“The key to a vibrant congregational life is a sense of connection, of community.”
Drawing People In . Events and social gatherings offer opportunities for members to work together, have some fun together, and develop a sense of community. Events are also ways for newcomers to participate while forming social connections with members. UUA studies show that if newcomers aren’t connected socially within the first few visits, they tend to drift away. If we love being UUs—if Unitarian Universalism has made a difference in our lives—then it makes sense to be intentional in welcoming and connecting newcomers. By taking intentional steps to build a warm and supportive community, we are living our faith within the walls.
Photo: The “UnPlaza Art Fair” at All Souls Kansas City pulls in hundreds of visitors who come to view (and often buy) the work of artists in many media and styles. It’s an effective fundraiser that takes advantage of the congregation’s centercity location and the community’s strong connection to the arts. It’s also a great opportunity for members, newcomers, and guests to have fun together. And…a chance to answer the inevitable question, “What is Unitarian Universalism, anyway?”
Spiritual Deepening. Studies show that many people long for spirituality without the trappings of religious doctrine. Attention to inner life helps people grow and become more serene. Opportunities for spiritual deeping in small groups also helps connect newcomers and long-term members, each finding a community that encourages authenticity while supporting personal growth.
Photo: In Washington Crossing’s Chalice Circles, open to newcomers and members alike, an empty chair symbolizes each group’s willingness to welcome others. In larger congregations, easy access to small-group spiritual deepening helps to create community. Congregations adopting a theme-based approach to worship services carry the theme over into groups like this Chalice Circle.
Conversation. One of the great things about our UU congregations is the way they invite members into lifelong learning with opportunities for both intellectual and spiritual development. As we come to understand that each of us brings a unique way of perceiving the world, we can become more genuinely and intentionally welcoming to all.
We also model being “fully human” for our little ones, who are always noticing what we do.
Unitarian Universalism unites people of diverse theologies around shared universal values. As we consider and celebrate the more than 50 years since the 1961 merger of the Unitarians and Universalists, it’s good to remember that our “universal” values, our cherished “seven principles,” are entirely a leap of faith. They don’t come from a holy book […]
“I can’t say enough good things about Rev. Jennifer Brooks! In her few short months with us, she has re-organized our lay pastoral care team so we can more effectively care for our ill and aging congregants, helped us begin the process of discerning a new mission statement, brought the congregation together after a period of turmoil, preached great sermons, and been a visible and active participant in our congregational life.”