Q. We just had our annual meeting and we were barely able to declare a quorum at the start of the meeting. The same was true at a special meeting we held earlier this year. By the time we got around to voting I'm sure we had lost our quorum. I find it a little disappointing. How do other congregations manage to get a quorum out to their meetings?
A. "A vital component of healthy attendance at congregational meetings is the degree of ownership the members feel in the decision-making process," says Steve Owen, board chair of Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Arlington, VA (832). He notes that it's extremely important to keep the congregation involved in major issues at every step of the way. At Arlington, which faced a number of issues related to the recent departure of a longtime minister, the issues have been discussed at three congregational meetings since last fall, in addition to a series of small group forums and an adult education class. All of that discussion culminated in a fourth congregational meeting, where the quorum was exceeded four fold and the issues were resolved with near unanimity. Owen notes, "Six weeks later people are still commenting on how our democratic processes are the cornerstone of our church."
Phil Shuman, treasurer of the UU Fellowship St. Thomas-St. John in St. John, Virgin Islands (25), offers another perspective. "In all of the church groups I have been involved with over the past sixty years, I have always found that the membership will come out for food. Even though our present group is small, we manage to get nearly 100 percent participation by having the meeting preceeding a potluck. That way if the meeting drags on the food gets cold."