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TopClara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

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In This Issue
Reports of Our Death...
Resources to Explore Church Growth

Learning Congregation Workshops
Creating and Leading Dynamic Lay Led Worship
with Rev. Sue Phillips - June 11

Religious Education
offered through Clara Barton or Mass Bay Districts unless otherwise noted


Click here for PDF of flyer with full listings

Social Justice

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If your congregation is not marching on its own at Boston Gay Pride on June 11, you are welcome to join the District contingent. We will be marching behind the Standing on the Side of Love banner. Bring yourself, your friends, your youth group, or your whole congregation. To make inquiries or to sign up yourself or your group, please email Meck Groot at

Reports of Our Death...

SPhillipsby Rev. Sue Phillips,
District Executive


To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.

The vast majority of Unitarian Universalist congregations in the Massachusetts Bay and Clara Barton Districts grew or held steady in membership last year.* Ten congregations in CBD and five in MBD grew by 10% or more last year alone. A third of MBD congregations and almost 20% of CBD congregations grew by 10% or more over the last decade.


Unitarian Universalism is not dying in Massachusetts and Connecticut. But the stories we are hearing about our immanent demise are certainly threatening to the spirit of purposeful possibility that lies at the heart of every growing faith, including ours. One need only look at the map in the current issue of the UU World to see that New England congregations have lost a lot of members in the last decade. Massachusetts hangs out there like a sore thumb hitching a ride to godless Europe.

This data tells our faith story like the NASDAQ describes Apple's potential in the tech market. Which is to say, not at all.


Here are some of the stories I want to tell:

  • Four MBD congregations more than doubled in size in the last ten years: Malden, Natick, Essex, and Sherborn
  • 64% of CBD congregations grew or held steady last year 

[Read more] 

Resources to Explore Church Growth 

Growth Resources through the Unitarian Universalist Association.


Kicking HabitsKicking Habits: Welcome Relief for Addicted Churches 

by Thomas G. Bandy

Available through the District Library, this "groundbreaking book on systemic change that has literally birthed new congregations, rejuvenated tired leaders, and transformed declining churches. It tells the story of thriving church life through the epxerience of the institutionally alienated, spiritually yearning public. It provides the big picture of thriving church life in the postmodern world." [From back cover]

Feature Reports of Our Death (continued from top)
  • More than half of MBD congregations grew last year, and almost a third grew by 5% or more
  • Growth is spread across churches of all sizes

Growth and dynamism abound in our congregations. I hear story after story of compelling ministry in UU churches: a youth group sharing service projects with the Pentecostal church down the road, clusters of congregations worshipping together, a church including showers in their building renovations so they can serve homeless folks in their community, a congregation committed to creating a haven for special needs kids and their families, and another launching a spiritual life center with a host of opportunities for adult faith formation. Each one of those congregations is growing, and not by accident. 


People talk about church growth as though it were alchemy, with mysterious ingredients only arcane ritual and obscure rites could unleash. In truth we know a great deal about growth:

  • UU congregations that are growing know what their purpose is, and they don't care whether it's called a mission, a vision, or a strategic plan. They just do it.
  •  They have skillful, wise, visionary ministers who preach our good news with energy, insight, and joy.
  • Growing churches empower lay leaders who understand that they are engaged in ministry, too, who know that church leadership is about more than efficient management.
  • They have parishioners who come to church to deepen their own faith commitments and a congregation organized around that purpose.
  • Growing congregations are spiritually and systemically healthy, with celebratory worship and small groups that people feel good about.

These are the kinds of congregations people want to join and raise children in and commit themselves to, and they thrive throughout New England.


Only a cynic would say that church growth is all about numbers. But only a fool would say that numbers don't matter. It's true that there are fewer Unitarian Universalists today than there were ten years ago, and that the rate of decline in New England is higher than in other parts of the country. We have to grapple with that reality. But we must not let our story become one of decline and diminishment.  Such a story wouldn't be true, and it absolutely wouldn't be true to our faith.


Fear can never be a motivation for growth, especially not fear of institutional decline.  Let us act instead out of concern that we are missing opportunities to invite longing hearts to experience our saving faith. When we invite people with joy and with good news to share, and when we welcome them to healthy congregations, we grow.  We can count on it.

In faith,


Footnote1*  69% of MBD Congregations and 64% in CBD, according to UUA membership certification numbers as reported by congregations