2011 Breakthrough Congregation: UU Congregation of Fairfax., VA

Part of Membership

By UU Congregation of Fairfax, Oakton, VA

Download the UU Congregation of Fairfax video (right-click to save the file). The video is eight minutes long.

Video Transcript

MARY KATHERINE MORN, PARISH MINISTER: A very important part of our work in this world must be about expanding the table to include others.



MARY KATHERINE MORN, PARISH MINISTER: I love being a part of this congregation. This is a congregation filled with spirit and generosity. The work that goes on here, along with the fun that happens here, transforms individual lives, transforms our community, and in fact some of the work that we have done has helped to transform the world. We are really honored to be recognized this year as a breakthrough congregation, and we are happy for this chance to share some of our story.


BARB BREHM, FORMER BOARD PRESIDENT: Over the last eight years, UUCF has asked itself some tough questions. Who are we, what do we want to become, how do we help our members find their better selves and take that out into the community and the world. We worked through some conflict and found a way to be in community together, and then we had to intentionally decide how we wanted to govern ourselves. And we created a hybrid form of policy governance. And then the members and the staff together aligned our limited resources with our mission and vision so that we spent our time doing the things we said we valued most.


YOUNG WOMAN: On behalf of the entire congregation, I bid you welcome to our worship service today at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax.

YOUNG MAN: Whether you are joining us for the first time or you’ve been a member since the congregation’s founding in 1955, you are welcome here.

WOMAN SEATED: Whatever the faiths you have known, if any, or whatever your heritage, you are welcome here.

BRUNO WALKER, PAST MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: About four or five years ago, the General Assembly was in St. Louis, Missouri, and at that time I was the chairman of the membership committee of our church. In a seminar we saw a video of how the congregation in Golden, Colorado, does membership. And the one thing that created a tremendous “aha” moment for me was the initial greeting: No matter who you are, you are welcome here. No matter where you come from, you are welcome here.

MAN WITH BEARD: Whoever you are and whomever you love, you are welcome here.

BRUNO WALKER: And it just hit me, that’s right, that’s welcoming so I brought it back, the committee approved it, and we’ve been using this greeting ever since.

WOMAN IN INTERIOR: It’s such an open-minded and open-hearted place

WOMAN OUTSIDE: This is the one place that I have found where I didn’t feel I was a hypocrite.

TWO WOMEN WITH BABY: We wanted to come to a place where he wasn’t having to hide his family and we didn’t have to hide our relationship as a family either.

RAOUL DRAPEAU, LAY MINISTER FOR STEWARDSHIP: People are searching for a religious tradition. Many times they will come here either through a personal recommendation from a friend or a colleague, or they found us on the Internet. And most UU congregations have a “do-it-yourself” operation. But we found that doesn’t work very well. And we found out after we had gone to a very professionally designed website that when we asked people who had come here, how did you hear about us, many times they said, “Oh, it’s from the website.”

BRUNO WALKER: If you make it easy for people to find you on the Internet, and if you encourage your membership to bring friends and family, it creates growth.


CRAIG BENNETT, BOARD PRESIDENT: We’ve worked on the culture of the congregation to make it everybody’s job, not just the membership committee’s job, to greet visitors on Sunday morning. And we know as we get bigger that it gets harder to have that small intimate feel so we have worked real hard on small group ministry so whether it’s a teaching team or a covenant group or a women’s spirit circle or an adult program in the evenings, we’ve tried to make opportunities to get people to connect with others in a small group setting so that they find they have friends here and they want to come back to meet those friends.

MAN AT PLAYGROUND: We joined a covenant group and that’s what really kind of connected us.

WOMAN: I think that’s probably the main reason I’m here and that’s the connections with other people


MARY KATHERINE MORN, PARISH MINISTER: Another way this congregation has been very intentional about our growth is to articulate our vision very simply. Our vision is to grow, to connect, and to serve. In our religious exploration program, all of those components come into play, both with children and adults.

CHILDREN WITH SCARVES: We’re floating down the river to the Ohio.”

WOMAN AT PLAYGROUND: Growing young UUs into adult UUs I think is really important.

WOMAN IN FRONT OF PAINTINGS: There isn’t anything else that teaches our kids what they need to know about their own sexuality.

WOMAN SEATED: They’re getting a background in all of the major faiths.

YOUNG WOMAN: It’s kind of gotten me to think more, about the world around me, and things like religion and spiritual aspects, kind of gotten me to open up a little bit more.

RAOUL DRAPEAU: We were woefully inadequate in terms of classrooms. Prior to that program, we had the same number of classrooms here that we had in 1962 when the buildings were first built, so forty years later, same number of classrooms, and yet the congregation had expanded from about a hundred to six or seven hundred. We instituted a building program, we expanded our classrooms, we doubled the number of them.

WOMAN OUTSIDE: The congregation embraced our family, and with great sincerity they were going to help raise our children, and that was such a blessing.


MARY KATHERINE MORN, PARISH MINISTER: Another way we incorporate our vision of growing, connecting, and serving is with our youth and our FUUSE program. A member of our congregation went off to GA and learned about a summer internship program for youth and brought it home and built it up, and each summer we have a dozen to twenty teenagers who go out into the community as ambassadors for Unitarian Universalism, providing hours of service, making the world a better place.

CAPITOL, VOICE UNDER,CRAIG BENNETT: We are on the doorstep of the most powerful city on the face of the earth, so we have an opportunity, if not an obligation, to help communicate and portray a progressive view of the way the world can be and the way human beings can interact in that world.

WOMAN: I think a liberal religion is really important in these times that are so polarized.

BLONDE WOMAN: People that care about the environment, people that care about people, that don’t judge other people for their religions or their sexual identity

MAN WITH WHITE HAIR: It just struck us as remarkably different, a place for us to learn, a place for us not to fall into an explanation about things, but to learn how to explore and to explore together what it means to be human and to be human in today’s world, and what difference can we make.

MAN WITH BROWN HAIR: It’s the music. I love the music.

WOMAN: Here there is music all the time that transports me from what I’m doing during the day to come here on Sunday and feel re-inspired for the week.

MAN: It has been one of the major growth times of my life.

MAN: Today is the one year anniversary of when my wife and I first set foot in the door and said, “Wow, this is it.”

DAVID MICHAEL, CHAIR OF SEARCH COMMITTEE: UUCF is a place that works. People get along. And not that we don’t have our conflict, as we do from time to time, but I find that folks are willing to stand together, to engage, to eflect, to be able to listen deeply to one another, and to move through the challenging times. So, it’s a wonderful home.

MUSIC: Feels like home to me, feels like home to me, feels like I’m all way back where I come from.

MARY KATHERINE MORN, PARISH MINISTER: Our mission here at UUCF is to transform ourselves, our community, and the world through acts of love and justice. It’s not very complicated, but I’ve seen it really make a difference in people’s lives, in the transformation of individual’s lives, in the transformation of our community over the last several years. And I’ve seen members of our community take it to heart, and take it out with them into the world and really make a difference. It’s been a real privilege to have this opportunity to share our story. Thank you.