by Rev. Sue Phillips
There are 23,000 members and registered youth in the 118 congregations of the Massachusetts Bay and Clara Barton Districts. Each of these congregations is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. The UUA includes your congregation and all the rest, together. It is the architecture of our congregations' interdependence.
The UUA is an Association rather than a denomination. This may seem like an arcane ecclesiastical distinction. It's not. Let me explain.
Denominations are often more distinguishable by how they are governed than by differences in belief. Episcopalians, for example, are organized around the episcopate - a fancy word for bishops. Presbyterians are organized around the presbytery - a governing body of ordained elders and clergy. These are denominations, with clear hierarchies through which power is vested and exercised.
Unitarian Universalism is not organized like that at all. As you probably know, ours are self-governing congregations. Each congregation has the sole authority to set its own budget, establish its own rules of membership, and call its own minister. We prize this independence.
But no matter how much our congregations value autonomy, we willingly join with others to do what we cannot do alone. And this is the simple reason why the Clara Barton and Mass Bay Districts and the Unitarian Universalist Association exist: we are the architecture congregations have chosen to do together what we cannot accomplish alone.
The 118 congregations in our two districts and 1100 other congregations across the country make up the UUA. The District and the UUA aren't some hierarchy from on high - trust me no one wears a mitre at UUA headquarters at 25 Beacon Street in Boston. No! The District and the UUA is you, and me, and our congregations in Hartford and Cambridge and Worcester and Springfield, at All Souls in Washington DC, and Third Unitarian in Chicago and First UU Church in San Diego and everywhere in between.
So what does this mean for your congregation? Why does it matter that your church is connected to congregations in Seattle, and Denver, and Austin, and Charlotte? When you all search for a new minister, you need someone to vouch that your candidate has gone to divinity school, and that she or he is suitable for the ministry. And while you alone have the power to choose your minister, you don't have to figure out that whole process out by yourselves - the association of congregations is there to help. [more]