Harvard scholar, John Kotter (Our Iceberg is Melting; 2006) argues that many organizations fail due to their inability to instill a sense of urgency and passion in their work. Our UUA President, the Reverend Peter Morales, argues Unitarian Universalism needs to confront the reality of our shrinking place in the religious world. After 50 years, our UUA has essentially the same membership as it did in 1961 — and our children’s programs are in a state of collapse. We need to feel an urgent call to light our Chalice more broadly!
Research suggests that 10% – 25% of a given congregation’s membership will turn over every year, losses due mainly to moves and death. Florida’s attrition rate is toward the higher end of that figure. As one leader lamented, “We’re running as fast as we can just to hold even.”
The latest figures from our 2011 membership reports reflect that sentiment and perhaps the larger issues throughout Florida’s economy. There are 4743 enrolled adult Unitarian Universalists as of February 1st. That is down from 4857 last year, continuing a four year trend.
Numbers aren’t everything, but they are an undeniable measure of our impact. In this time of resurgent orthodoxy, dividing society into the “saved & damned, with increasing inequity in the social well-being of our society, and a polarizing rise of virulent racism, sexism, and homophobia, the Free Church teachings of love and justice are ever more needed. We are the ones the world is waiting for! We are uniquely qualified to witness to a ministry of universal love. The numbers suggest we can do a much better job!
So, let’s not have our little light become any littler. Let’s ramp up our hospitality and our pathways to membership. Let’s work on creating a safe, welcoming, inclusive and beloved community among us. Let’s turn these numbers around! And let’s do it now!
May the Chalice Light of the Free Church illumine our souls and our society. Blessings, Rev. Kenn