Pamphlets: Another Tool To Help Us Tell Our Story

The membership committee of the Unitarian Universalists (UUs) of the Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, PA (126 members), gives each first-time visitor a Newcomer Bag on Sunday mornings. The bag is stuffed with Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) pamphlets, a letter from cominister's Duane Fickeisen and Judy Welles, a pamphlet about the congregation's history, a newsletter, a UU wallet card, and four home-baked muffins.

Whether it's the pamphlets or the muffins, people love the bags, say Janet and Doug Spencer of the membership committee. "Sometimes we think new people are guided to our service just to get one of our bags!"

Pamphlets are a quick and easy way to help a congregation explain UU theology, history, and principles. Whether aimed at educating visitors or explaining what we believe about God and the Bible, pamphlets lay out the facts in a manner that's easy to understand. And for visitors who aren't ready to get into long conversations, pamphlets don't talk back.

The UUA publishes about fifty different pamphlets and, effective last summer, the price of almost all has been reduced to $5 for a packet of twenty-five.

For a complete list, look at a new UUA Bookstore catalog. Here are the top ten pamphlets in order of sales during the past year:

  • "Meet the Unitarian Universalists" by Rev. Jack Mendelsohn
  • "Our UU Faith—Frequently Asked Questions" by Rev. Alice Blair Wesley
  • "We are Unitarian Universalists" by Rev. Marta Flanagan
  • "UU Origins" by Rev. Mark Harris
  • "Welcome to Unitarian Universalism" by Rev. Tom Owen-Towle
  • "Becoming a Member" by Rev. Polly Laughland Guild
  • "Unitarian Universalism, a Welcoming Place for Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender People" by Rev. Scott Alexander
  • "Unitarian Universalism, a Religious Home for Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender People" by Rev. Barbara Pescan
  • "Can We Find a Home Here? Answering Questions of Interfaith Couples" by Rev. Catherine Bowers
  • "Journeys—The Many Paths to Unitarian Universalism" by Rev. Edwin Lynn

There are three primary audiences for our pamphlets, says Rev. Ken Sawyer, chair of the UUA Pamphlet Commission. The first is first- or second-time visitors. The second is people who have been around a while and want information on a specific interest, such as Buddhism or social action. The third way is to pass them out in connection with a sermon or adult education class.

There are also pamphlets focusing on children and youth—describing religious education philosophies, the child dedication ceremony, and helping them deal with death.

At the UU Church of the Shenandoah Valley, Stephens City, VA (110), Stefani Cochran sees pamphlets as a way to instantly let visitors know how welcoming the congregation is—for instance, the Scott Alexander pamphlet that welcomes bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people. "Seeing that pamphlet, people would know whether to feel comfortable or not with us," Cochran says. "Pamphlets help encourage membership of people who would be happy with us and they also give a thoughtful message to others who may not be quite ready to develop tolerance and acceptance."

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