode credited their wise choice of Kathy Walker as religious education director. The congregation put good resources into the RE program, and this was doing well long before there were ministers. In 1995, a core group of 30 people decided to build the congregation's home with their own hands. The building, comprised of a sanctuary and RE wing, was completed in one year, and is environmentally friendly. Quimper doubled its membership within one year of completing their building.
Another key factor in the Quimper history is the willing relinquishment of leadership to the next generation. After a period when this was not the case, different generations found ways to work better together. Since then, all the members have kept the commitment to stay together, even when the course is difficult, finding ways to reach resolution. Bode says that one of the secrets to the congregation's success is "location, location, location." Surrounded by water on three sides, the congregation's growth was an unplanned consequence of making themselves ready for it.
Bode concluded the presentation by sharing Quimper 's Covenant Statement: "We are travelers. We meet for a moment in this sacred place to love, to share, to serve. Let us use compassion, curiosity, reverence and respect while seeking our truths. In this way we will support a just and joyful community and this moment shall endure."
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