Sandusky UUs Explore New Ways to be in Community
The Rev. Mary Grigolia has worked with the UU Fellowship of the Firelands in Sandusky, OH for four years, leading services once a month, facilitating a workshop/discussion after service and coffee hour/lunch. But last March she encouraged them to take a different path, totally dropping Sunday services in favor of what they love and do well: social action, programs bringing on a progressive voice to a very conservative area, social gatherings, and occasionally road-tripping to other UU congregations.
- SOCIAL MEDIA - the year before they hired their minister, they hired a dynamic young adult (Lauren Berlekamp) who put together a really fun Facebook presence. This helped to attract young adults and middle-aged adults to their social justice programs and concerts, but not to Sunday mornings.
- RENTED SPACE - was secured perhaps 8 years ago in the basement of a UCC church in Sandusky. It was really, really depressing. It was amazing any new-comers came back. And few did.
- NOT A CRITICAL MASS - the core group worked very hard to keep Sunday morning services alive. It defaulted to a handful of people, led by a woman in her 40s with two elementary/middle school-aged boys. Tragically, she died 18 months ago. And the stalwart few went into self-blame and paralysis.
- MEDITATION GROUP - Meanwhile, for the last 5-6 years, two of the core members have facilitated a weekly meditation group, eclectic, drawing from Fellowship members and beyond. So there is still an on-going gathering.
- COMMUNITY THEATER - And they are also almost all involved in the production of a vital community theater that also keep feeding their need for community and expression.
- BLESSING - And so as numbers dipped beneath 10 on a Sunday morning and the energy was going elsewhere (not Sunday morning), Rev. Grigolia encouraged them to reinvent themselves, committing to a series of programs (talks, concerts) for the larger community, social action programs, and social events. That is what they've been doing. They had a successful Jim Scott concert, celebrating the vision of Pete Seeger. And they continue to employ a young-ish adult (Rose Hollo) who maintains and energizes their Facebook and sends out beautiful, engaging Constant Contact campaigns.
They were surprised and so grateful that they could continue to be a Fellowship and to serve their community and each other without holding Sunday services.
They didn't want to let me go, but (and) Rev. Grigolia assured them that she would be very glad to respond to whatever pastoral needs they have on a case-by-case basis, to perform weddings and officiate at memorial services. She gave and give them my blessing.