The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Growth Team was convened to "hold a vision of growth for the Association" and to identify leverage points where modest changes could lead to major results. At its third meeting, at the Arlington, VA, church in June, the Team focused on both elements of its charge. There are many very positive changes taking place already, that can lead to growth: district growth plans being developed, marketing and advertising being used as a strategy, metropolitan growth planning processes in place in many areas. But we need a way to embed growth as an expectation throughout our movement. We need to convince ourselves that growth is possible.
The Growth Team began by imagining a variety of programs to leverage growth. More effective support for small group ministry. More effective support for multi-cultural families and families of color, and Family Ministry more broadly. Programs to encourage a more radical hospitality in our congregations. We may still move forward with these programs.
But we soon came to see that what we need is not more "programs". We have good programs already, committed staff to offer and implement them, and considerable wisdom about what growth requires.
We believe that Unitarian Universalism needs a change of heart, a revival. Not so much a revival of the spirit, because our spirits are buoyed by the success of our witness for justice and the vitality and growth of many of our congregations. We need a revival of relationship and an affirmation of possibility. We have allowed our congregational independence, our polity, to mean congregational isolation for too long. We need a revival that will allow us, together, to claim the power of this faith in our lives and the possibility this faith represent for our wounded world. Unitarian Universalism needs to gather the spirit and harvest the power of our faith so that our separate fires can kindle one flame.
We believe that a revival is already taking place in Unitarian Universalism. It is not happening in "Boston", though there is new energy in our national leadership and greater clarity of vision about our role in the world. The revival is happening in some, perhaps many of our congregations which have found a way to minister which welcomes the stranger, which claims a ministry in their communities, which celebrates more joyously, challenges more honestly and supports more effectively. These congregations come in all sizes. These congregations are growing in membership, yes. But more importantly they are deepening their spiritual life as liberal religious communities. The growth in numbers is merely a result, not the goal.
The Growth Team believes that the centerpiece of an effective growth plan for the Association of congregations is to name these congregations for what they are, Leadership Congregations, to honor them and to enlist their help in pointing the way to a larger, better grounded, more effective Unitarian Universalism. This vision for growth will require changes in the way the UUA and District staff understand their work. Changes even in the role of the UUA Board. The Growth Team looks forward to working with our national and congregational leadership groups as we begin to make this vision more concrete.
We need to Gather the Spirit  by bringing these congregations together, so that they can not only learn from one another and support one another, but so that they can help us imagine how to take this faith to the next level. Gather the Spirit.
We need to Harvest the Power of these congregations by enlisting them to help others. They can mentor other congregations, pass on the story of their success and their challenges. They can instruct and inspire other congregations so that more of us know that greater vitality and sense of mission is possible and that growth will be the result. Harvest the Power.
We believe that these congregations should be showcased at General Assembly and at each and every District Meeting, at the Large Church and Mid-Size Church Conferences and at regional gatherings of small congregations. We know that congregation to congregation mentoring is happening in some places. We can learn from and build on that experience.
We believe that Our Separate Fires Can Kindle One Flame. We believe that the growth and vitality of this faith will come from deepening relationships among our congregations, not from an alienating isolation that holds us apart. We believe that it is possible for us to imagine a "We" that is as compelling as our affirmation of "I".
We believe that Unitarian Univeralism needs a revival and that the spirit and the power for that revival is in our midst. We only need to name it and honor it and call out its leadership.
Gather the Spirit. Harvest the Power. Deepen our Faith.
For more information contact distservices @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
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Last updated on Thursday, August 4, 2011.
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